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.

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




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.

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.

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.

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.