Snam S.p.A. is one of the leading energy infrastructure operators in the world. It operates a gas transport network of approximately 41,000 km between Italy, Austria, France, Greece, and the United Kingdom and provides 3.5% of the world’s storage capacity. Underpinning its critical role in energy security and operational modernization is a digital transformation that leans heavily on the development of an API ecosystem. Having experienced frustrations with its previous infrastructure providers, Snam turned to F5.
Snam’s digital evolution is a complex and long‑term undertaking. Its digital transformation plans are extensive: they involve the ongoing installation of over 1,000 contact and inspection points where data is collected across the pipeline and storage network. Through IoT and machine learning (ML), Snam expects to equip its teams with access to actionable, real‑time data at a hundred times the current rate.
Central to this work has been a much greater utilization of APIs and a decision to develop all internal new applications as cloud native.
To support its digital transformation agenda, Snam was seeking an API connectivity solution that combines programmability, enterprise‑grade support, and bundled security capabilities. In search of a partner that can meet its needs without limiting its ambitions, Snam turned to F5 and NGINX.
Snam has been a F5 customer for several years, relying on F5 TMOS to support business‑critical infrastructure on its journey to the cloud. Moving towards an agile applications lifecycle, Snam has invested in Red Hat OpenShift and Azure Red Hat OpenShift for its Kubernetes infrastructure.
As Snam started to investigate and evaluate products to support its cloud‑native mission, it found the F5 and NGINX “better together” strategy to be a winning combination. Specifically, F5 BIG-IP Container Ingress Services (CIS) enables Snam to integrate TMOS and NGINX seamlessly.
Since beginning a proof-of-concept initiative in the summer of 2020, Snam has successively completed product trials and integrated several NGINX solutions to support the development of its API ecosystem.
The first priority was to overcome the pain point of limited customization and programmability, which Snam achieved by replacing its previous API gateway with F5 NGINX Plus, deployed as an API gateway. “The main reason we chose NGINX Plus was to tailor it to our specific needs,” says Manzoni. “With other API … systems, we had to construct our architecture based on what the product offers. With NGINX Plus we can easily develop with custom code.”
The second priority was security. As a provider of critical national infrastructure, Snam requires best-in-class security across its entire network and sought a vendor that can support its requirements around authentication and authorization, including fully dynamic single sign‑on (SSO) using OIDC. In addition, they need features that improve resilience, such as rate limiting and Layer 7 rewriting.
Snam has accomplished all its key objectives using NGINX Plus.
The gradual implementation of NGINX Plus solutions has improved programmability, security, and flexibility as Snam has continued the complex work of overhauling its application infrastructure.
A Flexible API Ecosystem with Complete Control
In contrast to the frustration experienced with previous network providers, the implementation of NGINX Plus has provided the full flexibility and control Snam needs to progress towards its envisioned API ecosystem. “We can now develop in a fully containerized‑native way, because NGINX Plus provides the ability to leverage and exploit the features provided by containerized infrastructure,” Manzoni says. “We are now able to move to a fully modern approach centered around APIs, rather than continuing to work as we did in the past, patching applications here and there to co‑exist with the front‑end infrastructure.”
Full Support for Custom Configurations
Before implementing NGINX Plus, Snam struggled to reconcile two of its principal requirements: maximally flexible API gateway configuration and enterprise‑grade support and security. No other API gateway vendor was willing to support Snam’s custom configurations if they extended outside the vendor’s configuration templates.
“We almost wanted to have the chicken and egg together, and with NGINX Plus we can. It is about being completely free to do what we need and not being tied to the product bundled by the vendor. With NGINX Plus we have the bundle, the freedom to configure and program it even further, which is crucial, while keeping support.”
A One-Stop Shop
In addition to the benefits Snam is realizing from NGINX Plus, it sees NGINX as a provider that can meet all API connectivity needs under the same umbrella. “As well as moving away from the lack of flexibility we had with the incumbent solution, the ability to have NGINX Plus as an API gateway and the use of NGINX Ingress Controller for Kubernetes together was key,” says Manzoni. “NGINX Plus has proven to be flexible and fully customizable based on our requirements, no matter how sophisticated they are. Being platform‑agnostic, it can be deployed seamlessly on‑premises and in the public cloud. This simplifies operations and helps us support and grow our business.”
Manzoni continues, “We see NGINX Plus as a proven solution, with investment behind it and strong momentum as a fully fledged enterprise solution. We plan to have NGINX Plus be the keystone to our API evolution at Snam in the years to come.”
Snam is Europe’s leading operator in natural gas transport and storage.