Success Story: Gassco

Ensuring the flow of business-critical messages with Axway B2Bi

  • Headquarters

    Bygnes, Norway
  • Industry

  • Challenge

    Provide a reliable, secure business-tobusiness (B2B) integration broker for all incoming and outgoing messages, together with a mapping engine and flexible interface for back-end systems, as part of a business-critical 24/7 system.

  • Solution

  • Results

    • Improved reliability and secure data exchange with high availability
    • Powerful dashboard for improved system governance and error tracking
    • Comprehensive system for monitoring and trouble-shooting
    • Enhanced security with AS2 and Secure Relay
    • Integrates easily with back-end systems via an API
    • Enables scalability of message volume, message formats and communication protocols
    • Improved ROI through mapping efficiencies
    • Better communication among sites and simplified disaster-recovery procedures

“The Axway B2Bi solution is a key system for Gassco’s 24/7 business. We absolutely needed a reliable and secure B2B global integration broker, and that’s what we have with Axway B2Bi.”

Gassco operates the integrated system for transporting natural gas from the Norwegian continental shelf to European countries. The company, which is fully owned by the Norwegian state, delivers approximately 20% of all gas shipments to Europe. The gas transport system includes nearly 8,000 kilometers of large, high-pressure pipes, four riser platforms, two processing plants in Norway, and receiving terminals in four European countries.

Gassco at Work

Role of the B2B integration broker

In Gassco’s operations, the B2B integration broker has the critical job of sending and receiving all messages from gas buyers and sellers — securely and reliably, 24/7. “These messages tell the terminals how much gas is going to be delivered to Germany, Belgium, the UK, the Netherlands and France,” said Arne Ferkingstad, B2Bi Production Manager at Gassco. “If we don’t receive the messages, we don’t know how much gas is going to be delivered to Europe. A great deal of money is at stake. This is truly a business-critical application.”

Upgrading the System

Improving visibility, scalability and security

Since 2004, Gassco used Axway’s AMTrix solution as its B2B integration broker. “To replace AMTrix, we needed a solution that would handle incoming and outgoing messages and provide secure and reliable communications, a mapping engine, and a back-end interface for our internal systems,” said Anna Marie Helland Skår, Project Manager for the Gassco B2Bi project.

“Performance was a vital part of our requirements,” said Ferkingstad. “We needed better visibility to track message errors, scalability to handle an increasing load of messages, enhanced security, including support for secure communication protocols such as AS2, and flexibility for integrating other back-end systems.”

“To find a new solution,” said Helland Skår, “we conducted a market survey and requested tenders from providers we felt had a viable product for us. It was a competitive process.”

“We chose Axway’s B2Bi solution because it was a good match for our requirements,” said Ferkingstad. “Axway had tools to convert the mappings and some business functions automatically. They offered strong support for the migration process.”

“We had 130 mappings that had to be converted to B2Bi. The conversion of the mappings was a huge success. It was done remarkably smoothly. Very impressive indeed.”

Migrating to B2Bi

Taking a “big bang” approach

The B2Bi project began in late 2010, with specifications completed by May 2011. “Implementation was done in three phases,” said Helland Skår. “We had two pilot deliveries to see how the implementation should be done and test some deliverables before going full scale.”

“Within AMTrix, we had 130 mappings that had to be converted to B2Bi,” said Ferkingstad. “The conversion of the mappings was a huge success. It was done remarkably smoothly. Very impressive indeed.”

Before the migration, Gassco ran all production messages in a parallel, separate system, to check the format and content of the messages, make sure they were identical and verify they were correctly loaded into back-end systems.

The Gassco team also converted all historic AMTrix messages to the B2Bi solution — several million messages in all.

“To prepare, we ran several training sessions with the database, network and firewall people, B2Bi external resources and ourselves, said Ferkingstad. “We all sat within reach of each other and followed the detailed procedures we had created, with dates and tasks to be checked off our list.”

“After running both systems in parallel for a few months, we converted from AMTrix production to B2Bi on June 6, 2012,” said Ferkingstad. “We didn’t go for a partial deployment: we used a ‘big bang’ approach to switch over the systems.”

“B2Bi helps us extract data and provide feedback to our partners. It acts like a business intelligence tool—a data mining solution.”

