Finding Ways to Help

Finding Ways to Help

Adrian Williams, Account Executive

There’s a very real connection between working in sales and having a desire to help people. My role here at Effectual puts me in a position to have conversations with our customers so they get a clearer understanding of how technology and modernization can solve their business challenges. I get to work with engineers and delivery teams to determine the best solutions for unique use cases and help customers plan for the future.

I’ve always been drawn to helping others, and I get a real thrill from that part of my job – knowing that I’m contributing to improvement. But I had a very different career path in mind when I was in college, where I earned a degree in health administration, and I was planning to provide help in a more direct way. Unfortunately, the economy wasn’t exactly primed for me to enter the healthcare field at that time, and I decided to change course.

I’ve always been drawn to helping others, and I get a real thrill from that part of my job

Making a significant life change like that after years of study is definitely daunting, and it wasn’t a decision I made lightly, but I’m the type who’s up for a challenge. I was already comfortable with technology and, with the helpful guidance an uncle in IT, I got some formal training and earned networking and security certifications to get me prepared for a career in IT.

To be honest, the timing could not have been better for my transition, which was a strong indication that I had made the right choice. Cloud adoption and modernization initiatives were just starting to pick up, and companies were realizing that they couldn’t look at their internal IT as just an expense or some add-on, but a tool that could give them a competitive edge if wielded correctly.

Since then, my education and previous work experience (including some time spent working with a tissue and organ donation center in Maryland) has put me in a unique position to help customers in the public sector as well as health and human services. So, while the type of assistance I provide may have changed, I still get opportunities to help people every day. I’ve also been lucky to gain enough experience in IT to provide guidance to friends and family who are interested in the industry, ensuring that some of the people coming up behind me have insights I wish I would have had early on.

There are a lot of different ways to help people, in both personal and professional capacities. Communicating with people and building relationships make it easy to find ways to help others if that’s what you hope to do. It can also open your eyes to situations where you can benefit from the help of others, whether you realize it or not.

There are a lot of different ways to help people, in both personal and professional capacities.

Effectual has a strong, organic culture of customer empathy and partnership. There’s a natural fusion between the company’s culture and my own approach toward selling and customer interactions. This gives me the opportunity to establish clear and open communications to get to the root of what customers need, and then match those needs to helpful solutions.

Texas DIR-TSO-4053 Contract

Texas DIR-TSO-4053 Contract

Texas DIR-TSO-4053 Contract

ContractContract NumberExpirationAvailable Brands
JHC Technology Services and Infrastructure, an Effectual CompanyDIR-TSO-4053November 10, 2021Amazon Web Services (AWS), DoubleHorn, Google, IBM SmartCloud, Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Cloud Services, NaviSite, Rackspace, Terremark/Verizon


Available Products & Services


Commodity Codes
Cloud Broker Services, Technical Services920-05 – Application, Infrastructure, Hosting and Cloud Computing Services

About Texas DIR

JHC Technology, Inc. offers cloud broker services through this contract including: Amazon Web Services, Google, IBM Cloud, Rackspace, Navisite, Microsoft Azure, and Terremark/Verizon. Customers can purchase directly through this DIR contract. Contracts may be used by state and local government, public education, other public entities in Texas, as well as public entities outside the state. Resellers are not available for this contract. DIR has exercised the automatic renewal option for this Contract. This renewal extends the contract through 11/10/2021.

How To Order

  1. For product and pricing information, click here or contact or contact Dan Tudahl at (703) 856-6905.
  2. Generate a purchase order made payable to JHC Technology, Inc and you must reference the DIR Contract Number DIR-TSO-4053 on your purchase order.
  3. E-mail or fax your purchase order and quote form to your designated vendor sales representative.

Building High Performing Teams & Trusted Customer Relationships

Building High Performing Teams & Trusted Customer Relationships

Shelby Cunningham, Director of Cloud Development

When I look back at my extra-curricular activities as a kid, I realize they were probably foundational for my current role at Effectual. From tap dancing to cheerleading, piano playing to water skiing, I learned coordination, team-building, creativity, and how to adapt quickly in a “fluid” environment. Most of all, they were both challenging and fun, which is how it feels to lead a large development team for a growing entrepreneurial company.

Tech has always felt like a natural fit for me. I started my career managing marketing and overseeing development teams for software startups, which evolved into having my own strategic consulting agency. Those experiences led to management roles in client success, partner relations, business development, and product marketing –positions that required a balance of tech know-how, business skills, and relationship-building with customers, partners, and employees.

Tech has always felt like a natural fit for me.

I joined Five Talent as a program manager several years before the company was acquired by Effectual. As a custom software developer, we always had a high volume of projects with really diverse use cases. This pipeline and our partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS) made continual learning a strong cultural value for us. To deliver the best solutions for our customers, we had to keep pace with innovation. This is why our developers hold so many high level AWS certifications and why they continue to pursue this expertise as part of Effectual.

Today, I lead Effectual’s professional services development team. My responsibilities include driving project management and continuous improvement as well as ensuring we are meeting (and exceeding) the expectations of our customers.

The best part of my role here is cultivating long term relationships with customers knowing that our team can build solutions that will have a real impact on the success of their businesses. From the time we start our discovery process to when we launch a product, I want our customers to know we are partners working towards the same goal. That kind of authentic collaboration yields amazing results, and it isn’t hard when your team includes some of the smartest, most talented people in the industry.

The best part of my role here is cultivating long term relationships with customers knowing that our team can build solutions that will have a real impact on the success of their businesses.

Our team is expanding fast as Effectual grows. Because of this, I am focused on building high functioning teams where people are engaged and challenged in their work but also have time to explore new technologies that interest them. Keeping up with innovation is critical to what we do here.

My new interest outside of work is riding motorcycles with my husband. I’ve got a Yamaha now but have my Harley picked out. It isn’t water skiing, but it’s the perfect metaphor for where I am in my career. Moving fast, enjoying the ride, with miles of open road ahead.

Problem Solving Through Continual Learning

Problem Solving Through Continual Learning

Ryan Comingdeer, Chief Technology Officer

My introduction to computer science was a 7th grade programming class where I learned BASIC. The class opened up a new world to explore that had me immediately hooked. By the time I started high school I knew I was going to follow a career in technology. Some people have a more circuitous path to their vocation, but I was fortunate to discover mine early on and seize the opportunity to build a really fulfilling career doing what I love.

In my opinion, the most important skill in this field is the ability to solve problems through continual learning. Technology is always changing, and the pace of innovation demands constant attention in order to stay ahead of new tools, services, and solutions. That is why 40% of my job every single day is dedicated to learning-and why it is a such a huge part of our company culture.

Technology is always changing, and the pace of innovation demands constant attention in order to stay ahead of new tools, services, and solutions.

Learning and curiosity are values that also extend to my role as a father to five daughters, age 8 to 14 years. By teaching them computer science, I am trying to give them the confidence to learn about technology and apply it to real world situations and challenges. This is one of the ways I stay involved with their personal lives and hopefully prepare them for the future. It also helps me stay relevant because I have to do my research to understand what their world is going to look like when they become adults.

Teaching my own kids about technology has led to other opportunities to inspire the next generation of innovators. To support students in the Bend community, I teach a 5th grade technology-focused STEM program at my children’s school, host local Hour of Code events, and work with the Oregon Department of Education to integrate computer science into the K-12 curriculum. At work, I mentor recent computer science college grads starting their tech careers as part of the Apprenti internship program.

For myself, continual learning includes going after new AWS certifications, training in other cloud platforms, understanding the pros and cons of multiple stacks, testing new services, and keeping current on industry trends. However, the best opportunities for ongoing learning is working with our really talented developers on a broad portfolio of diverse projects.

Our professional services team typically has 40+ projects underway at any given time (IoT, mobile apps, web apps, big data, system integrations) that use 10-12 languages and multiple cloud providers. Even if I am not working directly on a project, I meet with my technical leadership team every week to review what we did, what worked, what did not, and to figure out what we can do better. This gives me a chance to learn alongside them and gather lessons learned as reference points for when I am talking to customers or recommending a new architecture.

For in-depth analysis, I like to pick a topic such as AI and do as much research as I can to understand what the top 5 vendors offer, the benefits of their solutions, the use cases, and the lessons learned thus far. I also follow a dozen blogs that cover new design patterns so I can compare technology stacks and spend at least an hour a night researching how to stay forward thinking on cloud native architecture.

If you want to deliver a relevant, valuable technology solution, you have to start by understanding the problem you are helping your customer solve.

Still, it is not enough to be a technical expert. As professional services providers, our job is enabling business outcomes with measurable results. If you want to deliver a relevant, valuable technology solution, you have to start by understanding the problem you are helping your customer solve. This includes pain points, opportunities, target audiences, business requirements, the competitive landscape, and more. That is why our solutions architects and developers are skilled technologists as well as big picture thinkers interested in how businesses and market dynamics work. I encourage us to ask WHY we are building something as much as HOW.

After spending the last 15 years focused on professional services, I am excited to embark on the next chapter of my career. Working with Effectual’s Modernization EngineersTM is giving me a whole new understanding of the life cycle of a technology solution. I am gaining a more comprehensive view of how to properly manage and monitor the solutions we build in a cloud environment for the long term. The collaboration is making me a better architect and a better technologist, with more learning ahead.

Microsoft Immersion Day

Microsoft Immersion Day

Modernizing .NET applications on AW 

Learn how to run your Microsoft .NET applications and workloads on AWS for greater reliability, faster performance and improved security, with access to the deep functionality of AWS cloud services. Explore the benefits of using containers to accelerate your modernization journey from monolithic to microservices architectures. 

  • Overview of .NET on AWS 
  • Getting started with AWS tools 
  • Hosting .NET apps 
  • Migrating .NET workloads 
  • Containerizing legacy ASP.NET apps with Amazon ECS

This event includes a hands-on Modernization Lab on containerizing legacy ASP.NET applications using AWS App2container. 

PRESENTERS 

Ryan Comingdeer, Facilitator & AWS Partner Network Ambassador
Chief Technology Officer
Effectual

Jignesh Suthar
Senior Solutions Architect 
Amazon Web Services (AWS)

WHO SHOULD ATTEND

.NET Software Engineers, Architects, DevOps Engineers, and Microsoft IT Professionals

Date: January 2021 – TBA

Time: TBA

Virtual Meeting Details: Zoom link will be sent in registration confirmation

Cost: Free

SpiraLinks: Rapid migration to AWS unlocks new cloud-native capabilities

SpiraLinks: Rapid migration to AWS unlocks new cloud-native capabilities

SpiraLinks offers tailored consulting services for projects, technical event, and implementation management to Fortune 500 companies, including designing, installing, and hosting secure web-based systems for human resources, compensation, and finance teams. The company’s FocalReview® planning suite is a leader in compensation and performance management, supporting customers in the US and beyond.

The Challenge

Driven primarily by the upcoming consolidation and closure of the data center hosting its product platform, SpiraLinks had made the strategic decision to migrate its infrastructure to the AWS Cloud. This included three application servers, a legacy Oracle database environment, and an older standalone Windows application. The company also had several virtual machines that were being retired by their MSP.

SpiraLinks recognized that a successful migration would provide an opportunity to modernize its technology stack and leverage new AWS capabilities to better serve its customers. However, without the internal resources to accomplish the move, the company needed to engage a partner with the technical resources and expertise to achieve the migration.

Benefits of the AWS Cloud

The company chose to migrate to an AWS environment to increase efficiencies, improve security and compliance, and optimize costs. In addition, the SpiraLinks wanted to access new AWS Native services to modernize and evolve its business.

Outsourcing Migration Expertise to Effectual

To achieve these business objectives, SpiraLinks partnered with Effectual to lead its migration and modernization efforts. Effectual is a cloud first, security first managed and professional services company and AWS Premier Consulting Partner with deep expertise leading complex migrations and managing modern cloud environments across VMware, VMware Cloud on AWS, and native AWS environments.

Solutions & Outcomes

  • Completed a full migration of customer-facing applications from on-prem infrastructure to a new, modern, secure AWS environment in less than a month.
  • For applications:
    • Deployed all new modern Linux and Windows servers in separate VPCs for improved security
    • Configured Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS)for the three Linux EC2 instances hosting Wildfly (formerly JBoss)
  • For Oracle database server:
    • Migrated all data from legacy Oracle environment
    • Upgraded and deployed database into a new Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS), allowing for adoption of Session Manager for accessing application servers (improving security and decreasing costs) and providing added functionality with real-time performance insights
    • Increased the security layout of the data environment by isolating it in its own private subnet and restricting access
    • Restricted access via approved ports from application servers
    • Deployed to a single AWS RDS instance with individual database schemas
  • Replicated and enhanced mail sending capabilities to utilize Fluent Ltd. mail relay service.
  • Increased security due to inherited ISO certification from AWS.
  • Created an AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM)group and defined the IAM policy to provide SpiraLinks developers with access to the AWS Systems Manager Agent(SSM). Once the IAM groups and policies were configured, shared initial login credentials with the primary SpiraLinks contact and configured Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) to enhance solution security.
  • Deployed and configured CloudTrail and CloudWatch EC2 log streams to monitor instances, and also configured email alerting for these services.
  • Configured Amazon Data Lifecyle Manager (Lifecycle) to take snapshots, with a rolling 14-day retention period.
  • Established a clearer understanding of data needs as well as the specific benefits of AWS environment and services in order to make informed choices.

Summary

Through its partnership with Effectual, SpiraLinks was able to achieve a rapid migration of its infrastructure to the AWS Cloud and avoid unexpected downtimes associated with the closure of its MSP’s data center. The migration to an AWS environment provided opportunities to improve security, increase efficiencies, and optimize costs while opening new pathways to modernizing using AWS native services and capabilities.

Next Steps

Moving forward, SpiraLinks will utilize the newer, more secure AWS environment for its many tools and benefits in accordance with the constantly changing business and operational requirements of the SpiraLinks client base. Specifically, compliance and data protection/privacy will be evolving challenges for SpiraLinks and the client base. The AWS environment has been chosen as an excellent “base of operations” to meet those challenges.

SpiraLinks will continue to work with Effectual as a Modernization Service Provider to utilize their expertise in addressing the company’s long-term goals and challenges. In addition, SpiraLinks and Effectual have developed an evolving roadmap that includes further modernization efforts to increase automation, availability, reliability, and security – further establishing the position of SpiraLinks as an industry leader.

About Time Tours: Guiding a Successful SaaS Journey

About Time Tours: Guiding a Successful SaaS Journey

About Time Tours is a Pacific Northwest startup redefining how the real estate industry plans, organizes, and coordinates home tours between agents and homebuyers. With market expertise but only a general business idea, the company asked us for help developing a SaaS-based solution. We guided them on their SaaS journey from a basic app concept to a scalable production-ready launch using AWS SaaS services and best practices.

As a startup, About Time had already identified key pain points facing both realtors and home buyers for scheduling home tours. For all involved, the existing process was time consuming, cumbersome, and fraught with unnecessary complexity. About Time saw an opportunity to streamline scheduling and communication and capture feedback. The company also wanted to maximize the market opportunity and go to market as quickly as possible.

Building the business case & defining the product vision

Given almost 50% of our professional service engagements are SaaS focused, we have deep experience implementing the SaaS business model for clients. We started with About Time by embarking on a full discovery process, beginning with building a well-defined business case for their solution and outlining their product strategy.

This included evaluating customer pain points, developing user stories, and creating a seamless UX/UI experience. We also conducted a competitive analysis of off-the-shelf solutions to determine what problems they solved, how they solved them, and their challenges. After establishing the business case and product vision, we built a series of wire frames showing functionality of features and workflow before moving on to mockups of the app.

Aligning the MVS with AWS SaaS best practices

For SaaS clients, defining a Minimum Viable Service (MVS) always poses the greatest challenge. It is also the most critical stage on the SaaS journey where resources are concerned, as you can easily over architect your solution and run up costs. We worked with About Time to decide on the right MVS, knowing they would receive important feedback after going live that would likely change the app in future sprints.

Once we had defined the MVS, the AWS SaaS Enablement Framework provided a clear, thorough process for us to evaluate tenancy, security compliances, and compare cost models against the company’s revenue objectives. We also helped About Time prepare documentation and collateral in support of their efforts to secure investor funding.

