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From cog to indispensable pillar

Maarten van Veen , Change Engineer

I started out in IT for a small computer company working in the SME sector. Thanks to training programmes and courses, I developed into an IT specialist and I now really enjoy working for Van Oord. Close to home at the head office in Rotterdam or at international project locations from Europe to the Middle East and from to Asia to the Americas. In the time I've been here, I have seen a lot of the world.

Floating factories

Two years ago, we started migrating Van Oord's infrastructure from our own data centres to Azure. It was the start of a jigsaw puzzle we have yet to complete. The platform itself, the 'gas, water and electricity', as it were, is done. Our own management applications, e-mail, Office365 and SharePoint, have all been migrated and if we get a new application it goes straight to the cloud. My work consists of getting the hundreds of existing applications cloud-ready. That means unravelling applications, designing efficient clusters of storage and apps and then putting everything into containers and microservices in a reliable and scalable way using Docker and Kubernetes. What really makes working for Van Oord interesting is the infrastructure on board our ships. They are floating factories, they move, pitch and roll and there is not always a satellite, WiFi or mobile network nearby. That means finding smart ways to connect the different layers with each other; what we do locally or in the cloud needs to seamlessly connect to what happens on the ships – and all without stable data connections. Quality of Service is therefore the priority. It's really fun to work all of that out.

The ‘Vox Data’

We are now at a tipping point. The number of end users is growing. We are also giving customers access to more and more information via the cloud. For example, they can follow the progress of their projects online. Apart from our own data, we also use external applications. With the help of OpenEarth, an open source framework for geospatial data, models and tools, we can get exactly the right information to everyone involved in a project. We collect all the output, from data on the fuel consumption of ships to scans of river bottoms. We now have a huge mountain of data. It has become a production tool and it is now so important that we refer to it internally as the 'Vox Data', by way of analogy to the ships, many of whose names also start with ' Vox '. IT is changing at a lightning pace, from a cog in the greater whole to an indispensable pillar, and I am enjoying tackling all the technical IT challenges and contributing to the future of Van Oord.