Three-Month Review

Feedback on Axway B2Bi

After just three months of operations, Gassco reported notable improvements with Axway B2Bi, including:

  • Improved visibility and error tracking
    Axway B2Bi includes a powerful dashboard that provides detailed information about message flow. The dashboard is generated by Axway Sentinel, event-driven software that uses a powerful correlation engine to monitor and capture global events and KPIs in real time, providing clear visibility into all data flows in one location. “I know the total number  of messages, how many have errors, what is going in and out for each communications protocol, and the percentage of inhouse versus external messages,” said Ferkingstad. “The dashboard also shows which partners’ messages have errors, so we can address them easily. Axway helps us extract data and provide feedback to our partners. It acts like a business intelligence tool—a data mining solution.”
  • Improved system monitoring
    With approximately 2,000 critical messages flowing in and out of its systems every day, Gassco needs comprehensive monitoring and trouble-shooting capabilities. Axway B2Bi achieves this through a series of logs, generated by Axway Sentinel, that track all system functions. To simplify oversight, Axway created a script that enables Gassco to check  ll logs simultaneously.
  • Enhanced security with AS2 and Secure Relay
    With Axway B2Bi, support for the secure communication protocol AS2 is built right in, an essential capability for Gassco. Moreover, “Secure Relay is part of the B2Bi solution,” said Helland Skår. Designed to prevent hackers from penetrating the system, Secure Relay creates a high-security demilitarized zone (DMZ). “We initiate all communication from within the DMZ,” said Ferkingstad. “Nothing can get into it; we pick up data from the outside.”
  • Easy integration with back-end systems
    Axway’s application programming interface (API) provides the flexibility Gassco requires for easy integration with its back-end systems. In the near future, for example, when Gassco replaces its current back-end system, “no changes will be needed on the Axway side,” said Ferkingstad. “It’s much easier to interface with other back-end systems. We  are very pleased with that.”
  • Greater scalability
    Traffic at Gassco is currently 2,000 messages per day and growing constantly, as new shippers are added to the system. Gassco works with more than 100 external partners and uses 120 mapping formats. Message formats include TEXT and EDIG@S XML; communication protocols include SMTP, AS2 and FTP. Axway B2Bi easily handles these  volumes, formats and protocols, and is designed to grow with the business.
  • Improved ROI through mapping efficiencies
    By migrating its mappings rather than having to re-create them anew, Gassco achieved a significant return on investment. The general rule is that a new mapping takes 5 days, where as a migrated one takes about half that. By this measure alone, Gassco realized a 50% savings in migration time.
  • A common system, for better communication and disaster recovery
    Axway B2Bi is deployed on two physical Gassco sites with a total of three data rooms, to ensure the system is always up and running. The primary site runs two instances of the solution—production and standby—and the secondary site runs an additional standby instance. “Communication has been improved,” said Ferkingstad. “We now have a virtual communication space outside these three sites, which is independent of whatever site is used for production. Disaster recovery is also improved; if one site goes down, we have no problem with communication at the second site.”ƒ
  • Better system availability and reliability
    “B2Bi is a big improvement,” said Ferkingstad. “The main code structure has been upgraded. We now have a single, common solution, rather than several systems. The interface to the database has been significantly improved, and it’s now easy to synchronize the backup site. System availability is much better with B2Bi, and reliability is better as well.”

    “As with any new system, there were some small problems in the beginning. However, they have all been resolved now,” said Ferkingstad. “We’re very pleased with the dialogue we’ve had with Axway’s project team in Stockholm, which is our single point of contact, and a highly skilled one at that.”

The Next Steps

Extending the deployment of Axway B2Bi

As it gains experience with the new solution, Gassco plans to extend the deployment of Axway B2Bi in a number of areas:

  • Deploy active-active mode
    With Axway B2Bi, active-active support provides a robust architecture with scalability and high availability, including the ability to scale across multiple servers, and automatic failover if a server goes down.
  • Extend Axway B2Bi for company-wide use
    Currently, B2Bi is used for just one of Gassco’s business-critical systems. “Our plan,” said Helland Skår, “is to use B2Bi for all of Gassco’s message handling. We intend to interface it to our other back-end systems, including capacity administration. Our plan is to make Axway B2Bi our global B2B integration broker.”

In summary, Ferkingstad said,  “The B2Bi solution is a key system for Gassco’s 24/7 business. We absolutely needed a reliable and secure B2B integration broker, and that’s what we have, with Axway B2Bi.”

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