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.

 

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.

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

 

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.