From development to launch -Leveraging the Well-Architected Framework

In the next phase, our development efforts followed an agile process with milestones sprint by sprint and continual, transparent communication with About Time’s founders and investors. We used the Well-Architected Framework to ensure we were properly evaluating tradeoffs and applying cost optimization strategies when it came to reliability and security. We also segregated their personally identifiable information (PII) data in a multi-tenant environment to meet security compliances.

In addition, we built their app 100% on serverless so it can scale rapidly as their user traffic increases and utilized a pay as you go model to keep costs per user in line with their profit margin and revenue expectations for sustainability and growth.

For testing, our team conducted performance tests to ensure the app could handle expected traffic and security tests to confirm there were no hacking activities. We also held an informal gameday so that there is support documentation in place in case the app goes down during a live environment. Last, our SLA with the company sets expectations regarding our response time and steps we will take to ensure they are up and running quickly.

At launch, About Time’s final mobile and web app represents a highly scalable SaaS solution capable of growing with market demand without compromising on security and cost. Our next steps include capturing feedback and optimizing features and workflows to keep customers happy and satisfied with their solution.

Working with the Effectual team to refine our MVS gave us an objective view of how to align our revenue goals with the right cost model so we could take an informed approach to choosing the best SaaS strategy. As we scale, we know we can meet our business objectives and deliver a high-quality customer experience.

Chris Mergenthaler, Co-Founder

Empowering Marketers and Driving Customer Engagement with Amazon Pinpoint

Empowering Marketers and Driving Customer Engagement with Amazon Pinpoint

In an increasingly virtual world of remote work, online learning, and digital interfacing, successful customer engagement can differentiate you from competitors and provide deeply valuable insights into the features and innovations important to your users. A well-designed, well-managed user experience not only helps you gain market share, but also uncovers new revenue opportunities to grow your business.

At Effectual, we begin projects with an in-depth discovery process that includes persona development, customer journey mapping, user stories, and UX research to design solutions with engaging, meaningful user experiences. Post-launch, your ability to capture, iterate, and respond to user feedback is just as essential to your success.

In our experience, many SaaS-based companies simply miss this opportunity to stay engaged with their customers. Reasons for this include the complexity and cost of designing, deploying, and managing customized marketing campaigns across multiple channels as well as the lack of real time data analytics to inform them. The result is a tidal wave of generic emails, poorly-timed push notifications, and failed initiatives that impact customer retention and engagement.

Amazon Pinpoint is a scalable outbound and inbound marketing communications service that addresses these challenges and empowers marketers to engage with customers throughout their lifecycle. The service provides data insights and a marketing dashboard inside the Amazon Web Services (AWS) admin console for creating and managing customized communications, leveraging automation, data analytics, filters, and integrations with other AWS products and third-party solutions.

Easy to use and scale

  • Manage campaigns from a user friendly marketing dashboard
  • Scale reliably in a secure AWS environment

Targeted customer groups

  • Segment audiences from mobile and web application data or existing customer list

Customized messaging across email, SMS, push notifications

  • Personalize content to engage customers using static and dynamic attributes
  • Create customer journeys that automate multi-step campaigns, bringing in endpoints from your app, API or directly from a CSV
  • Engage customers with targeted emails and push notifications from the AWS admin portal using rich text editor and customizable templates

Built-in analytics

  • Set up customer endpoints by user email, phone #, or UserID # to track user behavior within your app
  • Use real time web analytics and live data streams to capture immediate feedback
  • Measure campaign data and delivery results against business goals

Integrations with other AWS services and third-party solutions

  • Integrate Amazon Pinpoint with intelligent services such as Amazon Connect, Amazon Personalize, and Amazon Forecast
  • Use with existing marketing solutions such as Salesforce and other third-party application

For marketers, Amazon Pinpoint is a powerful tool for improving digital engagement – particularly when integrated with other AWS services that utilize machine learning and live stream analytics. Organizations that invest in designing engaging user experiences for their solutions will only benefit from continually improving and innovating them.

Have an idea of project to discuss? Contact us to learn more about using Amazon Pinpoint to improve your customer engagement.

Tricon American Homes: IT modernization helps industry leader keep pace with accelerated growth

Tricon American Homes: IT modernization helps industry leader keep pace with accelerated growth

Tricon American Homes (TAH) is the fourth largest single-family rental company in the US. Founded in 2012, the publicly owned company has a portfolio of over 20,000 homes in ten states. As one of the country’s fastest-growing real estate companies, Tricon has gained a competitive advantage by offering highly responsive, personalized customer service and translating it into profitable long-term relationships.

Challenges

Since 2016, the company has more than doubled its rental home portfolio. This accelerated growth highlighted the need to formalize and streamline processes, reduce costs, and optimize its operational efficiencies. With properties spread out over large geographic areas, Tricon was also in search of scalable solutions for managing, servicing, and maintaining their homes as well as a responsive communication platform for delivering a high-touch, seamless experience to its residents.

Challenges to pursuing these strategies included limited internal development resources as well as a lack of off-the-shelf solutions for the single-family vertical market. As the company expanded, Tricon partnered with a specialized team of solutions architects at Five Talent (an Effectual company) to integrate their business requirements with DevOps expertise and take advantage of evolving Amazon Web Services (AWS) solutions.

Key objectives:

  • Improving operational efficiencies while scaling teams and services quickly
  • Combining multiple data sources to create complete and holistic reporting
  • Innovating continuously to optimize costs and meet market demand
  • Creating a DevOps culture focused on automation, cross department communication and collaboration

During the last four years, the Five Talent team has supported these goals by designing, developing, and deploying numerous solutions for the company leveraging the AWS Cloud. These include applying IoT capabilities, integrating smart home technologies, and utilizing AI/ML managed services for revenue enhancements.

Solutions & Benefits

Operational Efficiencies
One of Five Talent’s first projects was to streamline Tricon’s existing rental process and leverage automation to integrate existing administrative functions with custom business applications. In addition, the team developed and launched a 200-home smart home pilot with BeHome247, a cost-saving program Tricon is rolling out to its entire portfolio.

Continuous Integration – Continuous Deployment (CI/CD)
To speed time to market deployments, increase reliable releases, and provide a secure environment, the team also created a CI/CD stack and pipeline that aligned new feature requests from ideation to deployment.

Performance & Functionality
In order to reduce AWS costs and increase scalability, Five Talent streamlined Tricon’s application payments, built a performant dashboard, and deployed AWS S3 for highly scalable cloud object storage.

Monitoring & Logging
Last, by integrating all aspects of custom applications with CloudWatch, Tricon can now easily monitor and quickly troubleshoot issues without affecting their customer experience.

The success of these initial improvements has led Tricon to further expand its partnership with Five Talent, including exploring new AWS services and developing additional custom applications to better serve its residents. The company is rapidly become an industry leader in new technologies.


Five Talent has been an extension of our team for several years, and we appreciate their focus on implementing scalable, innovative, and well-architected solutions in partnership with us. They continually go above and beyond to ensure that new projects are successful by asking questions and clarifying assumptions to truly understand our business objectives. We utilize their knowledge to evaluate new technologies and services to ensure that our technology stack is optimized.”      
                 
– Dawn Dalton, VP of Business Systems

Implementing Modern Cloud Management & Optimization

As the Five Talent team addressed Tricon’s development requirements, it recognized the company was going to need ongoing management to monitor and maintain the security and performance of its AWS platform as well as to identify opportunities for cost optimization and business intelligence strategies.

With a growing estate of applications running on AWS continued, it became apparent that opportunities existed to improve the maintenance and security of Tricon’s environments. Five Talent recommended Effectual as a cloud-first, security-first Modernization Service Provider with the experience and expertise to keep the company on a path of continued innovation.

In particular, Tricon had experienced disruptions within critical business systems and wanted to improve their response time with greater visibility into what was causing errors. By establishing automated monitoring alert systems, Effectual has helped Tricon to respond quickly and resolve issues as they occurred, reducing downtime and improving customer experience.


“We’re coming to resolution much faster now on issues. Before working with Effectual, it was taking us longer to figure out the root cause.”

– Gregg Knutson, Sr. VP of Information Technology


With consistent reporting, Effectual’s delivery team has also been able to uncover patterns affecting Tricon’s costs. During a recent quarterly business review, Effectual reviewed the company’s 6 month cost trends and identified an unutilized RI (Reserve Instance) that had become orphaned. Resolving the issue helped Tricon take advantage of the significant discount RIs offer – a key strategy for cost optimization. This proactivity is one of the most important benefits of having a long-term partnership with a Modernization Service Provider.

Future Forward

As partners, the overall goal for Five Talent and Effectual is to set Tricon on a path of scalability and growth with the confidence it can securely and reliably serve its customers. This includes aligning the company’s business goals with new tools, methodologies, and strategies to support their growing business.

“We try to be a forward-thinking organization in terms of technology, and really want to leverage modern IT systems. With this partnership, we’ve deepened our ability to meet the growing needs of our technology roadmap.”                                                         

– Gregg Knutson




SaaS Immersion Day

SaaS Immersion Day

Building secure, scalable SaaS solutions with the AWS Cloud 

Leverage the power of AWS innovation to develop successful SaaS applications that scale to meet your customer and market demands – without compromising on security and cost. Well-Architected SaaS solutions can increase your agility, reduce time-to-market, and expand revenue opportunities. In this workshop, we will cover: 

  • Business best practices 
  • User onboarding and customer engagement 
  • Revenue models & cost objectives 
  • Monitoring & KPIs 
  • Pros/Cons of different tenant isolation patterns 

There will also be two 15 minute breakout sessions to apply these concepts to a fictitious case study.

REGISTER and attend to receive a $25 AWS hosting credit and $15 GrubHub voucher

PRESENTERS 

Ryan Comingdeer, Facilitator & AWS Partner Network Ambassador
Chief Technology Officer
Effectual

Andrew Levy
Worldwide Business Development Lead, Digital User Engagement Services 
Amazon Web Services (AWS)

WHO SHOULD ATTEND

Business Leaders, Product Managers, Application Developers, Architects, Engineers 

Date: Thursday, October 22nd

Time: 10:00am – 12:00pm PDT

Virtual Meeting Details: Zoom (link provided by email prior to the webinar)

Cost: Free

Register today!

Zolo Media: Integrating custom solutions to activate and capture a media-hungry regional market

Zolo Media: Integrating custom solutions to activate and capture a media-hungry regional market

Zolo is a media broadcaster and production company based in Central Oregon. The company provides broadcast and advertising solutions through local, network, and original programming to Central Oregon viewers. Zolo is owned by Telephone and Data Systems, Inc. [NYSE: TDS].

Recognizing that viewers are increasingly consuming content online, Zolo positioned itself to offer viewers a robust online viewing experience with daily video content, live streaming, and real-time weather information. The company asked Effectual to help them evaluate approaches for building their new online media platform.

Strategic consulting reveals clear requirements and high level objectives

Effectual and Zolo had a collaborative, in-depth discovery process that uncovered the complex business requirements and technical needs for the new platform. Zolo was particularly concerned about meeting the rigorous corporate security, legal and risk compliance requirements of its parent company TDS.

Results

  • Scope, budget and project phasing recommendations matched Zolo’s requirements and business objectives.
  • Complied with all security, legal and risk requirements of publicly-traded parent company.

“Effectual has been an amazing partner over the past year – always finding a way to make “what if” happen and showing us the possibilities.”
                 
– Michele O’Hara / Marketing & Creative Services, Zolo Media

Amazon Web Services (AWS) empower reliable performance and website scalability

As a certified AWS solutions architect, Effectual saw quickly that AWS could provide Zolo performance reliability for its streaming content while allowing the company to dramatically scale its offerings.

Results

  • Caching and scalability of up to 2 billion unique visitors per month
  • Consistent, uninterrupted streaming content
  • Hosting bandwidth and cost scales with site traffic
  • Ability for multi-authors to add content
  • Custom integrated technical solutions build user community
  • The team built a custom website design responsive to desktop, tablet and mobile that complemented the platform offerings

Xenon, Inc: IoT Proof of Concept Accelerates New Market Opportunities

Xenon, Inc: IoT Proof of Concept Accelerates New Market Opportunities

Xenon, Inc. is a custom hardware provider offering full-service engineering, integration, and field service solutions for the oil and energy industries. The company provides process and environmental analytics, industrial instrumentation and automation, and electrical systems.

Though Xenon primarily serves industrial markets, the firm was approached in 2018 by a new customer interested in applying their industrial engineering background to building IoT solutions for optimizing home maintenance, monitoring, and asset protection. An institutional single-family residence company with a portfolio of thousands of homes, the client was particularly interested in testing automated door locks, water sensors, and other smart devices for secure access and efficient maintenance. Their proposed plan included deploying devices in vacant properties each month with a three-year installation phase.

Partnering with Xenon provided an opportunity to explore and validate the impact of installing IoT smart home solutions for improved customer experience and reduced operational costs. For Xenon, the project presented a new market outside of its industrial focus. To respond, they needed a proof of concept to test in the first 200 homes and present to executives.

Leveraging expert advice for faster proof of concept

Xenon began building the IoT platform in Amazon Web Services (AWS) on its own, but soon encountered issues. As hardware engineers, they realized they were outside their core competency and needed help from experienced solutions architects on software integration with their client’s property management system. They engaged Effectual to review their existing architecture and implement Well-Architected best practices.

Xenon’s primary challenge was creating a cost-efficient cloud architecture that could scale. When the Effectual team conducted an initial review of the company’s environment, we confirmed the existing software layer would require fundamental changes to meet their cost requirements. In addition, our evaluation revealed the platform was built on one computer with no staging environment and no redundancy. This existing environment jeopardized the long-term reliability and scalability of the platform.

Based on this analysis, our team estimated Xenon would quickly out-capacity their existing environment at 100 homes. This was insufficient, as they needed to prove they could scale rapidly to service the company’s expanding property portfolio. Effectual also felt Xenon’s small development team could benefit from mentoring and guidance on key concepts and AWS IoT Core best practices.

Key recommendations and outcomes included:

  • Built a scalable, reliable proof of concept that met the client’s business requirements and budget
  • Confirmed AWS as the right solution for expanding their offering
  • Established DevOps best practices and trained internal team on processes
  • Educated company on costs and complexity of creating an IoT solution on a traditional infrastructure with EC2, load balancers. Showed them the significant benefits of using a serverless framework to process IoT events from Amazon Kinesis and device command management.
  • Developed 187 AWS Lambda functions for an estimated 40,000,000 events per month.
  • Implemented Amazon Kinesis to collect, process, and analyze 60,000 incoming records per day (30 MB of streaming data per day) to provide reliable, real-time insights and rapid response capabilities.
  • Deployed AWS API solution with an advanced logging and control layer for Xenon’s large scale IoT system to handle a high volume of burstable requests. Designed one gateway to ingest IoT alarms and events, and another to receive commands from external systems and applications.
  • Implemented Amazon DynamoDB as the primary storage mechanism for scalability with all tables using On-Demand for capacity control.

With Effectual’s help, Xenon responded quickly with a functional, reliable proof of concept that addressed their client’s pain points and met their business requirements. They validated AWS as the best cloud solution for propelling their project forward and gained a solid understanding of AWS IoT services.

Results & Next Steps

For their client, the project provided a better grasp of the costs and resources needed to deploy smart home systems in their properties. It also revealed what checks and balances they need to put in place for their operations.

From Effectual’s perspective, these outcomes are precisely what a successful proof of concept project should accomplish. If the client does decide to roll out these systems to its entire portfolio, we look forward to helping Xenon revisit its current configuration with some new approaches to further unlock the potential of the AWS Cloud.

 

Wingo IoT: AWS IoT Solutions Position Startup for Rapid, Secure Scalability

Wingo IoT: AWS IoT Solutions Position Startup for Rapid, Secure Scalability

Wingo IoT is an Oregon-based startup that integrates inexpensive IoT and legacy automation systems into one intelligent solution for industrial applications. Its key value proposition lies in collecting critical data for operational analytics, AI and ML modeling, and insurance premium and claim reductions.

Established in April 2018 by an experienced technical team, Wingo focused its early development efforts on local sensor networks and isolated edge devices for data collection. The company’s hybrid IoT solution included 100% offline monitoring at sites and low-cost methods for collecting and managing facility data.

