The Great Migration: What Monarch Butterflies Can Tell Us About Data Migration

In a flurry of blood orange wings, millions of monarch butterflies make their pilgrimage from the northernmost regions of the United States and Canada to the gentle mountains of central Mexico.

As the nights lengthen and the autumn leaves begin to turn, the delicate insects flee cool climates in favor of their temperate wintering grounds. There, monarchs congregate in their millions – adorning the local oyamel firs with a quivering tangerine mantle and starting anew with their next generation.

Spanning 3,000 miles and several weeks, the North American Monarch Butterfly Crusade is not unlike the great technological migrations: both are labors of love that require immense strategy and patience.

You just have to ask caterpillar Digital architect Pranita Usgaonker, who helped with the recent migration of the company’s telematics device gateway, a massive enterprise in its own right.

“Our challenge was to migrate all of our 1.2 million telematics devices to the new gateway – every customer device needed to be redirected to the new platform without losing connectivity,” she told Built In Chicago.

Whether at the wingtip or through a robust gateway infrastructure, the art of migration is never easy. “This one took three years,” Usgaonker said. “It’s good to start small, keep taking extra steps and celebrate the small successes along the way.”

Built In Chicago spoke with Usgaonker to learn more about the nuanced strategy, intensive feedback and employee drive that fueled Caterpillar’s formidable Telematics Device Gateway migration.

Pranita Usgaonker

digital architect

Being part of caterpillar, Cat Digital uses digital technologies in its mission to help customers build a better, more sustainable world. As the “digital and technology arm of Caterpillar Inc.”, Cat Digital strives to bring digital capabilities to its “world-renowned tinplate.” On the topic of migration, digital architect Pranita Usgaonker is an advocate for teamwork. “Extensive testing, including user acceptance testing and hardware loopback, was a critical part of mitigating issues,” Usgaonker told Built In Chicago. “We also worked with teams in the field to validate the functionality and connectivity of the devices with real machines.”

Describe a migration recently orchestrated by Cat Digital.

We recently migrated our old Telematics Device Gateway to a Caterpillar-owned and AWS-hosted gateway, which we call our Caterpillar Digital Telematics Gateway. Our old gateway lacked the scalability required to support our ever growing population of connected machines and motors, limited our ability to keep devices up to date with new firmware, and was quite expensive. Additionally, the old gateway relied on scheduled deployment windows.

Our new Telematics Gateway was designed and implemented to provide the necessary scalability using AWS’s more modern cloud infrastructure, which supports our current needs and future growth plans. It supports more than 15 categories of telematics devices. Every day, the platform receives messages and queues orders from our connected assets, processing tens of millions of messages per day. The new gateway also supports different communication protocols.

How did your team prepare for the migration and mitigate potential issues?

Our biggest challenge during this migration was to ensure that our resellers and customers have uninterrupted access to our applications.

We had to meet tight deadlines while maintaining backwards compatibility with existing applications that consume machine data and with machines using the gateway to configure themselves remotely. Additionally, we needed to ensure that the new gateway supported the same protocols and message formats as the previous gateway, plus a few new ones.

Many teams worked together to develop and test all aspects of end-to-end systems and resolve any software or device connectivity issues. We took steps to ensure that our apps received 100% of their data, regardless of which gateway the device was talking to.

We had a robust monitoring and logging setup to quickly detect and isolate issues to fix. Automated device migration scripts enabled large volumes of devices to be migrated and restored by a particular device type.

It all starts with good planning, a good migration strategy, and clear milestones to support a big goal. »

What advice would you give to a software engineering team leader tasked with orchestrating their first migration?

Ultimately, having a clear device migration strategy was a big part of our success. We have organized the devices according to their complexity to achieve a cumulative functionality of the devices so that we can migrate the devices gradually from the simplest to the most complex. We worked methodically, building the core functionality and base gateway, putting it into production, migrating devices, and then getting feedback from stakeholders before building more functionality.

It all starts with good planning, a good migration strategy, and clear milestones to support a big goal. Getting frequent feedback from applications and data consumers is also essential, as is strong collaboration and effective communication with different teams.

Sean N. Ayres