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 Effectual 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, Effectual 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 Effectual’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, Effectual 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 Effectual, 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.


Effectual 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 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. As a cloud-first, security-first Modernization Service Provider, Effectual provided 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 a trusted advisor, Effectual’s overall goal 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




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.


 

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.

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.

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 CloudTrail the 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.

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.

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.

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.”