From the beginning, Wingo was aware their initial cloud architecture would require major improvements to meet stringent availability and security requirements for modern enterprise applications. A growing pipeline of large industrial customers motivated CTO Glynn Fouche to approach Effectual for a Well-Architected Framework Review as well as expert advice on Amazon Web Services (AWS) IoT solutions.

Starting with Well-Architected best practices to build long term success

Fouche recognized Wingo needed to properly leverage cloud services in order to best serve their customers. In particular, he wanted to set the young venture up for success from the start by aligning Wingo’s development process with the 5 Pillars of the AWS Well-Architected Framework.

As an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner and authorized Well-Architected reviewer, Effectual frequently helps early-stage companies leverage cloud-based solutions for projects ranging from proof of concept to full-scale custom software development. In this case, it was clear that with few developers, limited resources, and impending customer rollouts, Wingo was on a tight schedule to identify critical issues for remediation, improve real-time reporting, and operationalize its development process.

Given the company’s aggressive timeline, our team of solutions architects completed a thorough Well-Architected review and remediation in less than three months. During the process, we uncovered 34 high-risk issues requiring attention.

In the process of addressing these key issues, Effectual’s contributions include:

  • Developing cost predictions for company revenue model
  • Adopting a flexible consumption model to reduce development to cost ratio and increase product margins
  • Designing and implementing DevOps process for long term scalability
  • Establishing data storage plan leveraging a combination of Amazon DocumentDB, Amazon S3, AWS Glue and Amazon Redshift for quickly indexing data with instant access
  • Ensuring security compliance in a multi-tenant environment by isolating sensitive data
  • Creating NOC dashboard using AWS Lambda for real-time monitoring and business logic for pulling analytics
  • Deploying Amazon CloudFront to move small json payloads of dynamic content
  • Leveraging API Gateway as the medium for mobile and web apps to trigger backend API services in AWS Lambda
  • Providing security and disaster recovery analysis as well as recommendations for a secure, highly available, and fault-tolerant architecture

In addition, implementing Well-Architected best practices has strengthened Wingo’s confidence it can serve larger customers and meet their strict business and compliance requirements. Based on past experience, Fouche believes Wingo is much better prepared to handle comprehensive due diligence and security audits. The review process and documentation will also have a significant impact on the company’s ability to raise capital and could add significant value in the event of a purchase.

In collaboration with Effectual, Wingo’s next steps include documenting security practices as well as failover and recovery recommendations for performance reliability. These steps are critical as the company develops its cloud-based data architecture, user interfaces, and API gateways for external integrations.

Results & Next Steps

With the Well-Architected review complete, Wingo is now positioned to approach both new customers and potential investors with greater confidence in its ability to receive, process and store data in the cloud and offer powerful data insights for driving optimal business outcomes.

 

Warm Welcome: Replicating the SaaS delivery model with a smart Proof of Concept (POC)

Warm Welcome: Replicating the SaaS delivery model with a smart Proof of Concept (POC)

With a history of successful SaaS ventures for the photography and real estate industries, entrepreneur David Jay launched Warm Welcome as a Proof of Concept (POC) in early 2019. The product delivers highly personalized video messages through email to support customer onboarding and retention. After investing nine months to gather user feedback, Jay had developed a clear pricing modela list of MVP features, and go-to-market strategy. However, he needed Effectual’s help refactoring the POC to address security and reliability concerns to make the solution production-ready.

Evaluating trade-offs, defining priorities

Highly skilled at building strong, loyal user communities, Jay and his team are adept at responding to user requests, defining focused MVPs, and gathering valuable customer feedback. With Effectual’s support, they have also learned how to use the Well-Architected Framework to evaluate trade-offs and determine priorities for their POCs.

For Warm Welcome, the team decided that time-to-market in the POC phase was a priority. Their goal was to quickly capture user feedback in order to understand the product’s business value.

Aligning pricing and marketing strategies

The first version of Warm Welcome was a small, low fidelity MVP tightly focused on solving the customer’s biggest problems, which were closing a sale and onboarding a new client. Based on analytics, user surveys, phone calls, and focus groups, the company gained key insights into the value of the product. This helped them align their messaging and marketing with the needs of their customers.

In addition, they carefully tracked their actual costs, allowing them to build a pricing model to accurately fit their cost model.

Refactoring architecture for reliability and security

While reliability and security were acceptable trade offs during the POC phase, they needed to be addressed prior to moving into production. Effectual began refactoring the POC by conducting a Well-Architected Framework Review (WAFR), resulting in a re-evaluation of the initial tradeoff decisions. In addition, Effectual offered the following recommendations:

  • Secure the environment to autoscale using EC2, ElasticBeanstalk, AutoScalingGroups
  • Set up a CI/CD pipeline with parallel environments to increase agility and lower risks
  • Leverage additional AWS tools and services including Cloudfront, S3, Aurora RDS, and ElasticTranscoder

Warm Welcome is one of many projects Effectual has worked on with Jay over the last several years. Throughout the client relationship, Effectual has provided strategic advice and technical expertise through all phases of discovery, development, and deployment.

 

Verdant Web Technologies: Seamless Integration with Amazon EC2 for Microsoft Windows

Verdant Web Technologies: Seamless Integration with Amazon EC2 for Microsoft Windows

Verdant’s management software solutions track, access, and update facility Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) compliance and sampling information. With a growing customer base, the company was beginning to confront scalability, reliability, and performance challenges that could not be solved with their existing on premise infrastructure. Verdant President Ron Petti engaged Effectual to conduct a Well-Architected Framework review and support their migration to the AWS cloud.

As an enterprise level company, Verdant wanted to migrate to AWS with their existing Microsoft technology stack. This was a requirement for two reasons: 1) All of their technical engineers already used Microsoft (.NET and SQL Server); and 2) Verdant’s industry clients had tools integrated with Microsoft and were loyal to their solutions. With several Microsoft certified developers, we were confident of a seamless integration with AWS services.

We rewrote Verdant’s entire on-premise workload to AWS using Amazon EC2 for Microsoft Windows Server, building a scalable framework that addressed their business challenges. To do this, we leveraged IIS and the .NET framework. We kept the company’s SQL Server but hosted it on Amazon RDS for SQL Server to improve capacity, decrease costs, and reduce database administration. We also automated their deployment using Jenkins and Elastic Beanstalk. Like their enterprise clients, they were using Active Directory for user authentication which we were able to easily integrate with SAML.

In the end, Verdant was able to stay with a Microsoft technology stack their internal team and customers trusted and were familiar with while taking advantage of the compute capacity of the AWS cloud. Because we began with an existing framework, we were also able to complete the migration far more quickly and focus on adding value with our customized solution.

Verdant Web Technologies: AWS tools improve scalability, profitability, and customer experience

Verdant Web Technologies: AWS tools improve scalability, profitability, and customer experience

Verdant offers management software solutions to track, access, and update facility Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) compliance and sampling information.

With a growing customer base and a maturing product, Verdant was starting to encounter big DevOps and infrastructure challenges that threatened to slow its market momentum. The company’s migration of thought and concept demanded a far more scalable model. To the Effectual team, it was clear that the AWS platform could help them pivot and evolve.

Standardized architecture improves DevOps

Verdant’s primary pain point was architecture. With six different code bases unique to each client, the company updated code changes manually, published them out to 10+ web servers, and ran its SQL scripts on multiple databases. The process was overwhelming their team, impacting scalability, and preventing them from writing new features. The company’s IP also lived with a single developer, creating some vulnerability. Our team immediately got to work rewriting the company’s software with multi-tenant support, allowing different organizations to manage their data separately but with a standardized code base.

Results

  • Streamlined DevOps by automating the deployment/development process with a build server and rapid deployment tools
  • Created a faster, more reliable migration to the AWS Cloud
  • Leveraged AWS for greater security and global redundancies to safeguard against potential downtimes
  • IP knowledge is now shared broadly by Verdant’s entire team so the company is no longer reliant on one person to protect its IP
  • The ability to scale rapidly to meet customer demand

“Effectual has been an amazing partner in the development of our enterprise platform which is now our life blood. Along with their responsiveness, solution engineering depth and capabilities we appreciate their tight management of project budgets and schedules. Effectual is a valued resource and critical part of the Verdant Team!”  
                 
– Ron Petti / President, Verdant Web Technologies

Eliminating hardware lowers cost of customer acquisition

Before deploying AWS, it took Verdant weeks to onboard new clients with a process that required significant hardware investments. Infrastructure was a fixed asset regardless of the number of clients. Our solutions turned infrastructure into an operating cost and eliminated hardware altogether.

Results

  • Reduced new client onboarding from 2 weeks to 1 hour
  • Eliminated need for costly hardware
  • Decreased customer acquisition costs

Scalable solution allows for fast response to market demand

For Verdant, the timing for the project couldn’t have been better. Shortly after its completion, the company’s client base exploded overnight when schools around the US were compelled to perform extensive drinking water testing in reaction to the national crises in Flint Michigan. The revelation resulted in stricter reporting requirements and EH&S monitoring across Oregon, driving sudden intense demand for Verdant’s software solutions. With Effectual’s help, the company was well positioned to capitalize on incoming project opportunities, which resulted in a national award (with Environmental Business Journal)

Results

  • AWS solutions such as Elastic Beanstalk support continuous development and innovation and help Effectual manage multiple application environments for the development/testing/release cycle
  • Increased customer satisfaction with ability to quickly add new functionalities

Tourvast: Building SaaS Solutions Using Scalable Innovation

Tourvast: Building SaaS Solutions Using Scalable Innovation

Tourvast is a Software as a Service (SaaS) provider with a marketing platform that offers real estate photographers tools for creating property presentations and virtual tours that showcase their skills, leverage their art, and build their business. The platform also offers agents the opportunity to enhance their brand across social networks with high end, quality photography and video assets.

While the platform had been in existence for over a decade as licensed software, Tourvast executives wanted to evaluate the company’s intellectual property and consider options for writing their own application for greater usability. With new business requirements and a new go-to-market strategy, they contacted Effectual for help with their decision-making process and next steps. Our team provided insights and strategic advice and ultimately implemented a more scalable platform based on the secure, reliable infrastructure of the Well-Architected Framework.

Recalibrating the pricing model

In 2016, Effectual solutions architects began a discovery process that included wire-framing and architecture planning. This exposed one of Tourvast’s primary challenges, which was the inability to scale its pricing model. Due to the unpredictability of its customers’ large media files, the current architecture was not consistently covering costs.

Results:

  • Conducted an in-depth revenue modeling analysis to identify average costs based on number of photos uploaded as well as the number of videos, pdfs, and other assets created.
  • Designed new architecture for cost objectives with pay-for-use pricing to reduce capital expenses.

Improving performance, scaling for demand:

In addition, tenant activity was slowing performance and impacting overall customer satisfaction and retention.

The existing workflow began with a transaction outside of the platform between a real estate agent and photographer to secure photos for the creation of marketing deliverables. Photographers paid a subscription fee for a specific number of properties in advance and banked them like a credit system. After taking photos of the agent’s identified property, they uploaded their images on the website in order to organize them into deliverables such as slideshows, virtual tours, flyers, and more. Once complete, they provided their realtor customer links to those assets. Upon the agent’s approval of the copyrighted materials, they pay the photographer the invoiced amount through Tourvast to release the media for use.

The challenge was that each time a photographer uploaded their image files, the software would immediately resize them and create a slideshow. This process would take up the site up to 10 minutes while the photographer waited for it to complete. At the same time, it froze platform functionality for all customers on the site.

Results:

  • Leveraged serverless architecture using S3 and AWS Lambda for media and multi-tenant loads, resulting in greater flexibility and stability.
  • Implemented CloudFront for streaming videos to deliver content to end users with lower latency.
  • Deployed a blue-green architecture on AWS creating a continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline, including up to 10 servers for burstable traffic.
    • Code is now developed and deployed to an AWS Elastic Beanstalk environment, with two separate, but identical, environments (blue and green) to increase availability and reduce risk. This allows the application to continues to run seamlessly while new code is deployed without impacting the user experience.
  • Implemented DevOps strategies and best practices with parallel development, testing, staging, and production environments.
    • Ensured that no development takes place in production
    • Created a testing environment for internal QA
    • Enhanced reliability with a staging environment built for “friends and family” releases with a copy of production data scrubbed for security reasons (with scale of data to mimic what happens in production)

Today, Tourvast is a SaaS company that owns its own intellectual property, with full control over its roadmap. With support from Effectual, it owns its maintenance backlog and understands its third party dependencies and costs. Last, our team continues to help the company innovate and build improvements using proof of concepts fueled by cost-effective AWS tools.

Robert Axle Project: eCommerce website redesign increases product sales and customer connections

Robert Axle Project: eCommerce website redesign increases product sales and customer connections

Robert Axle Project is the authority on 12mm and 15mm thru axles for bikes. They provide the highest quality products that allow families, adventurers, commuters and recreationists to enjoy traveling by bicycle. Sales are international, online through its e-commerce website as well as through dealers, distributors and OEM partners.

As the “RAP” products have grown in popularity, and in “fit” complexity with an expanding variety of different bike styles and brands, company founders recognized they needed a stronger e-commerce website platform.

Thoughtful content approach increases customer engagement

RAP has a strong customer following and sense of their community through social media channels, trade shows and industry connections. During website planning we identified 4 different customer personas to message to about not only about the product, but also in the different narratives and imagery that could be shared around actually ‘having’ and using the product from RAP.

Thoughtful website copy and messaging was matched with imagery to draw visitors into a compelling company narrative about experiences, recreating and possibility with the RAP product.

The transition in content from heavy product and features focus to more customer benefits and aspirations orientation with the new website increased website engagement respectably – with 110+ % increase in page views and 23% decrease in the site-wide bounce rate.


“Effectual worked hard to understand our business needs and develop custom features that increased traffic, conversions and engagement with our customers. With excellent project management and communication throughout the process!”  
                 
– Katy Bryce & Chris Kratsch Founders, Robert Axle Project

Custom fit selector streamlines visitor experience

An increasing complexity in matching product ‘fit’ to increasing variations of bike and trailer types, RAP sales support knew there had to be a better way. They asked Effectual to build a custom “fit selection” tool compatible with the new website CMS.

Automating the ‘fit’ process has facilitated customer ease with securing the right product through the website, dramatically reducing sales support calls and product returns.

New website at the hub of a fuller engagement platform increases visits

Actively engaged with their community, RAP’s new website supports this conversation – through regular story content (blog posts) and integration with social media feeds. Fresh, regular and fun content that’s attractive to search engines and industry forums brings a 150% increase in website traffic.

Online product sales have increased 125% since the website’s launch.

Pole Pedal Paddle: Cost Optimization Strategies Maximize Impact for Local Non-Profit

Pole Pedal Paddle: Cost Optimization Strategies Maximize Impact for Local Non-Profit

Held in Bend, Oregon, the SELCO Pole Pedal Paddle (PPP) event is a popular annual multi-sport relay race benefiting Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation (MSBEF). Over 2500 amateur and pro athletes compete solo or as a team in the race each year. The six legs of the race include Alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, biking, running, a canoe/kayak/SUP leg, and a sprint to the finish. Race Manager Molly Cogswell-Kelley asked Effectual for a custom solution to improve race registration, team management, and results reporting as well as to reduce PPP costs.

One of the main cost drivers was an expensive yearly subscription service with a third party provider. With two races (the adult PPP and the kid’s PPP), the event was paying for two subscriptions. In addition, even though their production only ran 4 ½ months each year, they were being charged for an entire year. The off-the-shelf service also lacked needed functionality for managing PPP’s different categories and unique team structures. In addition to growing costs, the organization had a new legal requirement for attaining parent signatures for child waivers.

Applying Well-Architected Framework best practices for cost optimization, our team worked on several strategies targeting the PPP production environment and development process to address business requirements and meet cost objectives.

First, it was clear that an annual subscription was a poor pricing model for the once a year event. We shifted to a more flexible, pay-as-you-go solution with AWS to ensure usage and costs match PPP’s short production timeline. Using AWS allowed PPP to run servers and pay for usage only when their environment was turned on. Given that our development team has nine months each year to develop new features and push out code, we also decided to use spot instances for the development and CI/CD environment, representing a 90% discount.

