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KWS and Skaylink Promote a Digital Product Portfolio

KWS and Skaylink promote a digital product portfolio

With myKWS, the plant breeding company KWS has created a digital service platform that offers digital services and advice to customers all over the world. To reliably operate the platform with users in around 30 countries and to constantly adapt it to the needs of modern agriculture, the company relies on the cloud provider Skaylink as its long-term central IT partner. 

KWS, which is represented in 70 countries around the globe, is one of the world’s largest seed suppliers with its comprehensive range of premium seed. This means that the product requirements are constantly increasing. Climate change in particular is affecting agriculture at a growing rate: Extreme weather conditions, pests, and drought cause crop failures and ask more of farmers. KWS has developed the ‟myKWS” service platform to support farmers in their daily challenges. The digital services offered allow customers to optimize their cultivation, react to current events, and, in doing so, make the best possible decisions for the highest possible yields. 

‟Today, the modern farmer expects an extension of the value-creation chain through digital products alongside excellent seed quality. Therefore, the cost-free range of offerings is also very important for us as a company,” explains Mark Bieri, Lead of Digital Farming Solutions at KWS. Here, the company sees digital services not only as an extended offering for customers, but also as a direct point-to-customer, since purchasing seeds is often handled through intermediaries. Through myKWS, the company can better understand the needs of the end customers and approach these challenges in a targeted way. This means that KWS is not only a seed specialist, but also a trusted partner with expertise that supports the farmer year-round.  

Cloud infrastructure for strategic growth

The decision to move into the cloud with the services offered follows the cloud-first corporate strategy that KWS has already been pursuing since 2016. Together with Skaylink, KWS relied on modern cloud technologies such as platform-as-a-service, containers, and cloud-native services right from the start. AWS’s global presence helps KWS to provide customers all over the globe with myKWS services. Moreover, alongside quick availability, the cloud also offers a high level of flexibility and advantages when building up robust processes and workflows.  

For myKWS, another advantage of the cloud is clearly in focus. The platform needs to be extremely scalable, since larger or smaller amounts of data are processed here depending on the season. KWS aims to provide digital solutions for more than 6 million hectares by 2030. Regardless of the data load, the services need to run quickly and with high availability. Outages of individual services at key times, such as during the harvest season, can have disastrous consequences for farmers and the reputation of the myKWS platform. In addition, countless service providers require interfaces to the platform for their information to be fed into it. While KWS excels in its core area of expertise with knowledge of everything relating to seeds, external data is also needed for its range of offerings such as weather services, satellite images, or soil values that are used to determine the best time for harvesting. The landing zone built by Skaylink provides the platform onto which additional services can be quickly and securely integrated. Security, logging, or, for example, backup are specified in the environment using policies. ‟We at KWS place value on the highest quality, and we also seek this out from our service providers. With Skaylink, we can meet this quality standard and pass it on to our customers,” explains Nils Busse, Head of Expert Hub IT Applications Customer Services. 

Source: KWS / Photographer: Roman Thomas

Nebojsa Martinovic, SecDevOps at Skaylink, explains further: ‟Working with KWS is fun for us as a service provider, since we are breaking new ground together and are keen to innovate. Whether we’re reducing costs or increasing performance, we work hand-in-hand with KWS to move away from instance-based IT to fully automated cloud-native services and containers in operation. This is where our years of experience in operations, as well as being an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner, really pay off.” 

Trust reinforces partnership

Skaylink, as an IT partner with many years of experience, is responsible for the implementation of the global strategies in the various markets as well as for the technological consolidation of all providers on the platform. Here, Skaylink’s DevOps in the form of professional services works closely with the KWS specialists and also with other providers involved in an agile manner. This means that KWS’ bioinformaticians supplement the cloud expertise of the Skaylink specialists to form a team of experts that can quickly implement new challenges. 

Skaylink takes care of the design and implementation of all cloud infrastructure needs for myKWS, starting with technical consulting through to deployment and operation of the AWS cloud environment. As of today, this includes the use of 44 AWS services, including of course bread-and-butter services like Amazon S3 or EC2, but also serverless components such as AWS Lambda and database platforms. 

Source: KWS / Photographer: Roman Thomas

Skaylink is the horizontal interface to all other service providers integrated on myKWS, regardless of their technical expertise. The high degree of flexibility and built-in governance for the landing zone set up, as well as between SLA-based basic operations and professional services, allows KWS to select and integrate the optimal partners based on their expertise and greatest added value for the customer, without having to worry about their cloud expertise.  

KWS Bioinformatics also benefits from Skaylink’s cloud-as-a-service offering by being able to focus on its core expertise and entrust cloud operations to Skaylink Managed Services. This trust, which has grown throughout many years of cooperation, means that the collaboration is flexible and efficient. 

The top priority for Skaylink is to accommodate the tight deadlines in agriculture. Tools must be ready in time for harvest or sowing time, otherwise they will be of no use until next year. Downtimes at these peak times could also have a negative impact on KWS’ business. Therefore, Skaylink places great importance in the partnership on rapid processing of requests, successful go-live phases even under time pressure at the right time, and reliability in the operation of the entire platform – with an uptime of around 100 percent with partial outages of sub-services. 

‟The partnership with Skaylink is a collaboration on an equal footing,” explains Nils Busse. ‟Regardless of whether it’s the rapid placement and implementation of topics, the stable operation of the platform, or the reliable integration of interfaces: Thanks to years of close cooperation, there is a mutual trust that has never been shaken.”  

Data in safe hands – always

IT security plays a central role in handling the sensitive data of customers from all over the world. It is the highest priority in the cooperation between KWS and Skaylink, and has been implemented directly in the landing zone in the form of policies. This includes controlling which data must remain within the EU and which must be distributed around the world over content distribution networks.  

Antonino Spadaro, who has for many years been the Key Account Manager for KWS at Skaylink, summarizes the partnership as follows: ‟We at Skaylink don’t bring any seed knowledge to the partnership; we help through technological knowledge, innovation, and collaborative strength. Paired with an excellent partnership, this creates a secure, high-performance platform with the greatest possible benefit for customers.” 

Digital services for all industries

Extending the lifecycle of their own products through digital offerings gives companies the opportunity to better understand customers and deliver added value to them. This model is also transferable to other industries outside the agricultural sector. The key thing is to find the right partner for such a comprehensive and long-term project so that implementation and operation are successful. Companies should involve the right IT partner as early as the planning process to ensure that all contingencies are taken into account. This can result in a product portfolio that strengthens the company’s own brand and drives innovation in its own industry. 

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