This case study explains how Compete366 provided expert Azure advice to Enviresearch, a regulatory and risk assessment service provider for the global chemical industry, to build a resilient and secure infrastructure to support its innovative Acre modelling tool.
Enviresearch provides regulatory and risk assessment services in Europe for the global chemical industry. With a focus on agrochemicals, Enviresearch works with chemical manufacturers of pesticides. As part of the go-to-market process, these pesticide products need to be thoroughly assessed to ensure they don’t present unacceptable risks to human health and the environment.
In order to do this, Enviresearch uses a range of simulation models to analyse the use of pesticides and predict how they will behave in the environment. One example is to predict the concentrations of a pesticide that will occur in surface water bodies (e.g. ponds, streams) as a result of application of the pesticide in nearby fields. The models can factor in climatic conditions and soil properties which influence how the chemicals behave.
Enviresearch uses the outputs from the models as part of environmental risk assessments to determine if the resulting concentration of pesticides in surface water bodies is expected to pose unacceptable risks to the environment.
The Business Challenge
Data modelling is, by its nature, both time consuming and complex, and the data entry process is prone to human error. In addition, the challenge of looking at multiple potential patterns of chemical usage can make the analysis both complex and expensive.
Over the years, Enviresearch had developed a range of data simulations that were carried out using a series of EU approved applications. These applications were old, linear, algebraic simulations. There were three principal applications being used that linked legacy databases – rainfall tables, product databases and chemical databases. The data entry for these legacy applications was time consuming and prone to error, requiring a lot of manual input.
In addition, the simulations took a long time to run, with a typical set of up to 12 simulations taking a full day to run. Each scenario then needed to be repeated and analysed, before it could be submitted to the regulators.
A third-party consultancy, Ecommnet Technologies, led by Robert Campbell, was brought in to develop a software solution – Acre (Assessment of Chemical Risk in the Environment) which was designed to bring these legacy models together and provide one, much simpler user interface for both data entry and report generation.
Ecommnet Technologies worked over a period of four years to develop the Acre system. It was developed making extensive use of DLLs (dynamic link libraries). Microsoft Office365 tools were used as the key message queuing mechanisms for users setting up simulation projects. This therefore meant that Acre was ideally suited to run in a complete Microsoft environment.
The new Acre system was purposely designed and built to run through the models sequentially and produce the final report outputs. The aim was to make the whole process quicker, effective and much more reliable. The key elements of the initial development project were:
Automation of the data input process – each project was described using an Excel project spreadsheet and then macros were developed to describe the large numbers of simulations that were required to be carried out.
A complex process was built to check the integrity of the input
An automated import was created into the back-end legacy applications, which was run using a queue mechanism.
At the final simulation analysis output stage –output files were exported into a data lake from where a fully formatted Word document report was automatically generated.
The Outcome and Benefits
As Scott Watson explains “The key requirement was to improve the speed of setting up and processing these simulations. With Acre we have managed to reduce simulation and processing down from around 2 days to less than an hour. At the same time we have greatly improved data quality (both input and output). Prior to this project, the process was hugely labour intensive.”
Running a set of simulations and processing now takes less an hour instead of 2 days, meaning that Enviresearch can deliver more and better quality services to clients.
Allows Enviresearch to approach analysis in a completely different way, for example testing against multiple usage scenarios or different crops
The new Acre system allows Enviresearch to process huge numbers of simulations for a single project – which includes gathering the data, doing the analyse, and producing reports.
This whole process is now achieved without user intervention – and there is no need for the user to understand the logistics and interaction between the models used.
Expert Azure Advice from Compete366
After the development work was completed by Ecommnet Technologies, it was essential to ensure that the Acre Infrastructure was fully reliable on an ongoing basis. The solution had been built from the beginning as a SaaS application but had been hosted on in-house infrastructure. Enviresearch needed to find an Azure partner to look after the project going forwards.
Enviresearch chose to work with Compete366 to implement the Azure Virtual Machine to run the Acre application and an Azure SQL Database for the back-end processing.
As Scott explains “Compete 366 seemed the most approachable Azure experts and gave us the confidence to go forward for the Azure infrastructure – moving away from using our internal infrastructure. It’s important that we can scale the infrastructure for Acre, particularly as it’s rolled out to wider group of users – and especially with the likely data volumes we will be processing. We needed to work with a reliable partner who could manage the system and ensure all our subscriptions were correctly managed, to keep this critical application running.”
Benefits of Microsoft Azure Infrastructure
Microsoft server software licensing all included
No upfront costs and no termination fees – pay only for what you use
Easily scale servers up or down and add or remove servers
All the infrastructure is managed by Microsoft
Microsoft provides 24×7 support
Now that Acre is fully developed and running on the Azure infrastructure, plans are in place to expand the client base utilizing the tool for projects.
The Microsoft Azure infrastructure will make the process of scaling up for multiple users much more straightforward and the global Azure platform means that this application can be made available wherever it is required.
If you’d like to find out more about our Expert Azure Infrastructure Advice and how we can help you set up your IT infrastructure in the most effective way then do get in touch. We’ll be pleased to help.
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