For the same amount PPP was paying each year to manage its waivers, we were able to build a custom application with far greater functionality and flexibility to accommodate ongoing development needs. Due to the nonprofit’s budget constraints, we focused on the adult PPP race as the first phase of the project. We were able to build on this framework two years later for the kids PPP.

To optimize costs, Effectual leveraged their existing knowledge with .Net membership provider, .Net user provider and the .Net MVC frameworks and libraries. This allowed Effectual to focus only on the custom business logic and leverage out of the box solutions for logins, account creation, registrations, and password creation. This also meant we did not have to re-engineer a security feature, which kept development costs lower. For enterprise reporting and integration, Effectual chose Microsoft SQL Server and IIS.

By consolidating expenses, utilizing spot instances, and integrating AWS services with existing Microsoft technologies, we deployed custom applications that have significantly reduced PPP’s costs and improved their overall user experience year after year.


 

Mak Grills: Well-Architected Review Improves Scalability & Reliability of IoT Solution

Mak Grills: Well-Architected Review Improves Scalability & Reliability of IoT Solution

Several years ago, Effectual worked with BBQ manufacturer MAK Grills on a product ideation project for a new web app giving owners remote operational control of their grills. Prior to our engagement, the company’s outsourced development process had stalled and they needed help salvaging the project. After reviewing their existing code, we were able to address their wishlist and launch the app on an aggressive timeline.

While the app ran successfully for the first few years, the company began to experience performance issues as its customer base expanded. MAK Grills President Bob Tucker re-engaged Effectual for a Well-Architected Framework Review to evaluate their solution, which was crashing daily and shutting down all of their grills.

For the review, Tucker had the following objectives:

  • Stabilize the production environment
  • Ensure scalability
  • Build an affordable solution using their existing Microsoft technology stack (.NET, SQL Server, IIS)

In our Well-Architected Review, we discovered that the company had recently hired someone to rewrite their firmware. During the rollout, the firmware had 10,000 BBQs sending messages to the MAK Grills website every 5 seconds. This increase in traffic was causing their server to crash at least once a day. They had tried to fix the issue but it was still unresolved. With owners who expected their mobile service to be available 24/7, it was clear the company had a serious customer service problem on their hands.

Actions & Recommendations from the Well-Architected Review

  • Analyzed the MAK Grills Microsoft server (.NET technology stack with a SQL Server on the backend) to identify what was crashing.
  • Refactored the architecture based on new performance requirements using Amazon RDS for SQL Server, Jenkins build server, and Amazon Auto-Scaling Group.
  • Moved all logs from the IIS server to Amazon CloudWatch logs, rotating logs out every other day. This allows MAK to review logs for problems without additional costs and will not crash their server.
  • Leveraged Amazon CodeCommit for their CICD pipeline.
  • Utilized AWS Elastic Beanstalk with a blue/green deployment method to eliminate downtime.
  • Consulted with their firmware developer to provide guidance on IoT best practices.
  • Coordinated all of the company’s outsourced engineering teams to ensure they are on the same page in terms of cost objectives and best practices for scalability and reliability.

Our team also recommended that MAK Grills capture their market metrics to understand the business value of their offering. We installed Google Analytics to evaluate customer behavior and created a company dashboard for greater visibility into user data. In addition, we suggested they evaluate switching their business model to monthly subscription pricing (versus charging a $300 upfront cost for the app at time of purchase).

Based on user feedback and customer data, the MAK Grills sales team is now testing a monthly subscription pricing model with new customers. Effectual’s remediation has stabilized a production environment that can scale automatically, and the company can focus on new product innovation to keep its customers engaged and happy.


 

FinTech Startup: Maintaining security and meeting compliance in a fast-growing, innovative company

FinTech Startup: Maintaining security and meeting compliance in a fast-growing, innovative company

One of our clients is a fast-growing FinTech company that provides payroll card solutions for US businesses of all sizes. Their primary product offering is a direct deposit debit card that maximizes direct deposit participation among unbanked employees, eliminating the hassle of cashing paper checks.

Prior to a recent acquisition, the startup was enjoying success as a market leader with a wave of new customer acquisition. Its growth trajectory was also attracting new investors keen to enter the FinTech market. At the same time, the 100-employee company was facing challenges meeting its PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliance in a rapidly changing regulatory environment. Deep into their growth mode, the company’s leadership was told by investors they could not commit significant funding until new compliances were met.

For FinTech startups, PCI fines can threaten critical cash flow and bottom line profitability. Companies who fail to pass their audits can be fined anywhere from $5k to $100k per month depending on their size. Given their aggressive first-to-market strategy, the pressure was on the team to operationalize solutions and meet compliance immediately.

Originally engaged by a third-party security company to help the company with custom software development, Effectual was introduced by their auditing company to help address its regulatory and security concerns. As an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Advanced Consulting and Well-Architected Partner, Effectual has in-depth experience identifying security vulnerabilities. More importantly, the firm’s core expertise is translating those recommendations into clear, pragmatic steps for operationalizing long-term solutions.

Rapid growth and changing internal roles

As the startup expanded to service its widening customer base, internal roles and operational responsibilities were continually changing. The result was an unclear separation of permissions and duties as well as a lack of capacity or direction for detailed oversight. While former consultants had provided high level recommendations for mitigating security concerns, they had not provided the firm with practical, specific solutions for implementing them, leaving the team uncertain as how to proceed.

Results:

  • Reviewed all seven workloads – particularly related to Primary Account Number (PAN) data – to ensure the company had change management in place. This included security encryption, data storage, and permissions access.
  • Isolated workloads to keep access separate, creating an Amazon account for each workload.
  • Outlined clear separation of duties for auditing changes in their environment, with segmented duties and workloads.
  • Documented and aligned policies, processes, and permissions with internal changes and promotions to provide stability of roles and what tools each will use consistently going forward.

Managing multiple 3rd party vendors and outsourced workloads

The growing company had also become 100% reliant on third-party vendors for its workloads. Keeping eight different vendors informed of its regulatory and compliance requirements and ensuring necessary standards were met had become extremely difficult for the inexperienced team to manage. In addition, the client was at the mercy of its vendors’ competing timelines and unpredictable capacities. This was dramatically slowing its ability to respond to crucial deadlines for compliance. Effectual’s Well-Architected Framework Review quickly surfaced these issues as well as the need for remediation.

Results

  • Coordinated project management with all third-party vendors to remedy immediate issues affecting compliance.
  • Built a secure CDE data environment to store PAN data.
  • Reduced the number of outside vendors to be more manageable and complimentary.
  • Migrated two PCI-compliant workloads to Amazon using AWS Lambda, Amazon DynamoDB, GuardDuty, and API Gateway.
  • Outlined plan for migrating remaining workloads to Amazon in the next seven months.

Meeting compliance as an everyday activity

Working with Effectual, the client succeeded in passing its crucial PCI audit in less than 3 months. More importantly, the company has built a DevOps foundation for its future growth and regulatory compliance with everyday operations that ensure its continued success.

As a result, the startup is now skilled at the following:

  • Understanding its separation of duties, including how many people are involved and needed to facilitate a change in its environment
  • Documenting and aligning policies, processes, permissions with internal changes and promotions to create greater efficiencies and security
  • Strategically utilizing third-party vendors and keeping them informed as to its compliance needs

“At first, we brought Effectual on board to build an onboarding web application. But they’ve been far more than just a software development firm. Their DevOps infrastructure expertise, ability to build products in a PCI compliant manner, and emphasis on data security has been a game changer for us.”
                 
Evan, VP of Operations

 

Economic Development of Central Oregon (EDCO): Digital solutions that adapt and evolve with a growing organization

Economic Development of Central Oregon (EDCO): Digital solutions that adapt and evolve with a growing organization

EDCO is a regional non-profit that helps companies move, start and grow in Central Oregon.

EDCO had just stepped into a rebranding process to capture its leadership role as an information and networking hub for the region’s business community. At the top of the list: redesigning and overhauling their website. Built years before on a closed, proprietary platform, their non-responsive site didn’t reflect their own progress and was time-consuming for staff to update and keep current.


“The Effectual team has the talent and creativity to respond to whatever you can dream up – so think big.”
                 
– Brian Vierra Venture Catalyst, EDCO-Bend Venture Conference

Content strategy informs brand messaging

Working closely with tech companies and entrepreneurs, EDCO wanted a digital presence as dynamic as its clients. The group’s new branding aligned with its long-term strategic plan but hadn’t been translated into an effective content strategy that engaged visitors. During an extensive collaboration, we developed the voice and lexicon, user personas, and calls to action that ultimately shaped brand messaging throughout the site as well as in other marketing initiatives.

Results

  • 78% increase – average time on site
  • 30% increase – number of pages viewed
  • Content strategy process refined overall brand messaging

Discover Your Forest + US Forest Service: Strategic consulting uncovers new opportunities to engage visitors

Discover Your Forest + US Forest Service: Strategic consulting uncovers new opportunities to engage visitors

Discover Your Forest promotes the discovery of Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests and Crooked River National Grassland by enriching the experience of visitors, building community support and creating the next generation of environmental stewards.

DYF’s new leadership team was ready to explore using digital technology to connect visitors and volunteers to its services and expand its donor base. Our discovery process uncovered strategic opportunities for integrating digital solutions that DYF hadn’t considered possible or affordable – launching them into a new phase of innovation and expansion.

Empowering visitors with easy access to information

DYF’s wanted a digital kiosk at the new Cascade Lakes Welcome Center that gave visitors simple access to trail and permitting info. Our team built a custom web app leveraging their existing US Forest Service databases, making trail and use information user-friendly and instantly available to visitors. Directly after launch, the Forest Service began evaluating the web app for regional offices in the Northwest and beyond.

Results

  • Easy, 24-7 access to visitor information
  • Increased permitting revenue
  • New digital solution for Forest Service visitor services

“Partnership with Effectual helped us engage with a wider audience than we’d ever imagined. Their strategic guidance was invaluable and it shows in our final product.”  
                 
– Rika Nelson Executive Director, Discover Your Forest

Mobile app transforms visitor engagement

As conversations evolved, Effectual encouraged DYF to look beyond the web app to a mobile solution that could engage visitors anywhere. The Forest Service had shelved the idea of a mobile app in the past due to cost and technical issues. New research and some collective problem-solving revealed that going mobile was within reach and within budget.

Results

  • Simple UX makes trail and permit info easy to discover
  • Expanded engagement and access beyond bricks and mortar experience
  • Leveraged existing technology platforms with little added cost
  • Created a standardized, clean set of data deployable across other Forest Service locations

Deep dive business strategy delivers outstanding online experience

Last, the DYF static website needed a complete redesign to boost engagement and connect visitors and volunteers to the group’s mission. Effectual guided their team through an in-depth planning process to identify key personas and calls to action that would drive design and user experience and deliver desired outcomes.

Results

  • Finely tuned UX development and design aligned with business goals
  • Responsive web design and implementation
  • Improved analytics




Texas DIR-TSO-4064 Contract

Texas DIR-TSO-4064 Contract

Texas DIR-TSO-4064 Contract

ContractContract NumberExpirationAvailable Brands
JHC Technology Services and Infrastructure, an Effectual CompanyDIR-TSO-4064December 21, 2020Amazon Web Services (AWS)


Available Products & Services


Commodity Codes
Cloud Infrastructure as a Service920-05 – Application, Infrastructure, Hosting and Cloud Computing Services

About Texas DIR

JHC Technology, Inc., an Effectual Company, offers AWS cloud infrastructure services through this contract. Customers can purchase directly through this DIR contract. Contracts may be used by state and local government, public education, other public entities in Texas, as well as public entities outside the state. Resellers are not available for this contract.

How To Order

  1. For product and pricing information, click here or contact Matt Jordan at (814) 421-0617. Reseller Vendors are also available through this contract.
  2. Generate a purchase order made payable to JHC Technology, Inc. You must reference the DIR Contract Number DIR-TSO-4064 on your purchase order.
  3. E-mail or fax your purchase order and quote form to your designated vendor or reseller sales representative.

CIO-SP3 Small Business

CIO-SP3 Small Business

CIO-SP3 Small Business

ContractContract NumberAward GroupPrompt Payment Terms
Chief Information Officer–Solutions and Partners 3 (CIO-SP3) Small Business Government-Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC)HHSN316201800021WSDVOSBNone

About CIO-SP3 Small Business

JHC Technology, Inc., an Effectual Company, was awarded the CIO-SP3 Small Business contract; group SDVOSB. The Chief Information Officer–Solutions and Partners 3 (CIO-SP3) Small Business Government-Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) is a ten (10) year Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract. This contract is intended to provide information technology (IT) solutions and services as defined in FAR 2.101(b) and further clarified in the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996. These IT solutions and services include, but are not limited to, health and biomedical-related IT services to meet scientific, health, administrative, operational, managerial, and information management requirements. The contract also contains general IT services partly because medical systems are increasingly integrated within a broader IT architecture, requiring a systems approach to their implementation and a sound infrastructure for their operation.

Task Areas

  • Task Area 1: IT Services for Biomedical Research, Health Sciences, and Healthcare
  • Task Area 2: Chief Information Officer (CIO) Support
  • Task Area 4: Outsourcing
  • Task Area 5: IT Operations and Maintenance
  • Task Area 6: Integration Services
  • Task Area 7: Critical Infrastructure Protection and Information Assurance
  • Task Area 8: Digital Government
  • Task Area 10: Software Development

Contact Information

Joshua A. Dirsmith | CIO-SP3 PM
Vice President
[email protected]
571-286-1585

App Modernization: Strategic Leverage for Managing Rapid Change

App Modernization: Strategic Leverage for Managing Rapid Change

The last few months of the COVID crisis have made this even more evident, dramatically exposing security faults and the limitations of outdated monolithic applications and costly on-premises infrastructure. This lack of modernization is preventing many businesses and agencies from adapting to new economic realities and finding a clear path forward.

Applications architected for the cloud provide flexibility to address scalability and performance challenges and to explore new opportunities without requiring heavy investment.

Whether improving efficiencies with a backend process or creating business value with a new customer-facing app, modernizing your IT solutions helps you respond quickly to changing conditions, reduce your compliance risk, and optimize costs to match your needs. Applications that are already architected to take advantage of the cloud also provide flexibility to address scalability and performance challenges as well as to explore new opportunities without disrupting budgets and requiring heavy investment.

First, what defines technologies that are NOT modern?

  • Inflexible monolithic architectures
  • Inability to scale up or down with changes in demand
  • Security only implemented on the outside layer, not at the component layer
  • Costly on-premises infrastructure
  • Legacy hardware burdens
  • Waterfall development approaches

Maintaining legacy technologies is more expensive than modernizing them

Some of the most striking examples of the complexity, costs, and failures associated with legacy technologies have recently been seen in the public sector. In fact, some state unemployment systems have failed to handle the overwhelming increase in traffic and demand, impacting those in greatest need of assistance. There are those that are already taking measures within the public sector. Beth Cappello, acting CIO of the US Department of Homeland Security, recently stated that had her predecessors not taken steps to modernize their infrastructure and adopt cloud technologies, the ability for DHS personnel to remain connected during the pandemic would have been severely impacted.

Many government applications run on 30+ year-old mainframe computers using an antiquated programming language, creating a desperate need for COBOL developers to fix the crippled technologies. What the situation reveals is the dire need to replatform, refactor, and rearchitect these environments to take advantage of the scalability, reliability, and performance of the cloud.

Benefits of modernization:

  • Security by design
  • Resilient microservices architecture
  • Automated CI/CD pipeline
  • Infrastructure as code
  • Rapid development, increased pace of innovation
  • Better response to customer feedback and market demands
  • Flexible, pay-as-you-go pricing models
  • Automated DevOps processes
  • Scalable managed services (ie: Serverless)
  • In-depth analytics and data insights

The realities of preparing for the unknown

As a result of shelter-in-place orders since early March, we have seen both the success of customers who have modernized as well as the struggles of those still in the process of migrating to the cloud.

Food for All is a customer with a farm-to-table grocery app that experienced a 400x increase in revenue as people rushed to sign up for their service during the first few weeks of the pandemic. Because we had already built their architecture for the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud, the company’s technology environment was able to scale easily to meet demand. In addition, they have a reliable DevOps environment that allowed them to immediately onboard more developers to begin building and publishing new features based on user feedback.

