SGN Modernizes Gas Control Infrastructure Using AWS Professional Services
Compliance and security are increasingly important in a world full of ever-evolving security threats. This need for security is particularly apparent in the energy and utilities industry, where infrastructure is highly regulated by various parts of government. For gas distribution company SGN Ltd. (SGN), this made migrating its gas control infrastructure to the cloud a daunting task.
Emphasizing Security and Compliance for a Cloud Migration
SGN is a UK gas distribution company that manages the natural and green gas distribution network for almost six million homes and businesses across Northern Ireland, Scotland, and the south of England. The company manages 74,000 km of gas mains along the network and delivers emergency services for gas safety and leakage.
In 2015, SGN was at a turning point as it considered how best to adapt to the future. Its entire infrastructure was in a data center but would need to be replaced within the next 4 to 5 years to comply with regulations. The company felt the best way to modernize was to migrate from physical infrastructure to the cloud. To first migrate its corporate infrastructure, SGN turned to Amazon Web Services (AWS).
“We had to deal with the security threats that come with aging infrastructure, but replacing the physical infrastructure meant a physical move as well,” says Arun Rajaram, program management consultant at SGN. “This was a key driver for us to choose AWS and continue our journey to the cloud.”
Creating a Road Map for a Secure Environment
Using AWS, SGN successfully migrated its corporate infrastructure and built a data lake. In 2019, the company set its sights on accomplishing the same for its gas control infrastructure. However, migrating critical gas control infrastructure to the cloud posed a bigger challenge. This would not be a simple lift and shift because the company had to navigate the strict regulations of the energy and utilities industry. SGN believed the strength of its collaboration with the AWS team would be a necessity in completing this massive-scale migration.
“We carried a challenging project over the line by bringing in the best people for the job,” says Charlie Smith, head of IT Project and Programme Delivery at SGN. “They had the skills and knowledge of the tooling to get it done right.”
Classed as Critical National Infrastructure by the UK government, all of SGN’s networks and systems needed to adhere to a thorough set of guidelines and meet high compliance standards. There was a mandatory safety case, which explained the licensing conditions that SGN needed to meet to operate high-pressure gas pipeline systems that power homes. There are also many frameworks maintained by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) that gas control infrastructure needs to comply with.
Before SGN could start the actual migration, it had to go through an exercise with the NCSC. First, the company needed to show a proof of concept and demonstrate that the applications to support gas control were reliable in the cloud. Then, after delivering architecture diagrams and gaining approval, migration could begin.
“Many of our product vendors were not used to the public cloud,” says Rajaram. “So, we had to prove that our gas control applications were cloud worthy.”
Testing and Refining to Deliver a Full Cloud Solution
SGN began by drafting a proof of concept and testing its applications in a virtual environment. The proof of concept was completed in August 2019. After that, the company created various architectural designs to show that its new infrastructure would be secure and meet all safety requirements. Those designs were finished by September 2020 and taken to the NCSC for approval.
After gaining approval from the NCSC, SGN went through a procurement exercise. In March 2021, the company was awarded the contract and began to create more detailed designs. In November 2021, SGN started building the new solution. This process required continual refinements and testing. There were many iterations of the design because some of the previous work needed remediation.
In September 2022, the company reached out to AWS Professional Services to get feedback on building, testing, and remediation. With the AWS team, SGN could remediate those products to meet compliance over the next 5 months. In May 2023, SGN’s systems were fully migrated to the cloud.
“We went through a very challenging phase where we just constantly built and tested,” says Rajaram. “But the AWS team was fantastic in giving us what we needed to tidy up all the unfinished work and launch our new solution.”
By migrating its critical gas network infrastructure to AWS, SGN increased its flexibility to innovate, enhanced overall security and compliance, and made its network highly reliable. With its enhanced security stance, SGN plans to pursue new projects, like creating a gas network and green hydrogen digital twin.
“The use of leading-edge AWS cloud computing technologies helps us stay one step ahead of the ever-changing cyber threat landscape,” says Smith.