Santagostino

Samaritan, an Internal Developer Platform for the digitalization of full-cloud Healthcare

The challenge

Santagostino is an Italian company that manages a network of outpatient clinics offering a wide range of high-quality specialist services at an affordable price. With 31 centers in Lombardy, Bologna and Rome, in recent years it has defined a continuous growth plan including opening new clinics and increasing remote medical care through mature and innovative technologies.

Although the existing tech stack already managed the whole ecosystem of clinics, doctors and patients, the continuous growth plan posed a new challenge in terms of organization and standardization of all internal digital services.

This challenge had two fundamental aspects. The first was to create an internal platform to centralize services and documentation, manage the entire lifecycle of services and simplify the work of the Santagostino developers. The second was to create a series of services to simplify the communication of the main internal products and allow the business to be supported effectively. This would transform the patient experience by allowing individuals to book appointments, retrieve reports, among many other services.

Project
Santagostino - Internal Developer Platform
Services
Cloud Native Services, AWS platform, DevOps & Automation
Release
December 2021

The solution

Our collaboration with Santagostino began with an assessment which revealed that, despite their systems relying on one of the main Cloud Providers, their internal services did not respect shared standards. There were no CI/CD pipelines that could guarantee high-reliability releases and resource monitoring was not efficient. The preliminary analysis outlined an ecosystem not yet strong enough for releases and confirmed the need for a developer platform, something that the organization already perceived.

We chose Backstage to develop this application – an Open Source software released by Spotify that allows the creation of platforms to collect and register services, documentation and starter kits necessary to make the development teams’ work easier. The application was developed keeping in mind all the principles that make its use and maintenance quick and easy: the code and the CI/CD are on Github and the definition of the infrastructure is managed with Terraform. For the latter we have chosen the services of the Cloud Vendor already in use: AWS ECS, ECR, RDS, S3 e Cognito.

At the same time, we defined together with Santagostino the requirements of the starter kits that would allow them to create new microservices with shared and consolidated standards. The result was a list of starter kits developed on the basis these high-level requirements:

  • Source code on Github
  • QA / CI / CD integrated on Github
  • Integrated monitoring with Cloudwatch dashboard
  • Integrated documentation (available from the Developer Platform)
  • Integrated operational logging on the ELK environment
Services used:
AppSync, Lambda, RDS, ECS, Api Gateway, Step functions, SQS, Event Bridge, Parameter Store, Alb, Cloudwatch, DynamoDB, Acm, Route53, OpenSearch, SNS, Amplify, Iam, Xray, Cognito
Technologies used:

Terraform, Serverless Framework, GitHub Actions, PlantUML, MKdocs, Swagger, Backstage, Docker

The project ended with a phase during which we supported the customer in the development of new services by using all the new available tools.

cs-santagostino

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The results

The new Developer Platform, called Samaritan, has allowed the Customer to collect all the documentation of the already existing services and to speed up the development of new ones avoiding to define the CI / CD, the definition of the infrastructure and the monitoring processes. It also simplified the onboarding process for new developers of the internal development team. A major leap forward for the company developer experience.

In about three months, 20 services with new features were created to replace old ones. Now they all share the same practices and are already used successfully in production environments.

This new ecosystem of services also includes common monitoring functions that allow for centralized performance and requests control, and, in the event of any errors, for a quick and effective intervention.

    Marco Bertoncini

    Chief Digital and Design Officer Santagostino

    In SparkFabrik we have found a challenging interlocutor capable of responding to our requests as a proactive partner and not as a mere performer. The relaunch of ideas between supplier and customer is a fundamental requirement for a company, like ours, which never wants to treat developments as a ‘black box’ whose logic and operation it does not know.

    There have been physiological and inevitable small adjustments of course, typical of any development process. But more than a change in expectations, we have observed an increase in awareness, at the departmental and at the company level.

    We became better aware of the importance of building an even more meticulous and ‘ruthless’ system than we already imagined, designed to allow us to immediately identify errors in the code. And also to natively provide, in the new services, structured and complete logs that allow us to improve and correct them as quickly as possible.

    For a healthcare company like Santagostino, technology is an enabler of our true value-added activity: the care experience, which involves all three of our categories of users, namely patients, clinical professionals, employees.

    In this sense, the choice of a developer platform was dictated by the need to improve the Santagostino experience for these three categories, so to speak, indirectly. On closer inspection, a developer platform is ‘the enabler of an enabler’.

    Where our software (management, portals, medical records, apps) go directly into the hands of our users, the developer platform is a new working tool in the hands of our developers and, consequently, of our project managers and designers.

    Our team can thus, in turn, dedicate time to the part with the highest added value of the work: the architecture of the services, the actual code, the definition and implementation of the user experience.

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