Unfortunately, other customers have not been able to adapt as quickly.

When one of our retail clients lost a large number of customers in the wake of COVID, they needed help scaling down their environment as rapidly as possible to cut their costs on AWS. However, the inherited architecture had been written almost 10 years ago, making it expensive and painfully time-consuming to implement adjustments or changes. As a result, the company is currently weighing whether to turn off their app and lose revenue or invest in modernizing it to recover their customers.

In fact, many early cloud adopters have not revisited their initial architectures to ensure they are taking advantage of the hundreds of new features and services released by AWS each year

For another large enterprise customer, the need to reduce technology costs meant laying off a third of their payroll. Though our team is helping them make progress on refactoring their AWS workloads, they were still unable to scale down 90% of their applications in time to avoid such a difficult decision. The situation has significantly increased their urgency to modernize.

The need for a cloud-first modernization service provider

With AWS now 14 years old, it is important to realize that modernization is just as important to early adopters as it is for the public sector’s legacy workloads. In fact, many early cloud adopters have not revisited their initial architectures to ensure they are taking advantage of the hundreds of new features and services released by AWS each year (during Andy Jassy’s 2019 re:Invent keynote alone, he announced 30 new capabilities in 3 hours). For these reasons, and many more, our Modernization Engineers help customers make regular assessments of their cloud infrastructure and workloads to maintain a forward-looking, modern IT estate.

Whether migrating out of an on-premise data center or colo, rearchitecting an existing cloud workload, or developing with new cloud-native features,it has never been more important to implement a modern cloud strategy. This is particularly true for optimizing services across your organization and embracing security as a core pillar.

According to Gartner, 99% of cloud security failures through 2025 will be the customer’s fault. Clearly, no organization wants to be a part of this statistic. Ongoing management of your critical workloads is a worthy investment that ensures your mission-critical assets are secure. The truth is that if security isn’t done right, it simply doesn’t matter.

We work frequently with customers looking to completely exit their data center infrastructure and migrate to an OPEX model in the cloud. In these engagements, we identify risks and dependencies using a staged approach to ensure the integrity of data and functionality of applications. However, this migration or “evacuation” is not an end state. In fact, it is often the first major milestone on a client’s journey toward continuous improvement and optimization. It is also nearly impossible to do efficiently without modern technology and the cloud.

Modern cloud management mitigates risk and enables modernization

While some workloads and applications may be considered cloud-ready for a relatively straightforward lift and shift migration, they can usually benefit from refactoring, rearchitecting, or replatforming based on a thorough assessment of usage patterns. Cloud adoption on its own will only go so far to improve performance and organizational flexibility.

Effectual is a Modernization Service Provider that understands how to modernize applications, their metrics, operational costs, security implications, and compliance requirements

A modern digital strategy allows you to unlock the true capabilities of the cloud, increasing scalability, agility, efficiency, and one of the most critical benefits of any modernization initiative – improved security. Modernized technologies can also utilize cutting edge security protocols and continuous compliance tools that are simply not available with physical infrastructure.

Unlike traditional MSPs (Managed Service Providers) who manage on-premises servers in physical data centers, Effectual is a cloud-first Modernization Service Provider that understands how to modernize applications, their metrics, operational costs, security implications, and compliance requirements. When our development team finishes a project, our customers can Cloud Confidently™ knowing that their environment is in experienced hands for ongoing management.

Most importantly, the path to modernization is not necessarily linear, whether you are developing an application specifically for the cloud, refactoring or rearchitecting as part of a data center migration, or updating and securing an existing cloud environment. New ideas, priorities, and changes to the world we live in require that we adapt, innovate, and rethink our approach to solving business challenges in even the most uncertain times.

When your organization or team needs the power to pivot, we have the Modernization Engineers, systems, tools, and processes to support that change.

Ready to begin your modernization journey?
Contact us to get started.

Ryan Comingdeer is the Chief Cloud Architect at Effectual.

FISMA Moderate Requirements met with AWS Infrastructure

FISMA Moderate Requirements met with AWS Infrastructure

Effectual led a Federal Government client in their journey from on-premises infrastructure to a secure cloud environment in AWS.

The Challenge

This Federal Government customer required a move from its on-premises infrastructure to a centralized cloud environment. This move was predicated on the requirement for increased security, flexibility in provisioning infrastructure, and a refresh of technology. The new AWS infrastructure must also be assessed at a FISMA Moderate level for production.

The Solution

Our team led the discovery, architecture, and implementation of an agency’s new infrastructure. We designed a multi-region, international architecture that allowed end users to quickly access virtual desktops at regions closest to those users. The centralized management and region-based architecture allowed devices to move outside the boundary, the virtual desktops infrastructure scaled as users joined around the world, and the agency was able to provision lower cost technology, such as thin clients, to achieve a refresh.

The Benefits

Increased Security

Our team supported the agency in its ATO efforts by provisioning compliant infrastructure and services in alignment with FISMA Moderate controls, then produced documentation supporting the architecture, allowing the agency to get a full ATO.

Privisioning Infrastructure

Our AWS-based architecture and deployment supported configuration of infrastructure to meet minimum workloads, which then scaled as users came online. Additionally, multiple user desktops could be provisioned on a single server, cutting down on associated costs.

Network Efficiency

The agency’s network needed to be overhauled as a result of security concerns. With the AWS backbone and multi-region architecture, users experienced a decrease in latency and the zero-trust model improved network security.

Satellite Imagery Analysis Simplified with Serverless Infrastructure

Satellite Imagery Analysis Simplified with Serverless Infrastructure

Effectual worked with a Federal Government customer to provide a mission critical solution that simplified its Land Satellite sensor processing software of the Earth’s land surface.

The images provide uninterrupted data to help land managers and policymakers make informed decisions about our natural resources and the environment.

The Challenge

A Federal Government customer looked to us to migrate its on-premises infrastructure to a Serverless infrastructure in AWS to ensure cost optimization, availability, and application performance while logging satellite images.

The Solution

Our team implemented AWS Lambda, AWS Batch, Kubernetes, and Amazon EKS. This ensured the client’s ability to collect satellite images that would be used to help scientists track land change due to climate, urbanization, drought, wildfire, and biomass changes.

The Benefits

Cost Optimization

We implemented AWS Lambda to run code without servers. By implementing Serverless infrastructure the client was able to reduce cost by 80%.

Availability

Our team implemented Kubernetes to provide automated container orchestration and higher availability across multiple regions. This allowed users – both domestic and abroad – to access satellite photos more efficiently via the web for personal and private use.

Application Performance

We set up serverless storage to compact the client’s satellite imagery retrieval process from 2 weeks to 2 hours.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Application Migration

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Application Migration

When flooding took out the New York data center of the national nonprofit, SEIU, the organization found a need to act on a move to the AWS cloud.

Through third-party and cloud-native tools, we provided the infrastructure, resources, and products necessary to efficiently migrate workloads.

Challenge

The national nonprofit serves branches of the organization with centralized IT based out of its New York offices. When NYC was hit by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, it led to flooding of the organization’s data center, housed in the basement of the building. The resulting outage took a week to recover from. The nonprofit needed a cloud-based backup solution to ensure that it could be prepared against future disasters.

Solution

We began with an assessment of the organization’s data center posture, then created a migration plan and proposed architecture to support the nonprofit moving forward in AWS. We configured VPCs, subnets, networking, and configured access policies. We also connected a third-party disaster recovery service to ensure consistent synching of information between on-premises and cloud servers.

The Benefits

Piece of Mind

After going without its critical IT infrastructure for a week, the nonprofit had confidence its cloud infrastructure would be highly available.

Data Replication

The AWS infrastructure included VPN connectivity to the on-premises network in order to replicate Active Directory and SQL databases to ensure ongoing operations.

VPN Tunneling

In addition to an initial VPN connection, our team configured remote VPN connectivity from field offices in seven east coast cities to ensure all users could access the environment in the event of a failure.

GenomeNext DevOps Process

GenomeNext DevOps Process

GenomeNext is a genomic informatics company dedicated to accelerating the promise and capability of predictive medicine and scientific discovery. It commercializes genomic analysis tools and integrated systems for the evaluation of genetic variation and function.

The advanced informatics and data management solutions are designed to simplify, expedite and enhance genetic analysis workflows. GenomeNext solutions provide the market with genomic data and analysis at an unprecedented combination of performance, quality, cost and scale without requiring the investment in high-performance computing resources and specialized personnel. The proprietary platforms address a broad range of highly interconnected markets, including sequencing, genotyping, gene expression, and molecular diagnostics. GenomeNext customers include leading genomic research centers, academic institutions, government laboratories, and clinical research organizations, as well as pharmaceutical, biotechnology, agrigenomics, and consumer genomics companies.

The Challenge

GenomeNext needed a more efficient way to develop and deploy application changes to its Amazon Web Services Genomics Cloud Platform while maintaining high level of security and compliance.

The Solution

We worked with GenomeNext to design efficient development and agile management process, setup internal DevOps software and AWS infrastructure components, mapped processes to appropriate security and compliance controls, integrated third party DevOps tools with the GenomeNext Cloud platform, implemented development life cycle environments (Dev, QA, and Prod) on AWS, monitored and reduced AWS costs, and architecture high availability and disaster recovery. Our solution enhanced GenomeNext’s ability to quickly and securely roll out application development and infrastructure changes with minimal to zero downtime through the use of tools such as AWS Elastic Load Balancing, AWS CloudWatch, AWS CloudFormation, and AWS CodeDeploy.

The Benefits

Automation

GenomeNext recognized the advantages of DevOps automation by a significant increase in deployment frequencies, a dramatic decrease in deployment failures, immediate recovery of failed deployments, and reduction in the time required for changes.

Disaster Recovery

By combining AWS and DevOps, GenomeNext can automate the deployment of an exact copy of its Production solution within minutes into any AWS region, allowing it to meet its recovery time objectives.

Cost Savings

GenomeNext realized cost saving utilizing DevOps and AWS. Cost saving came in terms of maintaining a small staff, increased quality of products, reduction deployment complexity, and faster time to market.

Supporting the Delivery of Early Warning Signs for Earthquakes

Supporting the Delivery of Early Warning Signs for Earthquakes

Effectual delivered a mission-critical solution to a Federal Government Client that ensured the delivery of early warning alert notifications for earthquakes and other natural disasters over multiple geographical locations to save lives.

This could not have been done without a Cloud-based solution to ensure a resilient system.

The Challenge

This Federal Government customer required a move from its on-premises infrastructure to a centralized Cloud environment. The client looked to our team to handle high availability architecture and fault tolerance to meet workloads over multiple geographical locations quickly after a natural disaster. The solution required improved resilience and redundancy capabilities, application performance, and control monitoring.

The Solution

Our team built out a highly available and scalable infrastructure to meet demand in the wake of a disaster. We utilized the customer’s containerized solution and created a pipeline leveraging a GitLab Runner in Amazon Web Services (AWS) to manipulate and manage the AWS Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) deployments. This ensured the client’s ability to deliver early warnings for natural disasters through their application.

The Benefits

Resilience

Our team configured Amazon CloudWatch metrics to identify a surge in traffic in the event of a disaster. This fully integrated AWS service is built with more resilience. Kubernetes was implemented to provide automated container orchestration and higher availability to reach across multiple regions.

Application Performance

We created a proprietary AWS-hosted Git solution to do all the linking, testing, and delivery to code. Our solution increased the rate at which the client released updates to the solution by 90%.

Control Monitoring

We deployed a GitLab Runner in conjunction with GitLab Continuous Integration to ensure all applications were provisioned through a pipeline. These necessary changes led to extreme version control and expediting developer updates.

Predictive Analytics: Volcanic Activity Analyzed Through Moving Magma

Predictive Analytics: Volcanic Activity Analyzed Through Moving Magma

Effectual delivered a mission-critical solution to a federal government client that ensured their sensor processing software was able to predict volcanic activity through moving magma.

This information is used to help scientists forecast seismic activity over multiple geographical locations. This could not have been done without a Cloud-based solution to ensure a resilient system.

The Challenge

Our customer required a move from its on-premises infrastructure to a centralized Cloud environment in AWS. They looked to our team to handle high availability architecture and fault tolerance to meet workloads over many geographical locations quickly after a natural disaster.

The Solution

We provided a highly available and scalable infrastructure that ensured efficiency in wake of volcanos and other natural disasters. This sensor processing solution ensured predictive analytics, resilience, and scalability.

The Benefits

Predictive Analytics

We worked with the customer to create a solution that ensured the user could collect volcano data to analyze and utilize for machine learning to better predict when volcanoes erupt.

Resilience

Our team configured Amazon CloudWatch metrics to identify a surge in traffic in the event of a disaster. Kubernetes was implemented to provide automated container orchestration and higher availability to reach across multiple regions.

Scalability

We configured EC2 instances that ensure adequate capacity to meet traffic demands and compute capacity. Our team automated launch configurations to allow the client to quickly launch and/or scale application servers in target environments in the future.

Bird Conservation Science Enabled by Automated Monitoring and Analysis of Migration Patterns

Bird Conservation Science Enabled by Automated Monitoring and Analysis of Migration Patterns

Effectual led a Federal Government client in need of automation, reliability, and efficiency for their bird identification website.

The customer supports the collection, archiving, management and dissemination of information from banded and marked birds in North America. This information is used to monitor the status and trends of resident and migratory bird populations.

The Challenge

This Federal Government customer required a move from its on-premises infrastructure to a centralized cloud environment. The client looked to our team to redesign their website, creating a system that would produce automated checks to save time and manual effort when registering banded and checked birds into the database.

The Solution

Our team assisted the customer in creating a system that would require minimal effort to keep up and running for years. This system saved time and manual effort through the implementation of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) to automate cron jobs for repetitive tasks to push all submitted web surveys from bird hunters and enthusiasts to the on-premises database. When banded birds were checked in, the system would be able to ensure the identification was correct, eliminating the need to manually check that information.

The Benefits

Automation

We utilized Amazon EC2 to automate database syncing. This allowed the bird banding lab to be more efficient when a bird was reported on their website. The client no longer needed to manually log and input the bird species. AWS CloudFormation was implemented to reduce manual work while developing an environment, ensuring productivity when debugging issues.

Efficiency

We used GitLab Continuous Integration in conjunction with GitLab Continuous Deployment to check code for errors, expediting developer changes.

Reliability

Our team implemented Amazon CloudWatch Events for serverless workflow to trigger Lambda functions. Without having to provision or manage, the client was able to keep the same server running by keeping it warm with a CloudWatch Event. This reduced response times from 3 seconds to a couple hundred milliseconds.

Ensuring Least Privilege Access: Implementing an Active Directory Federation Service

Ensuring Least Privilege Access: Implementing an Active Directory Federation Service

Effectual led the implementation of an enterprise grade Active Directory Federation Service (ADFS) for a large Federal Government client.

Effectual enabled reliable and secure cyberspace capability by providing a highly innovative network architecture, engineering, integration, and simulation services with unrivaled expertise and commitment.

The Challenge

The client looked to our team to move its highly disparate environment into a highly collaborative one. By implementing Federated Access to the Amazon Web Services environment, this ensured least privilege access to client users.

The Solution

We worked with the client to setup an AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM), federated sign-in through Active Directory (AD), and Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS). This ensured least privilege access to client users.

The Benefits

Reliability

Our team enabled reliable collaborative connectivity to a cadre of remote workers that needed access to the system while utilizing the ADFS PIV card solution.

Increased Security

We were able to meet all security requirements by using a federated solution, allowing the client to set permissions and access levels across different systems. The Federated solution also improved auditing management of credentials.

Efficiency

We implemented AWS CloudFormation to create a template to use when multiple accounts register in the system. This led to an increase in efficiency and ensures consistent configurations overtime.

A Rundown on re:Invent 2019 Pt 2

A Rundown on re:Invent 2019 Pt 2

Members of the engineering team had the opportunity to attend Amazon Web Services’ annual re:Invent conference in Las Vegas.

