Accelerating Norway’s quest for greater metadata transparency

Norwegian governmental agency BBREG migrated its metadata catalog infrastructure to Google Cloud, creating a streamlined CI/CD pipeline in order to launch new user features faster.

Google Cloud results

  • Supports a faster release cycle, so new features can be launched quickly
  • Improves operational efficiency, saving 1,350 work hours a year
  • Enables the development team to work more independently, fostering a better DevOps culture

According to the Global Open Data Index 2016/17 findings, Norway is in the top five countries in terms of the openness of its government’s data. One of the governmental agencies that supports this world-leading national open data strategy is Brønnøysund Register Center (BRREG), based in the northern town of Brønnøysund, 800 km north of Oslo. It holds around 19 of Norway’s most important registers, including registers of businesses, such as the Central Coordinating Register for Legal Entities, as well as political parties and bankruptcies. Those registers that hold non-sensitive or anonymized data can be used by anyone for analysis and modeling.

As well as holding closed- and open-access data, BRREG is also responsible for digital information exchange systems. This includes the Felles Datakatalog (FDK), or common data directory, which was launched in 2017 to help governmental departments share information between themselves. FDK provides standardized definitions of more than 3,300 concepts such as “salary,” as well as 650 information models explaining how the data is structured. This helps agencies make sure citizens only have to share information once and provides agencies with a model for better digitization.

To keep the team at the forefront of innovation, Stig Dørmænen, Senior Advisor at BRREG, has adopted a “show, don’t tell” strategy of rapidly launching new features for users to test. This means getting updates into production quickly, but since its previous on-premises solution in Brønnøysund involved coordinating with other teams, it took weeks to get features launched. Moving the catalog infrastructure to Google Cloud has solved this problem, enabling the Oslo-based FDK team to work more independently.

My team’s strategy is to deliver functionality fast, getting it out to the users so they can start testing it. Before, we relied on the operations team, so we weren’t able to implement a DevOps culture. That’s why it was time to move to the cloud.

Stig B. Dørmænen, Senior Advisor, Brønnøysund Register Center

Migrating to the cloud in just two months

In order to get features launched fast, development teams need to be able to work in an independent way. “We have a relatively small team of 14 developers, and trying to get the attention we needed from the operations team in Brønnøysund was difficult,” says Stig. “We also wanted to outsource infrastructure management as much as possible, so we could focus on delivering services.”

The team put the project out to public tender, with four companies proposing solutions. It was Google Cloud Premier Partner Computas who came up with the winning bid.

Computas has been working on open data projects in Norway since 2008. “We recommended developing the solution for Brønnøysund Register Center on Google Cloud because of the extensive experience Google has with running containerized services,” says Hans Karim Tellum-Djarraya, Client Executive at Computas.

We want to spend less time on nitty-gritty infrastructure tasks. Because tools such as Google Kubernetes Engine just work out of the box, our team can focus on solution architecture and development.

Stig B. Dørmænen, Senior Advisor, Brønnøysund Register Center

By working closely together, both remotely using Hangouts Meet on G Suite and co-located at the Felles Datakatalog offices, the migration was completed in two months. The Felles Datakatalog infrastructure is now powered by Google Kubernetes Engine and Compute Engine instances, using Cloud Load Balancing for easy scaling of resources. Cloud Storage and Cloud SQL provide storage and managed database services for the FDK CI/CD pipeline, while Cloud Monitoring provides system monitoring and alerts.

Making security a top priority with Computas

Over the past decade, government agencies around the world have started to embrace cloud computing. “When I started, there had been previous discussions about migrating, but there was some reluctance to take the decisive step,” says Stig. “After we did some tests and realized it was doable, everyone got on board.”

Once the department’s management was happy with the security risk analysis and had implemented the recommendations of the Norwegian Data Protection Authority, the migration itself was straightforward. “We have a great relationship with Computas that is based on trust,” Stig explains.

“The Felles Datakatalog doesn’t contain any personal data, but we still needed to follow a good security implementation strategy,” says Michael Husbyn, Senior Engineer at Computas. “We followed best practices to make sure everything is well-structured for any future applications. Secure onboarding to a cloud solution requires good and healthy setup within areas such as Cloud Identity, IAM, authentication with multi-factor, folder and project structure hierarchy, network, logging and monitoring options, billing, shared responsibility security awareness, and built-in security tools. Google provides the tools to get that foundation right.”

Working more autonomously on a prize-winning initiative

As it can easily manage its own infrastructure on Google Cloud, the FDK team now builds and releases new features faster and more efficiently. It is running three times the number of services and workloads since when the project launched last year, and by optimizing its processes during the lift and shift of services, it has also reduced the build time for code deployed on its automated CI/CD pipeline.

“Now, it only takes a couple of days to launch a new service, instead of three weeks,” says Stig. The team is working on breaking down the infrastructure into smaller microservices and implementing more tools for API management, in order to enable even faster code deployment.

Thanks to its trailblazing approach to e-government, the Felles Datakatalog was awarded an innovation prize at the 2019 NOKIOS, Norway’s largest conference for e-government. Other government agencies are now looking to BBREG as a model for successful governmental cloud migration.

By moving to the cloud, our team was able to accelerate the development of our services, which enabled us to achieve what we have today. We want to keep up this rate of innovation and share our experiences with others.

Stig B. Dørmænen, Senior Advisor, Brønnøysund Register Center

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Boris Bulajic