Green Energy Company Ørsted Builds Software Startup Obviux on AWS
Deregulation Launches Software Startup
After Denmark deregulated its utility market two years ago, companies could no longer both sell and distribute energy. Ørsted, the largest energy company in Denmark, had to split sales and distribution functions into separate companies. Splitting increased already expensive licensing costs for the legacy SAP applications used to manage the company’s customer billing functions. Deregulation also created greater market competition for utility sales and billing functions.
With the aim of building a software company that could provide less expensive billing services for the company and the wider utility sector, Ørsted established Obviux as a subsidiary. “Looking at our available options, they all were expensive,” says Charlotte Kamp, chief executive officer of Obviux. “Ørsted decided it had to find something considerably cheaper. Since we couldn’t find it in the marketplace, there was only one thing left to do: Build a cheaper option ourselves.”
Obviux took the path of a lean startup, beginning as two people with an idea and some source code. As that idea and source code took shape, the company understood it would need a robust cloud to grow on. The company chose Amazon Web Services (AWS) as its cloud services provider. “We needed our system to ultimately scale to one million customers and tap millions and millions of datasets. The AWS Cloud is brilliant when you need access to compute power yet still must watch the costs of running a company,” says Kamp.
“Our developers add value by releasing functionality to Ørsted almost every day and have fun while they do it. AWS fits well into that way of thinking and working.”
– Charlotte Kamp, CEO, Obviux
AWS Services Used
Obviux, a subsidiary of green energy company Ørsted, creates and implements open source, cloud-based applications. The primary focus of Obviux is to deliver streamlined billing systems to the energy sector.
- Builds a cheaper billing function through cloud services
- Allows software startup to scale for over 1 million customers and access millions of datasets
- Stores data from 1.2 million meters, including 800,000 smart meters.
- Scales containers automatically to accommodate billing for 300,000 customers at a time
- 80% of startup staff can devote their time to adding software functionality
AWS Services Used
Secure Cloud Infrastructure Supports Data and Billing Processes
The startup relied on various AWS products to create its cloud infrastructure, so the small team could remain focused on development. Obviux uses Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) for MySQL to manage an Amazon Aurora database, where it stores customer data as well as data from 1.2 million meters, including 800,000 smart meters. Amazon RDS automates time-consuming administrative tasks such as hardware provisioning, database setup, and patching, and it scales the database as needed. “Given our size, we don’t have a database administration department. We rely on AWS to provide the expertise and make its database products usable for our developers,” says Henrik Oddershede, senior cloud engineer for Obviux.
Obviux also takes advantage of Amazon Elasticsearch Service, a fully managed service applied to the company’s main billing application and used by its customer service team. The company can now ingest data from any source, and customer service can search those sources in real time. “Before using Amazon Elasticsearch Service, we had our own search engine, but it didn’t scale well above 30,000 customers,” says Lars Schou, solution architect for Obviux. “We now have an index of 1.5 million entries. We rely on Elasticsearch for search capabilities, and all we have to maintain now is our index.”
By using AWS Auto Scaling, Obviux can manage capacity for Amazon Aurora and meet demand spikes in billing cycles. The Obviux billing engine runs inside an Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS) cluster. “We bill about 300,000 customers at a time during billing cycles that run a few times per month,” says Oddershede. “That requires a lot of compute power. Our Amazon ECS cluster scales automatically to manage those workloads.”
No matter which services were used, Ørsted needed to feel confident that its new subsidiary would protect and secure customer data. “Because AWS integrates security into all its products, we could show Ørsted that we had built a secure solution,” says Oddershede.
A Strategy Designed for Innovation
As the company continues to grow, Obviux has adopted a “Serverless First” strategy. “Instead of building something ourselves, we leverage AWS products first. That makes it possible for us to deliver and go to market faster. It’s inexpensive for us to try new things. If it works, we keep it, and if it doesn’t, we tear it down—all with minimal investment,” says Oddershede.
Freeing the development team from maintenance and infrastructure setup tasks keeps them focused on innovation and exploration. Even as a startup, 80 percent of Obviux employees focus entirely on adding functionality to its software applications. Oddershede says, “By using AWS products, we push our maintenance burden to them, so we can focus on building new stuff.” Schou agrees: “With AWS, it’s easy to set up a new environment to code and see output right away. That gives flexibility to every developer to learn constantly and deliver value very quickly.”
Obviux strives to extract as much business value as possible from its few resources and small development team. “Our developers add value by releasing functionality to Ørsted almost every day and have fun while they do it,” says Kamp. “AWS fits well into that way of thinking and working.”