Every year, AWS announces dozens of customer-sought features at the event (and some leading up to the event in what the community has dubbed “pre:Invent”). In this blog- a second in a series of two on re:Invent – we’ll touch on new announcements from this year’s conference:

  1. Amazon excited data scientists with the announcement of Amazon SageMaker Studio which provides an easier experience for building, training, debugging, deploying and monitoring machine learning models with an integrated development environment (IDE).
  2. Amazon Athena federated queries turn almost any data source into a query-able data repository, opening opportunities to gather insights based on data from many different sources in different formats.
  3. Amazon Detective makes it easy to analyze, investigate, and quickly identify the root cause of potential security issues or suspicious activities by using machine learning, statistical analysis, and graph theory.
  4. Automate code reviews with Amazon CodeGuru, a machine learning service which helps development teams identify the most expensive lines of code in their applications and receive intelligent recommendations on how to fix or improve their code.
  5. Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) adds additional security measures and flexibility to share data with others by introducing Amazon S3 Access Points.

With all the new features coming out of re:Invent, it was difficult for us to pick our top picks, but our team is quickly becoming experts in all the new features and already utilizing them in delivering first-class cloud infrastructure to our clients.

A Rundown on re:Invent 2019 Pt 1

A Rundown on re:Invent 2019 Pt 1

Members of the engineering team had the opportunity to attend Amazon Web Services’ annual re:Invent conference in Las Vegas.

Every year, AWS announces dozens of customer-sought features at the event (and some leading up to the event in what the community has dubbed “pre:Invent”). This blog is the first in a two-part series related to re:Invent announcements from the 2019 conference:

  1. AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) Access Analyzer provides an easy way to check permissions across the many policies provided at the resource level, principal level, and across accounts.
  2. A feature requested by customers since Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) was announced last year, AWS Fargate support for Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service will revolutionize the way organizations use the popular Kubernetes container management tools in the cloud and radically reduce the maintenance required for running Kubernetes on AWS.
  3. A pre:Invent announcement that you might have missed if you blinked, CloudFormation Registry and third-party resource support adds the ability to manage virtually any third-party application resource using CloudFormation, an infrastructure as code tool helping organizations iterate faster with repeatable cloud resource definitions stored as code.
  4. Andy Jassy rocked the re:Invent stage in 2018 when he announced AWS Outposts, a new offering to take AWS’ computing capacity into your own data center. This service was made available in 2019, opening a wealth of potential for applications which need to stay local for regulatory or performance purposes.
  5. The Amazon Builder’s Library is a curated list of content written by Amazon’s own technical leaders to illustrate how Amazon builds world-class services and infrastructure.

With all the new features coming out of re:Invent, it was difficult for us to pick our top picks, but our team is quickly becoming experts in all the new features and already utilizing them in delivering first-class cloud infrastructure to our clients.

Real-time logging of Tsunami Data Aids in Disaster Response

Real-time logging of Tsunami Data Aids in Disaster Response

Effectual worked with a federal government customer to provide information for local land-use and emergency response planning to avoid development in hazardous zones and to plan evacuation routes to communities along low-lying coastlines vulnerable to tsunamis.

The Challenge

The customer looked to our team to quickly and effectively move their public-facing web applications and internal applications to the AWS cloud to ensure resiliency, availability, and real time logging of tsunamis.

The Solution

We implemented a solution comprised of Amazon CloudWatch, AWS CloudTrail, Alarms, and Serverless Storage. This ensured the clients ability to collect data to help scientists understand tsunamis through their application to develop how to most effectively improve preparedness and response to tsunamis.

The Benefits

Resiliency
We implemented Amazon CloudWatch to schedule data collection that self-triggers when a tsunami is detected.

Availability
By implementing AWS CloudTrailthe client was able to easily access tsunami data to help scientists understand the sources of local tsunamis so that the impacts of future events may be mitigated.

Real Time Logging
Our team set up serverless storage to collect data from these seismic networks to process key components in the impact of tsunamis.

Education and the Cloud

Education and the Cloud

As cloud computing continues to grow within the State and Local Government industry, it has become increasingly popularized in the Education industry.

AWS started an initiative called AWS Educate to provide students and educators with the training and resources needed for cloud-related learning. Cloud computing skills are in high demand throughout the state of Texas, especially as an increasing number of state and local government agencies are embarking on migrating to the cloud. It has been a slow process for the government to migrate to the cloud, but the education sector is ahead of the process. This is due to high demand for the students, teachers, faculty, staff, and parents needing access to critical information using any devices from anywhere. Educators can benefit by migrating to the cloud: it’s cost efficient, offers stable data storage, development and test environments, easier collaboration for users, enhanced security without add-on applications, simple application hosting, minimizes resource costs, and fast implementation and time-to-value.

With all the capabilities of Cloud environments, the Education industry still has a long way to go. There are certain school districts and even Higher Education institutions, that do not have the amount of access as some of their counterparts. Cloud vendors could make a difference and solidify cloud adoption by offering Cloud education to urban neighborhood schools with laptops, computers, and access to training and certifications. As a start, the three major Cloud providers offer cloud education assistance to students:

When it comes to the rapid advancement in the IT industry, I encourage other young minorities, including my daughter, to pursue a career in the technology industry. Children are the future and Cloud platforms will be the leading solution across all markets.

We offer a bundled package for new users which includes an assessment of their current infrastructure which can be beneficial to any Higher Education Institution or K-12 organization. We can build the future together and keep rising to greater heights!

Reach out to Thy Williams, [email protected], to learn more about our capabilities and discuss our starter package.

Serverless Infrastructure Enables Data Access Related to Environmental Issues

Serverless Infrastructure Enables Data Access Related to Environmental Issues

The Challenge

This Federal Government customer looked to our team to migrate its on-premises infrastructure to a serverless infrastructure on AWS. The client was in need of a centralized data catalog, management solution for users, and data access for environmental issues.

The Solution

We supported the client with a serverless solution that consisted of Amazon API Gateway, Amazon Cognito User Pools, AWS Lambda, and AWS Step Functions. This ensured the customer’s ability to make high-volume, complex data accessible to stakeholders, policymakers, and managers to facilitate data-driven conversations about environmental issues in a secure setting.

The Benefits

Application Performance

Our team implemented API Gateway to handle the tasks involved in accepting and processing up to hundreds of thousands of concurrent API calls to process any surge of traffic on its website.

User Identification

Wey implemented AWS Cognito User Pools for control over user authentication and user access for the website. This allowed for secure token handling and management of authenticated users from all identity providers.

Cost Optimization

We implemented Lambda functions to run code in a serverless environment and process its large data sets related to environmental issues. The client was able to reduce cost by 80%.

TNTP Application Migration

TNTP Application Migration

TNTP’s mission is to end the injustice of educational inequality by providing excellent teachers to the students who need them most and by advancing policies and practices that ensure effective teaching in every classroom.

Challenge

In the wake of a flooding, TNTP looked to Effectual to quickly and effectively move their public-facing web applications and internal applications to the AWS cloud for better cost, scalability, disaster recovery capabilities, and better application performance.

Solution

Effectual worked with TNTP to define a migration strategy, set up the infrastructure in accordance with best practices and to take advantage of the full feature set of cloud, and provided scripts to automate future updates and deployments. Effectual introduced TNTP to the Infrastructure as Code model so that they could version control the state of their infrastructure through the use of AWS CloudFormation templates and take advantage of AWS’ built-in resource dependency definitions to perform rolling updates with minimal downtime or system impact.

The Benefits

Cost Efficiency

TNTP experienced lower costs for running their workloads in the cloud compared to on-premise IT hardware and maintenance costs. Effectual assisted TNTP to utilize cloud purchasing options and offerings to meet TNTP’s technical requirements while remaining cost-efficient.

Scalability

The use of the AWS cloud provided capabilities for flexible infrastructure to allow accommodation of various sizes of workloads. The infrastructure used AWS Auto Scaling capabilities along with custom settings in AWS CloudWatch to automatically scale to accommodate larger workloads while retaining transparency of the scaling activities to the end user.

Disaster Recovery

Failover capabilities and strategies such as the use of AWS Elastic Load Balancing within AWS were implemented to protect the system, maximize uptime, and minimizes data loss in the event of a disaster. Notifications, alarms, and safeguards were put in place to ensure immediate notification of any abnormal behavior.

Applications Rearchitected in AWS to Automate Security Triggers

Applications Rearchitected in AWS to Automate Security Triggers

Effectual led a Federal Government client in their journey from on-premises to AWS by extending their data center into the cloud and rearchitecting their applications.

Effectual provided guidance in the following areas

  • Implementing Automation for the client.
  • Creating a new AWS infrastructure and environment.
  • Updating and retooling current applications.
  • Building the solution as a receiver and retooling specific applications to function in the new environment.
  • Interpreting and providing additional information and understanding of features that are new and being developed as it pertains to their issues.

Our Team Leveraged the following technologies

  • AWS CloudFormation templates were created for DevOps
  • Organizations and AWS Config for management of the system
  • AWS CloudTrail and Amazon CloudWatch were utilized for automating security recommendations
  • Amazon CloudWatch was programmed to alert the client if changes were made in their system. The response would trigger the system to return to original configurations and alert security to these changes.
  • AWS infrastructure resources, EC2 instances and RDS database infrastructures
 

The Benefits

Migration to the Cloud

We rebuilt client applications in the AWS Cloud to connect to their on-premises data. This made their applications more accessible by all and created a working hybrid environment for their data.

Security Improvements

We deployed AWS infrastructure services, including Amazon CloudWatch to monitor resources and trigger responses to changes in the environment.

Management of Resources

The services in AWS monitor both on-premises and AWS cloud environments. The time to build components in the environment was significantly reduced and instances were saved as a template for repeatability.

Considerations for AWS Control Tower Implementation

Considerations for AWS Control Tower Implementation

AWS Control Tower is a recently announced, console-based service that allows you to govern, secure, and maintain multiple AWS accounts based on best practices established AWS.

What resources do I need?

The first thing to understand about Control Tower is that all the resources you need will be allocated to you by AWS. We will need AWS Organizations established, an account factory to create accounts per LOB, and Single Sign On (SSO) to name a few. Based on the size of your entity or organization, those costs may vary. In the Control Tower precursor, AWS Landing Zones, we found that costs for this collection of service could range near $500-$700 monthly for large customers (50+ accounts), as deployed. Control Tower will probably be a similar cost, possibly higher depending on the size of your organization. I will address later in this post on how to go and use Control Tower once you have an account set up a Brownfield situation. In a perfect world, it would be nice to setup the Control Tower and in a Greenfield scenario, but sadly, 99% of the time, that’s not the case.

If you’re a part of an organization that has multiple accounts in different lines of business, this service is for you.

What choices do I need to make?

In order to establish a Cloud Enablement Team to manage Control Tower, you need to incorporate multiple stakeholders. In a large organization, that might entail different people for roles such as:

  1. Platform Owner
  2. Product Owner
  3. AWS Solution Architect
  4. Cloud Engineer (Automation)
  5. Developer
  6. DevOps
  7. Cloud Security

You want to be as inclusive as possible in order to get the most breadth of knowledge. These are the people that will be making the decisions you need to migrate to the cloud and then most importantly, thrive once present and remain engaged. We have the team, so now what can we do to make Control Tower work the best for us?

Decisions for the Team

1. Develop a RACI

This is one of the most crucial aspects of Operations. If you do not have accountability or responsibility, then you don’t have management. Everyone must be able to delineate their tasks from the rest of the team. Finalizing everyone’s role in the workflow then this will solve a lot of issues before they happen.

2. Shared Services

In the shared services model, we need to understand what resources are going to the cloud and what will stay. Anything from Active Directory to DNS to one-off internal applications will have to be figured out in a way to accommodate functionality and keep the charge back model healthy. One of Control Tower’s most redeeming and worthy qualities is knowing what each LOB is costing and how they are helping the organization overall.

3. Charge Backs

Since the account factory (previously called Account Vending Machine) is established, each LOB will have its own account. In order to see what the LOB costs are, you must have an account. AWS does not do pricing based on VPC, but by account. Leveraging Control Tower, tagging, and third-party cost management resources all can combine to give an accurate depiction of the costs incurred by a specific line of business.

4. Security

Security will have all logs dumped from each account into a centralized log bucket can be pointed to the tool of choice to analyze those logs. Other parties may perform audits to read your logs using ready only functions in an account that has nothing else, another feature of Control Tower. The multi-account strategy not only allows for better governance, but also now helps in case of compromise. If one account has been compromised, then the blast radius for all the other accounts is minimal. Person X may have accessed a bucket in a specific account, but they did not access it anywhere else. The most important thing to remember is that you cannot treat cloud security like data center security.

There are plenty of choices to make as it relates to Control Tower moving forward for an organization, but if you plan correctly and make wise decisions, then you can secure your environment and keep your billing department happy. Hopefully this has helped you see what it takes in the real world to prepare. Good luck out there!

Interview with an AWS Champion Authorized Instructor

Interview with an AWS Champion Authorized Instructor

James Hirmas is co-founder of JHC Technology, an Effectual Company, and an Information Technology Subject Matter Expert with nearly 20 years of experience.

James was named an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Champion Authorized Instructor in April 2019 by demonstrating his deep understanding of AWS services and solutions and his ability to teach AWS content to others. We had the chance to discuss with James what it means to him to be an AWS Champion Instructor.

What certifications do you have?

I have earned the following AWS certifications in addition to becoming an AWS Champion Authorized Instructor:

  • AWS Developer
  • AWS SysOps Administrator
  • AWS Solutions Architect
  • AWS Professional DevOps Engineer
  • AWS Security Specialty

Why did you want to become an AWS Champion Instructor?

I pursued becoming AWS Champion Authorized Instructor to help mentor and set an example for the JHC Technology team. As one of the co-founders of JHC Technology, I strongly believe that we should always lead by example. One of the foundational principles JHC Technology is built upon, as defined in our JHC ethos, is “Never stop Learning.” At JHC Technology, we truly embrace this principle by providing continuous training to our teams and deeply entrenching everyone in cloud technology.

I also wanted to give back to the AWS community. Over the past 10 years working on the AWS platform, cloud technology has given me a tremendous opportunity to help build a successful business, reshape/redefine the technology landscape, and advance my professional career. As an AWS Champion Authorized Instructor, I work with a very diverse group of organizations from different industries and I can impart my decade-plus of real-world AWS experience to further promote, educate, and accelerate organization’s journey to AWS.

I also wanted to become an AWS Champion Authorized Instructor to work with organizations from other industries in order to better understand their requirements, challenges, and use cases so JHC Technology can stay up to date on customer landscape and technology trends.

What was the process to become an AWS Champion Instructor?

In order to become an AWS Authorized Champion Instructor, I recommend multiple years of experience deploying advanced workloads on AWS. According to the AAI program guide, you need to hold at least four valid AWS Certifications at the Associate or above level, with at least one of them being a Professional level certification. You also need to work with an AWS partner organization that is in the AWS Training Program and you will need to complete an Instructor Delivery Workshop. The workshop demonstrates technical knowledge and ability to deliver an AWS authorized course and/or complete a co-teach overseen by a qualified AWS Mentor Instructor. AWS has multiple official courses that are offered from Architecting on AWS to Security Operations on AWS. For each course offered, the AWS Authorized Champion Instructor needs to have the appropriate mix of AWS certifications.

Describe your experience as an AWS Authorized Instructor.

So far, my experience has been very rewarding. I have been able to travel to different parts of the United States and other countries to provide AWS training. I have been able to provide value with real work use cases and experiences.

It is an investment when you become an AWS Authorized Champion Instructor. I spend a lot time when I am not training reviewing course material, preparing examples to present in class, and constantly learning new AWS features and use cases.

FISMA Compliance Requirements Met for Self-Service Cloud Solution

FISMA Compliance Requirements Met for Self-Service Cloud Solution

Effectual enabled a Federal Government customer to set up a self-service cloud solution which is secure, compliant, and automated to scale up and down as necessary.

Customer Needs

The Customer wanted to scale out compliant accounts to meet security concerns such as accessing only approved services, protecting centrally managed resources, and ensuring logging and change activity was being captured. The overall issue was ability to consistently provision AWS accounts in a scalable fashion and manage them over time, keeping them up-to-date with newly approved AWS Services. The goal was to provide secure and compliant cloud hosting options while setting up a customer self-service solution.

