Syngenta enables worldwide growth in lockstep with security

Syngenta is a leading science-based agriculture tech (or agtech) company that helps millions of farmers worldwide grow safe and nutritious food while taking care of the planet. It helps farmers adapt to the effects of climate change, improve soil quality, enhance biodiversity, and respond to society’s views on food and agricultural technology.

Udaya Kiran is the Head of Technology for the company’s Asia Pacific operations. His remit includes crafting and honing Syngenta’s IT strategy and roadmap; leading and supporting the technology, user research, and product management teams; driving innovation, and ensuring alignment between the organization’s engineering and business stakeholders.

“I’m all about pursuing engineering excellence,” says Kiran. “Specifically, this means making sure that our code coverage is great and that we build the best platform features.”

Exponential growth of code and repositories comes with risk

A few years ago, Kiran’s geographically distributed team included about 30–40 GitHub users. That number has subsequently risen to 500+. Similarly, the number of repositories has grown exponentially, increasing from around 50 to over a thousand.

Kiran is aware of the benefits, but also the risks inherent with cloud-based platforms such as GitHub. Under the Shared Responsibility Model, SaaS platforms are responsible for backing up and restoring the data of their entire user base – not the individual data that Kiran and his team rely on daily.

“As our team became larger and more dispersed, the business value of our code increased proportionately,” says Kiran. “I started to ask myself, ‘If something were to happen to our code, how could I be sure I could fully restore it?’”

The downsides of DIY

Kiran describes how he tackled the issue of implementing comprehensive backups for his code: “For every problem, I know there’s a variety of solutions. A DIY approach was one backup option. I’m an engineer, so I initially considered writing my own Python script to back up the GitHub code. However, while this approach sounds quite simple, configuring it can be fraught with complexities. I also wanted to ensure that individual teams that write code could restore specific repositories without having to reach out to me every time. Guaranteeing adequate backup frequency and restricted cloud access, as well as the cost of cloud storage, were other considerations.”

Kiran decided to explore what third-party GitHub backup solutions were available on the market. He found several open-source products, but when he came across Rewind’s Backups for GitHub, his interest was piqued. Specifically, Rewind had the security and compliance assurances he needed.

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Security and compliance conundrums

Kiran invited Syngenta’s security and compliance team to participate in a review of potential backup solutions, and they were drawn to Rewind. Syngenta follows the ISO security framework and is obligated to demonstrate the presence of a comprehensive, reliable data backup mechanism to its auditors. The Rewind solution could guarantee a 365-day backup for the company’s code and ensure the backups resided in Syngenta’s own AWS instance.

Ease of setup was another plus of Rewind. “I tried it, and I was able to set up everything in five minutes,” says Kiran.

“I tried it, and I was able to set up everything in five minutes.”

Udaya Kiran
Head of Technology, Syngenta

Rewind’s pricing structure also appealed to Kiran. “Per-repository pricing, which many other vendors were offering, wasn’t something I was keen on. I was looking for a more ‘bucketed’ pricing model that would allow us to scale affordably when we added additional repositories and archive certain repositories when it was the right time to do so.”

No more fire alarms

Peace of mind without manually checking Syngenta’s code backup status was another reason Kiran partnered with Rewind: “Some of these tools are like fire alarms! We want our solutions to work without disrupting our work. We don’t want to have to check them daily, but we also need the assurance that they’re working fine. With Rewind, if we get a notification of an exception, we react, but otherwise, we can rest in the knowledge that all is well.”