March 2021

Life in Technical Operations

TechOps Solutions Engineers at GeoSpock fill a critical role as the primary interface for customer deployment and product support


Technical Operations, known within GeoSpock as TechOps, is the team of Solutions Engineers responsible for customer support and assistance throughout their journey with GeoSpock DB, our high performance analytics database product.

The TechOps team is involved in all aspects of the product life cycle including deployment and setup, management and maintenance, software updates, integrations and more. We play a pivotal role in the organisation, working closely with Engineering, Product and Commercial teams as well as providing the primary interface point for customer support activities. As you might expect, the role of a Solutions Engineer is therefore a varied one! Our team combines a solid grounding in cloud best practices, good knowledge of AWS services and a little coding know-how with deep understanding of the GeoSpock product and a laser focus on delivering customer-centric solutions.

In this blog I’ll walk through how TechOps helps customers with two of the most important aspects in their use of GeoSpock DB — initial delivery and deployment, and ongoing product support.

Deploying and Delivering GeoSpock DB

GeoSpock DB is a SQL-powered (AWS) cloud based analytics database, typically installed in a customer’s own cloud environment. During deployment, TechOps plays a leading role in setting up GeoSpock DB, helping guide a customer through AWS account preparation and the installation process.

Deployment Steps

The easiest approach to deploying GeoSpock DB is from a dedicated ‘deployment’ machine running within the customer’s cloud environment. We first help set that up, before using that machine to run the database deployment scripts. There are three major milestones:

  1. Create the virtual private cloud (VPC)
  2. Spin up the core services (management service, dataset administration, authorisation service) and persistence layer
  3. Spin up the all-important query cluster

TechOps also helps with any additional configuration required. These range from supplying a valid licence key to specifying the size and auto-scaling behaviour of the query cluster.

Techops_VPC_diagram

Identity Provider Integration

One key configuration step is integrating with an Identity Provider (IdP) — the third-party service which stores and verifies the identity of users. Generally, we find customers don’t want to manage multiple IdPs across systems (nobody wants yet another password to remember!), so GeoSpock DB is designed to integrate with existing IdPs.

Using existing IdPs also helps streamline access to GeoSpock DB — users can move between different tools without needing separate credentials to access the database. As a company, we’re very much proponents of a plug and play approach to building out a modern analytics stack. Just as we don’t mandate which SQL client or BI tool users must have, we also support several Identity Providers (LDAP, Amazon Cognito, or any OpenID provider) so database admins can continue to use the system with which they’re already familiar. The team is also well equipped to set up an IdP for customers who don’t already have one, or need to keep systems separate.

Once GeoSpock DB is up and running, TechOps hands over to the customer, who can manage the database themselves via the GeoSpock Command Line Interface (CLI). Of course, in the case of questions, melt downs or general advice, customers can turn to us anytime for support!



Supporting Customers on GeoSpock DB

Following successful installation, day-to-day administration of the database — like creating user groups, onboarding data, and controlling dataset access — can be done by the customer through the GeoSpock CLI. We maintain all our documentation online at docs.geospock.com, but the TechOps team is also on hand to provide additional support and assistance.

We deal with questions from right across the spectrum of GeoSpock DB users; from systems administrators who are managing the AWS account, to database administrators who need help with user permissions or with onboarding data; and, of course, end users who just want to run a query or hook up their preferred SQL client or BI tool.

Leveraging Data Science and Engineering expertise

Whilst the team pride themselves on being able to deal with as wide a variety of customer queries as possible, we’re not averse to tapping the expertise of the broader GeoSpock community when customers need it. Our in house Data Science team are particularly experienced in optimising SQL, advising on data indexing choices, and providing guidance on the most elegant way to achieve particular use cases. Occasionally, a question also requires highly specific product or technology knowledge. In these cases, we share and discuss the request directly with our Product and Engineering counterparts for further investigation, bug fixing, or incorporation into the Product roadmap.

Of course, support is not just a one way street! Learning from customer feedback is core to our way of working at GeoSpock. As a startup, we firmly believe in the value of the technology fundamentals we’re bringing to market for customers. However, we also know that customers value organisations which genuinely care about issues important to them, and can adapt their approach to deliver success. The feedback we receive throughout our customer interactions is therefore one of the most impactful aspects of our work in TechOps, and helps drive our quest towards a better product and better experience for customers.

David Wright is Head of Technical Operations at GeoSpock

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