Our Approach

We assisted the client in creating their entire environment from Infrastructure as Code while implementing a strict change control processes via GitLab. Custom pipelines were created based off the CI/CD framework for structured code. Overall the entire process was automated, eliminating the scalability issue of provisioning accounts. Our resources worked directly alongside the agency resources to document and achieve a FISMA Moderate ATO.

The Benefits

Scalability

The customer was able to quickly provision accounts in a consistent method across multiple geographical locations and regions. The entire environment can be deployed in one hour.

Self-Service

We enabled the customer to securely provision their own infrastructure, standardized methodology, and least-privileged architecture. This methodology ensures security in the cloud for the client.

Management of Resources

The services in AWS monitor both on-premises and AWS cloud environments. The time to provision new accounts was reduced from a month to one minute. The deployments are now consistent and can be saved for later use.

Disaster Response: UAV Imagery Alerts

Disaster Response: UAV Imagery Alerts

Effectual delivered a mission-critical solution to a client that ensured the delivery of UAV imagery taken from infrastructure towers that were used to alert high risk fire areas of a wildfire and other natural disasters.

The Challenge

Our customer required a move from its on-premises infrastructure to a centralized Cloud environment in AWS. They looked to us to handle high availability architecture and fault tolerance to meet workloads over many geographical locations. We automated common activities such as change requests, monitoring, patch management, security, and backup services, and provided full-lifecycle services to provision, run, and support enterprise infrastructure.

The Solution

We provided a client with Technical Amazon Web Services Infrastructure architecture to deliver a comprehensive, secure, and cost-effective hosting solution for supporting their efforts with Pacific Power. In addition, our team delivered Managed Services for the customer’s AWS environment. This assisted with the client’s ability to deploy drones to inspect the infrastructure of electrical towers and ensure their efficiency in wake of natural disasters.

The Benefits

Resilience

The implementation of Amazon CloudWatch Events for serverless workflow to trigger Lambda functions. Drones are programmed to deploy and inspect electrical towers to ensure that they are performing correctly.

Cost Optimization

We created a proprietary AWS-hosted solution in order for the customer to lower costs by running their workloads in the cloud. Our team assisted the client to utilize cloud purchasing options and offerings to meet their technical requirements while remaining cost-efficient.

Scalability

We configured EC2 instances that ensure adequate capacity to meet traffic demands and compute capacity. The implementation of automated launch configurations to allow the client to quickly launch and/or scale application severs in target environments in the future.

Accelerating DevOps Cultural Adoption with GitLab

Accelerating DevOps Cultural Adoption with GitLab

One year ago, our team made an investment into a self-hosted installation of GitLab.

We had been successful in delivering a managed GitLab installation at a customer site and saw the value in taking advantage of everything the platform had to offer for our internal workloads. As an AWS DevOps Competency partner, we have a successful track record of helping organizations adopt DevOps processes and we understand that the biggest challenge is often aligning an organization’s culture with DevOps principles.

GitLab has helped us bridge that gap by demonstrating the operational excellence that can be achieved with DevOps.

GitLab’s biggest strength is that it addresses all stages of the software development lifecycle. GitLab’s features align strongly with the stages and principles our team has outlined in our DevOps process. The cornerstone of this DevOps process is that everything is delivered as code and all code is continuously version controlled, tested, and cross-checked by peers. The marriage of GitLab’s repository tools with their built-in CI platform eliminates much of the overhead of setting up continuous integration and testing. Our team has built custom pipeline templates specifically designed around deployments using AWS, CloudFormation, Docker, Kubernetes, Terraform, and other platforms. These pipeline templates allow new projects to inherit shared knowledge and hit-the-ground-running to deliver operational excellence with Agile development speed. We’ve also committed ourselves to sharing these templates and learned best practices with the community to aid others in quickly and efficiently adopting GitLab and cloud and driving new development.

Our team has designed a one-click style deployment of GitLab on AWS with high availability and security out-of-the-box. We’re using this solution to help other organizations rapidly adopt GitLab and have been successful in doing so at several government and commercial organizations. We also have a one-click GitLab Runner on AWS solution available for scalable, secure GitLab CI runners and are actively working on a one-click deployment for GitLab Runner on Azure and GCP.

GitLab has been a cornerstone of our DevOps practice, and we are just getting started. We have empowered organizations to automate software testing and deployments using GitLab as the engine, and organizations have been able to move faster and better address end-users with those abilities. We’re excited to see what organizations can do with the power that DevOps’ operational excellence gives them, and we’ve partnered with GitLab to accelerate them along that journey.

If you or your organization has more questions in regards to GitLab or our DevOps process, reach out to [email protected] to set up some time to chat about your business goals.

Next Generation MSP: Integration

Next Generation MSP: Integration

During the past nine years of delivering cloud solutions to government and industry, our team has identified a gap in the delivery of Managed Service Provider (MSP) solutions in a cloud environment.

As an AWS Premier Consulting Partner with the DevOps, Government, and Non-Profit competencies, as well as the GovCloud Skill Partner Status, there are few workloads that we haven’t helped customers migrate and manage in a cloud environment. We also deliver these solutions through Microsoft Azure, where we are a Silver Cloud Partner.

Our focus with MSP is around a structured, repeatable, five-step MSP process

  1. Evaluation
  2. Automation
  3. Optimization
  4. Monitoring
  5. Integration

We previously discussed the Evaluation, Automation, Optimization, and Monitoring phases as part of the MSP process. In this blog – the final in a series of five on Next Generation MSP (NG-MSP) – we’ll touch on Integration, a critical component of a successful MSP strategy as it brings everything together. As providers of cloud based MSP, we focus our efforts in automation, repeatability and collaboration, as those same aspects in an on premise MSP environment is where a lot of capability is lost.

With the flexible nature of cloud vs. on-premise, the automation enables an NG-MSP provider like Effectual to react quicker and with more structure because resources can be located anywhere and the infrastructure backend is handled by AWS. You begin to gain efficiencies as a result of technology giving the ability to move quicker, simpler, and cheaper than an on-premise environment. The traditional on-premise environment will require physical adjustments to infrastructure, may require additional infrastructure to be ordered, and is dependent on specific workers rather than a pool of resources coupled with packaged, scripted activities.

At the integration stage, we are implementing the Effectual toolchain with a focus on meeting Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) objectives. These tool sets include GitLab and JIRA integration, among other components. With the cloud-based tool chain in place, we can offload 70%-80% of current workloads as it relates to an on-premise environment. However, as an NG-MSP provider, we’re not changing the workflow but simplifying the process of getting to production.

We’ve done this long enough to know that NG-MSP models cannot be a one-size fits all proposition. In our cloud-model, as we get to the Integration component, we are leveraging best-in-breed toolchains to ensure security, efficiency, and an optimized infrastructure to support our customer workloads.

We stand ready to support your organization’s cloud environment with our NG-MSP services. To discuss options, please reach out to [email protected].

RFD & Associates

RFD & Associates

RFD & Associates, Inc., is an IT Technical Services Company with over 30 years of experience delivering IT solutions to public and private sector clients.

RFD delivers solutions from Mainframe to Mobile and everything inbetween. They have helped hundreds of organizations design, build, purchase and implement optimal technology solutions to achieve business goals. RFD needed help designing and developing a scalable, Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud hosted, multi-tenant web and mobile friendly application. The proposed solution had a requirement to integrate with external APIs to ensure flexibility for future enhancements and integration with third-party tools. The application was also required to be compliant with Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) security.

Effectual Provided Guidance in the following areas

  • AWS design and architectural services to include making RFD’s multi-tenant hosting environment PII/HIPAA compliant
  • Provided AWS Training and best practices guidance on how to leverage AWS resources
  • Assisted in helping RFD achieve its defined goals:
    • Identify the challenges presented in third-party hosting of AWS.
    • Evaluate the use of cloud services to meet RFD business and technical requirements.
    • Determine portable containerization services.
    • Evaluate architectural decisions in AWS Commercial and GovCloud Regions.

Our Approach

A four-phased approach was developed to implement an AWS hosted environment for RFD:

  • Phase 1: Discovery, AWS Service Selection, and PII/HIPAA Security Requirements Determination.
  • Phase 2: AWS Foundation Build. Provisioned appropriate environments and access; established AWS accounts
  • Phase 3: AWS Service Build. Provisioned AWS services to include: EC2, Route53, S3, WAF, etc.
  • Phase 4: Process Documentation and Environment Review. Created AWS documentation of resources and provided reports on overall solution, security and cost.

The Benefits

Auto-Scaling

We configured EC2 instances that are PII/HIPAA compliant ensuring adequate capacity to meet traffic demands and compute capacity. In addition, we implemented automated launch configurations to allow RFD to quickly launch and/or scale application severs in target environments in the future.

Security & Compliance

The implementation of AWS Compute, Storage, and PII and HIPAA compliant Database services to ensure the security of sensitive data used in the environment.

Monitoring Services

To maximize the functionality of many services, AWS CloudWatch was configured to help RFD set thresholds/alarms to monitor custom metrics for auto-scaling needs.

Next Up: Machine Learning on AWS

Next Up: Machine Learning on AWS

If you have been to AWS’s re:Invent, then you know the tremendous amount of excitement that cloud evangelists experience during that time of the year.

The events that AWS hosts in Las Vegas provide a surreal experience for first timers and are sure to excite even the most seasoned of veterans. Let’s talk about one of the exciting technologies that are sure to change the world as we know it, or at least the businesses we are familiar with – Amazon Machine Learning.

Introduced on April 9, 2015, Amazon Machine Learning (ML) has received a surge of attention in recent years given its capability to provide highly reliable and accurate predictions with a large dataset. From using Amazon ML to track next generation stats in the NFL, to analyzing real time race data in Formula 1, to enhancing fraud detection at Capital One, ML is changing the way we share experiences and interact with the world around us.

During re:Invent 2018, AWS made it clear that ML is here to stay and has announced many offerings that support development of ML solutions or services. But you may be wondering: What exactly is Amazon ML?

According to AWS’s definition:

“Amazon Machine Learning is a machine service that allows you to easily build predictive applications, including fraud detection, demand forecasting, and click prediction. Amazon Machine Learning uses powerful algorithms that can help you create machine learning models by finding patterns in existing data and using these patterns to make predictions from new data as it becomes available.”

We, as a society, are at the point where machines are actively providing decisions for many of our day-to-day interactions with the world. If you’ve ever shopped as a Prime member on Amazon.com, you have already experienced an ML algorithm that is in tune with your buying preferences.

In our Engineer’s Corner, our very own Kris Brandt Amazon Web Service As A Data Lake, discusses the critical initial step towards implementing an ML project, Data Lake creation. In this blog, Kris explores what a Data Lake is and provides some variations to its implementation. The development of a robust data lake is requisite for implementing an ML project that provides the business value expected from the service capabilities. ML runs on data and having plenty of it provides a foundation for an exceptional outcome.

Utilizing existing data repositories, we can work with business leaders to develop those cases for leveraging the data and the ML for strategic growth. You can connect with the Effectual team by emailing [email protected].

Because of ML’s proliferation throughout the market, AWS announced these ML solution opportunities during re:Invent 2018:

AWS Lake Formation
“This fully managed service will help you build, secure, and manage a data lake,” according to AWS. It allows you to point it at your data sources, crawl the sources, and pull the data into Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3). “Lake Formation uses Machine Learning to identify and de-duplicate data and performs format changes to accelerate analytical processing. You will also be able to define and centrally manage consistent security policies across your data lake and the services that you use to analyze and process the data,” says AWS.

Amazon Textract
“This Optical Character Recognition (OCR) service will help you to extract text and data from virtually any document. Powered by Machine Learning, it will identify bounding boxes, detect key-value pairs, and make sense of tables, while eliminating manual effort and lowering your document-processing costs,” according to AWS.

11 AWS Snowball Planning Considerations

11 AWS Snowball Planning Considerations

Data transfer/migration is a key consideration in any organization’s decision to move into the cloud.

If a sound strategy is applied, migration of on-premise data to the cloud is usually a seamless process. When an organization fails to do so, however, it risks running into challenges stemming from deficiencies in technical resources, inadequate planning, and/or incompatibility with legacy systems, to name a few.

Data transfer via AWS Snowball is no exception. If performed incorrectly or out of order, some of the seemingly insignificant tasks related to the data migration process can become substantial obstacles that adversely affects a timeline.  The AWS Snowball device can be simple to use if one is familiar with other AWS data transfer services and/or follows all of the steps provided in the AWS Snowball User Guide.However, neglecting a single step can greatly encumber an otherwise ordinary data transfer process.

According to AWS on its service:

“AWS Snowball is used to transport terabytes or petabytes of data to and from AWS, or who want to access the storage and compute power of the AWS Cloud locally and cost effectively in places where connecting to the internet might not be an option.”

AWS

When preparing to migrate data from on-premises storage into AWS via a Snowball device, an organization should be aware of the importance of 11 easily overlooked tasks and considerations associated with planning for the data move. They are as follows:

1. Understanding the specifics of the data being moved to the cloud.

Ensure that it is compatible and can transfer seamlessly to the cloud via AWS Snowball. Follow a cloud migration model to help layout specific details and avoid surprises during the data transfer process.

2. Verifying and validating the amount of data being transferred.

Snowball is intended for large data transfers (over 10 terabytes). Using it for smaller data transfers is not a cost-effective option.

3. Verifying that the workstation meets the minimum requirement for the data transfer.

It should have a 16-core processor, 16 MB of RAM, and a RJ45 or SPF+ network connection.

4. Performing a data transfer test on the workstation an organization plans to use to complete the task.

This will not only equip the organization with an understanding of the amount of time needed to perform the transfer, but will provide an opportunity to try various methods of transferring data. Additionally, it will assist with estimating the time the Snowball device will need to be in the organization’s possession, as well as its associated cost.

NOTE: The Snowball Client must be downloaded and installed before this step is performed.

5. Creating a specific administrative IAM user account for the data transfer process via the management console.

This account will be used to order, track, create and manage Snowball Import/Export jobs and return the device to AWS.

NOTE: It is important to avoid using personal IAM user accounts if individuals will be responsible for ordering the device and performing the data transfer.

6. Following the “Object Key Naming convention” when creating S3 buckets.

It is also important to confirm that the selected S3 bucket name aligns with the expectations of the stakeholders.

7. Confirming the point of contact/s and shipping address for the Snowball device.

This is especially important if the individual ordering the device is different from the one performing the data transfer.

8. Setting up SNS notifications to help track the stages of the snowball job.

This will keep the stakeholders informed of the shipping status and the importing of data to the S3 bucket.

9. Being aware of how holidays could affect the progress or process of the data-transfer timeline.

This is important because additional costs are accrued 10 days after the Snowball is delivered.

10. Considering the organization’s administrative processes that might hinder or delay the data transfer process.

By factoring in internal processes (e.g., Change Request management, stakeholder buy-in, technical change moratoriums, etc.) into the timeframe it will take to receive the device, start the job, and ship it back to AWS can help prevent unnecessary fees.

NOTE: The Snowball device has no additional cost if it is returned within 10 days from the date it is received. Following that time, however, a daily late fee of $15 is applied until the date AWS receives it.

11. Keeping the original source data intact till the data import is confirmed.

It is very important that source data remain intact until the Snowball device has been returned to AWS, the data import has been completed, and the customer has validated the data in the S3 bucket(s).

Transferring data from on-premises to an AWS Snowball can be an uneventful endeavor when thorough planning is done in advance of ordering the device. Taking these 11 planning tasks and considerations into account are essential to eliminating some of the potential headaches and stress occasionally associated with this type of activity.

Refer to AWS Snowball Documentation for additional information and specific instructions not covered in this article.

If you or your organization has more questions, reach out to us at [email protected].

Next Generation MSP: Monitoring

Next Generation MSP: Monitoring

During the past nine years of delivering cloud solutions to government and industry, our team has identified a gap in the delivery of Managed Service Provider (MSP) solutions in a cloud environment.

As an AWS Premier Consulting Partner with the DevOps, Government, and Non-Profit competencies, as well as the GovCloud Skill Partner Status, there are few workloads that we haven’t helped customers migrate and manage in a cloud environment. We also deliver these solutions through Microsoft Azure, where we are a Silver Cloud Partner.

