VR Group is the state-owned company that runs Finnish Railways and provides 82 million passenger train rides and transports 36 million tons of goods per year. The 150+ year old transportation business is broken into three separate divisions - VR Passenger Services. VR Transpoint Logistics, and VR Track Infrastructure. Each division has their own technology departments, but they do not have an in-house software development team. Each division leverages external vendors and partners for their application development needs.
Disparate apps and vendors has resulted in application sprawl with several different technology stacks and platforms to support, contributing to these operational challenges:
- High operating costs - Having different platforms to support makes it difficult to scale efficiently
- Slow time-to-market - App deployment can take hours to days as each application requires custom builds. Teams also encounter incompatibility issues that need to be resolved, slowing app delivery cycles.
- Quality issues - Finnish Railways uses between 10 and 20 vendors for app development, resulting in wide variability between application types. The operations team had very little visibility into the apps themselves which made troubleshooting more difficult.
Finnish Railways began working with Accenture, a long-time partner, to design a new common application platform based on Docker Enterprise Edition (EE). The teams started with the old reservation system which was running on mainframe and a legacy commuter service application. In collaboration with Accenture, they rewrote these applications with microservices and also moved from proprietary software platforms to include more open source components. Implementation of Docker EE began about a year ago and as the first applications were getting rewritten, the team also saw the opportunity to simply migrate some existing applications to the Docker platform. Docker EE has now become the single platform for all types of applications - from non-production development workloads to greenfield microservices apps to brownfield legacy applications.
The commuter services app went live in June and the new reservation system went live in August of this year. Through these efforts, Finnish Railway has seen some impactful results:
- Average cost savings of 50%
- Better visibility into all of the apps with centralized logging and monitoring
- Standardization on a common platform and architecture that can be leveraged across all applications and all of Finnish Railways’ vendors
- A consistent app delivery pipeline that works the same for everyone. This makes it easy to bring new contractors and vendors into the same environment, leveraging the same processes.
These early successes have made it possible to now bring the platform to even more teams within the company. Finnish Railways is actively expanding their footprint with the goal of getting all applications over to Docker EE.