Our focus with MSP is around a structured, repeatable, five-step MSP process

  1. Evaluation
  2. Automation
  3. Optimization
  4. Monitoring
  5. Integration

We previously discussed the Evaluation, Automation, and Optimization phases as part of the MSP process. In this blog – the fourth in a series of five on Next Generation MSP (NG-MSP) – we’ll touch on Monitoring, a critical component of a successful MSP strategy from a visibility perspective. Appropriate monitoring of infrastructure as part of our NG-MSP strategy affords both Effectual and our customers the ability to be proactive in measures by collecting, analyzing, and acting on information efficiently.

Further, as we develop a custom NG-MSP playbook for our customer, we’re going to look at where we can integrate with existing Security or Network Operations Center. For us, we don’t see NG-MSP as a one-size fits all model, which is a spot where many traditional MSP providers, even cloud MSP providers, miss the mark.

Proper cloud-first, NG-MSP monitoring must focus on

  • Adherence to cost and best practices, including tooling from industry leaders such as CloudCheckr
  • The proper configuration and performance of services such as AWS’s CloudWatch
  • Incorporating logging tools such as AWS CloudTrail
  • Analyzing logs through native cloud services such as AWS’s Macie or third-party tools such as Splunk.

Next Generation MSP: Optimization

Next Generation MSP: Optimization

During the past nine years of delivering cloud solutions to government and industry, our team has identified a gap in the delivery of Managed Service Provider (MSP) solutions in a cloud environment.

As an AWS Premier Consulting Partner with the DevOps, Government, and Non-Profit competencies, as well as the GovCloud Skill Partner Status, there are few workloads that we haven’t helped customers migrate and manage in a cloud environment. We also deliver these solutions through Microsoft Azure, where we are a Silver Cloud Partner.

Our focus with MSP is around a structured, repeatable, five-step MSP process

  1. Evaluation
  2. Automation
  3. Optimization
  4. Monitoring
  5. Integration

We previously discussed the Evaluation and Automation phases as part of the MSP process. In this blog – the third in a series of five on Next Generation MSP (NG-MSP) – we’ll touch on Optimization, a critical component of a successful MSP strategy from both performances as well as a cost perspective. Optimization considers leftover infrastructure from “lift and shift” migration models and keeping abreast of best practices in instance usage, including right-sizing and auto-scaling.

Infrastructure alone isn’t always the full story as licensing plays a large driver in business cases given existing investments or necessary upcoming requirements. This ability to go beyond infrastructure and into a holistic optimization discussion is an area where Effectual continues to provide value. NG-MSP may include an ability to transition from licensed databases to license-included database technologies. Cost savings from reducing or eliminating redundant storage in favor of fault-tolerant architectures is another step forward from a performance and fiscal perspective. It’s also an opportunity to evaluate deployment models to take advantage of microservices.

The cloud-first NG-MSP optimization component continues to focus on

  • Minimal cloud footprint to meet business requirements
  • Proper scaling architectures to serve growth and demand
  • Microservice utilization where appropriate
  • Built-in security monitoring through tools such as CloudCheckr
  • Custom NG-MSP delivery models to meet organizational and compliance requirements
  • Change management through scripting to ensure efficient deployment

We’ve done this long enough to know that NG-MSP models cannot be a one-size fits all proposition, which is why optimizing as much as possible within an environment will allow efficient operation from both a performance and cost perspective.

We stand ready to support your organization’s cloud environment with our NG-MSP services. To discuss options, please reach out to [email protected].

Next Generation MSP: Automation

Next Generation MSP: Automation

During the past nine years of delivering cloud, our team has identified a gap in the delivery of MSP solutions in the cloud.

As an AWS Premier Consulting Partner with the DevOps, Government, and Non-Profit competencies, and GovCloud Skill Partner Status, there are few types of workloads we haven’t helped customers migrate and manage in a cloud environment.

Our focus with MSP is around a structured, repeatable, five-step MSP process

  1. Evaluation
  2. Automation
  3. Optimization
  4. Monitoring
  5. Integration

We previously discussed the Evaluation phase of the MSP process. In this blog – the second in a series of five on Next Generation MSP (NG-MSP) – we’ll touch on the Automation, a critical component of a successful MSP strategy. Automation should include operational workflows; infrastructure provisioning; and, patching and change management.

The cloud-first MSP automation component is focused on

  • Deploy Infrastructure as Code (IaC)
  • Establish and secure edge connectivity
  • Deploy Virtual Private Clouds (VPCs)
  • Deploy networking / security groups
  • Set-up application and data tiers
  • Move applications with scripted builds

Where applicable, it is also important that required regulatory standards are automated when possible to ensure legal compliance in relation to sensitive areas (e.g. SCI, HIPAA, NIST, SOC, etc.). In addition, Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) pipelines should be developed and implemented to support reliable delivery of code changes.

MSP models cannot be a one-size fits all proposition. Automating as much as possible within an environment will help offload some of that ongoing MSP administration, allowing those outlier components unique to different organizations to be a focus of the Effectual team.

We stand ready to support your organizations’ cloud environment with our MSP services. To discuss options, please reach out to [email protected].

Next Generation MSP: Evaluation

Next Generation MSP: Evaluation

Cloud-based Managed Service Providers (MSP) changed the Managed Services landscape as we know it.

Unlike traditional on premise-based MSPs, a cloud MSP offers an unmatched level of efficiency, scalability and potential for innovation. This improves an organization’s operations significantly. Through the optimization of processes, automation of routine tasks, monitoring of vital components and integration of simpler workflows, resources can be free to focus on what is most important for the organization.

Our focus with MSP is around a structured, repeatable, five-step MSP process

  1. Evaluation
  2. Automation
  3. Optimization
  4. Monitoring
  5. Integration

This blog is the first in a five-part series related to our delivery of Next Generation MSP (NG-MSP).

To get an agency or organization started with Effectual’s MSP program, it is essential for a proper evaluation; specifically, an assessment of the security and network environments and general cloud readiness. Assessing these areas before any MSP activities commence helps identify potential security vulnerabilities and network performance issues. It promotes validation of existing technology, people, and processes while establishing a well-defined reference point.

Our evaluation focuses on the following

  • Identify apps to move
  • Develop project schedule
  • Refine budget / cost optimization
  • Project kickoff

MSP models cannot be a one-size fits all proposition. Automating as much as possible within an environment will help offload some of that ongoing MSP administration, allowing those outlier components unique to different organizations to be a focus of the Effectual team.

We stand ready to support your organizations’ cloud environment with our MSP services. To discuss options, please reach out to [email protected].

Series: Next Generation MSP

Amazon Web Service as a Data Lake

Amazon Web Service as a Data Lake

“Cloud,” “Machine Learning,” “Serverless,” “DevOps,” – technical terms utilized as buzzwords by marketing to get people excited, interested, and invested in the world of cloud architecture.

And now we have a new one – “Data Lake.” So, what is it? Why do we care? And how are lakes better than rivers and oceans? For one, it might be harder to get swept away by the current in a lake (literally, not metaphorically).

A Data Lake is a place where data is stored regardless of type – structured or unstructured. That data can then have analytics or queries ran against them. An allegory to a data lake is the internet itself. The internet, by design, is a bunch of servers labeled by IP addresses for them to communicate with each other. Search Engine web crawlers visit websites associated with these servers, accumulating data that can then be analyzed with complex algorithms. The results allow a person to type in a few words into a Search Engine and receive the most relatable information. This type of indiscriminate data accumulation and the presentation of context-relatable results is the goal of data lake utilization.

However, for anyone who wants to manage and present data in such a manner, they first need a data store to create their data lake. A prime example of such a store is Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service) where documents, images, files, and other objects are stored indiscriminately. Have logs from servers and services from your cloud environments? Dump them here. Do you have documentation that are related to one subject, but are in different formats? Place them in S3. The filetype does not really matter for a data lake.

ElasticSearch can load data from S3, indexing your data through algorithms you define and providing ways to read and access that data with your own queries. It is a service designed to provide customers with search capability without the need to build your own searching algorithms.

Athena is a “serverless interactive query service.” What does this mean? It means, I can load countless CSVs into S3 buckets and have Athena return queried data as a data table output. Think database queries without the database server. Practically, you would need to implement cost management techniques (such as data partitioning) to limit the ingestion costs per query as you are charged on the amount of data read in a query.

Macie is an AWS service that ingests logs and content from all over AWS and analyzes that data for security risks. From personal identity information in S3 buckets to high risk IAM Users, Macie is an example of what types of analysis and visualization you can do when you have a data lake.

These are just some examples on how to augment your data in the cloud. S3, by itself, is already a data lake – ‘infinite’, unorganized, and unstructured data storage. And the service already is hooked into numerous other AWS services. Data lake is here to stay and is a mere stepping stone to utilizing the full suite of technologies available now and in the future. Start with S3, add your data files, and use Lambda, ElasticSearch, Athena, and traditional web pages to display the results of those services. No servers, no OS configurations or security concerns; just development of queries, lambda functions, API calls, and data presentation – serverless.

Our team is building and managing data lakes and the associated capabilities for multiple organizations and can help yours as well. Reach out to our team at [email protected] for some initial discovery.

Digital Transformation Journey of a Global Restaurant Chain

Digital Transformation Journey of a Global Restaurant Chain

A year long cloud transformation from a global network of physical data centers used to run company systems and applications.

One of the world’s largest restaurant chains offers technology services to its stores and franchisees that perform functions as diverse as POS systems, store management systems, data analysis and predictive analytics, digital advertisement and e-commerce and customer engagement platforms.

Their IT organization uses a small core staff with limited resources supported by a network of service providers and partners to fulfill key IT roles. Traditionally, the company used a global network of physical data centers to run their applications.

 

The company engaged with members of our team on key transformation initiatives

  • Need to build environments faster and with more flexibility than what traditional infrastructure in a data center could provide
  • Need to decouple scale up / out decisions from development cycles to speed the development process (get new apps and update apps faster)
  • Address local needs while maintaining global standards
  • Reduce CapEx to increase financial flexibility and agility
  • Lack of internal expertise in implementing and managing a global, enterprise public Cloud environment
  • Need to tie costs to specific internal projects and teams while benefiting from economies of scale

Following the completion of this engagement a prominent financial analyst commented: “The company is establishing a first-mover advantage with digital that can drive sustainable share gains in late 2017 and beyond.”

The Results

  • Reduced time to deploy infrastructure from 60- 120 days to minutes
  • Implemented Cloud automation for some workloads to enable same day deployments
  • Enabled global deployment of resources in AWS regions close to end customers / users to increase performance and decrease latency
  • 20-50% cost reduction on next generation deployments for customer engagement and data warehouse projects vs. traditional models
  • Enabled internal bill back of resources in AWS to specific projects and teams

Following the completion of this engagement a prominent financial analyst commented: “company is establishing a first-mover advantage with digital that can drive sustainable share gains in late 2017 and beyond.”

ERP Disaster Recovery Solution on AWS

ERP Disaster Recovery Solution on AWS

A longtime leader in golf equipment and apparel needed to find an alternative disaster recovery solution for a new ERP system.

Finding itself with a number of legacy IT systems, the company was looking to upgrade their infrastructure in a number of areas. With an upcoming planned elimination of a corporate disaster recovery support platform, IT management saw an opportunity to investigate alternative solutions for their DR requirements.

“We wanted to upgrade our disaster-recovery capabilities in order to mitigate the chance of data loss in our mission-critical, enterprise resource planning or ERP system,” said the Director of Infrastructure and Services.

“We were looking at the concept of continuous data protection in both our onsite production and DR environments,” he added. The company also wanted to incorporate newer technology, which would allow for quickly scaling memory size, CPU and disk space – without having to purchase incremental hardware.

While they were using nightly backup and data replication for disaster recovery, the company envisioned a solution with a lower recovery point objective (RPO) through continuous replication. They required a best-of-breed disaster recovery environment to match the 99.99 percent uptime of their new Oracle ERP solution.

The planned elimination of a legacy DR platform provided an opportunity to modernize.

“From the very beginning, we were talking about instances and hourly costs. This was an entirely different approach from the colocation options we explored earlier.”

The Solution

To achieve their vision of a scalable DR environment, the company needed to look beyond colocation. Our experts helped the company focus on finding a suitable DR as a Service and cloud solution.

“For a long time, we did not think our requirements would work with Amazon. We required private networking and multiple nodes to be replicated synchronously, that seemed to defy implementation at a public cloud provider,” said the director of infrastructure and services.

To facilitate disaster recovery of its ERP database, the company decided on an Oracle Limited disaster recovery optimized solution. “We learned that the Oracle Limited solution was available to us at no cost when in sleep or standby state.”

AWS is an authorized cloud platform for Oracle — one of a very small number of approved cloud vendors.

It was the flexibility and willingness to share its operations expertise that attracted the company  to effectual’s team. “From the very beginning, we were talking about instances and hourly costs. This was an entirely different approach from the colocation options we explored earlier.”

An economical cloud-based, disaster-recovery environment offering the potential to do more with less.

The company deployed the architecture for its disaster recovery platform on Amazon Web Services. “We can even move between various Amazon data centers if needed for changing protection requirements – without incurring any data transfer charges.”

The effectual  team was able to build a custom, and cost-effective, DR environment harnessing the power of AWS. The company had a highly specific use case for the deployment of cloud resources for disaster recovery in an AWS environment. It was an ideal opportunity for Effectual to architect and secure an optimized solution at scale.

Social Media App Migration to AWS

Social Media App Migration to AWS

Transforming an existing legacy environment and building it natively on AWS.

A leading social media company’s apps explore the humanness of people instead of simply quantifying how good they are, or judging how professional their work may be. Users can upload their work directly to their platform, using it to edit photos, with enhancements – including white-balancing, filters and journaling – readily available. One user documented his mother’s fight with cancer, displaying the emotions he and his family felt during a very trying time.

In 2015, the company acquired a platform that creates tangible photo books, prints and gifts for digital photos. The platform was using a non-native environment and didn’t believe it was the right strategic technology in the long term. The combined companies have more than 30 million monthly active users across its platform consuming 5 billion images. Reliable infrastructure users can depend on is essential. The company wanted to work with experts who to help them transform their existing legacy environment and build it cloud natively on AWS.

30 million monthly active users consuming 5 billion images

Reliable infrastructure users can depend on is essential. The company wanted to work with experts who to help them transform their existing non-native environment and build it cloud natively on AWS.

The companies DevOps team is very capable – they had significant experience with Chef, using it to configure their servers and developer machines –  but the transformation to AWS required resources the team just didn’t have.

The transformation to AWS required resources the company’s team just didn’t have.

30 million monthly active users consuming 5 billion images.

Reliable infrastructure users can depend on is essential. The company wanted to work with experts who to help them transform their existing non-native environment and build it cloud natively on AWS.

The Solution

Since migrating to AWS, the company has seen great benefits: “Operationally, AWS is faster and more configurable than what was being used,” said the VP of Engineering at the company. “The new environment is faster, more reliable, and cost efficient. All three are pretty important things!”

Most  importantly, this solution had a big impact on the stability of the company’s platform and by extension, it’s brand. Previously, the platform had experienced random reboots on several occasions. The successful transition to AWS allowed them to have confidence going into the holiday season, their most important quarter of the year.  Confidence in the reliability and performance of their platform allowed the company to focus on maintaining a great experience for their user community.

“The experts had both the attitude and the aptitude, and I feel as comfortable as I possibly could in having AWS as the long-term foundation for our infrastructure.”

Bring in the Experts

With the support of our experts the company was able to seamlessly migrate from its existing environment to AWS. From the start, the company was impressed with our experts knowledge and expertise. “They inspired a lot of confidence, and their team clearly had the technological expertise,” said the VP of Engineering. “We knew they could get the job done.”

Our experts leveraged their extensive experience with Vagrant and Packer to build a strong foundation for the company’s cloud native environment.  This enabled the company to emulate the user experience of their members. The insights they gained helped them improve their product, streamline their operations and deliver an optimized user experience.

“Technology expertise is the number one thing we look for when hiring an outside firm,” said the VP of Engineering. “The experts had both the attitude and the aptitude, and I feel as comfortable as I possibly could in having AWS as the long-term foundation for our infrastructure.”