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Building a Strategic Architecture with AWS

A leading private research university with campus locations worldwide wanted to provide the organization with better access to alumni data, so that individual departments could stay in touch and more readily communicate with their alumni.

The university’s alumni outreach team wanted expert advice and guidance on how to best use Amazon Web Services (AWS) to make their vision into a reality.  Which services made the most sense to use?  How could these services improve reliability?  Could security be increased, while costs were decreased?

A Proven Framework

With so many unknowns, the university turned to Vertical Trail as a partner who could not only be trusted to offer an objective viewpoint, but who also possessed the technical acumen to develop a fully functioning platform of integrated technologies and services.

“Vertical Trail’s experience both in AWS and DevOps positioned us as a great partner in the establishment of a foundational architecture,” says Matt Sweetnam, VP of Solutions Consulting.  “The university wanted a fully integrated DevOps environment in AWS to support the alumni outreach platform.”

As a technology partner, Vertical Trail was uniquely qualified to address this challenge by implementing:

  • A proven framework for – and deep experience with – building and deploying AWS and DevOps environments
  • Extensive experience with cloud and open source technologies
  • Strong alignment in efficient project management via agile technologies and methodology
  • In-depth knowledge of the business of IT
  • A tried and true ability to work with clients in building new operational processes and environments, and successfully transitioning these systems to the client’s personnel

To meet the client’s expected outcome of a fully integrated DevOps environment supporting their platform, Vertical Trail first facilitated workshops to gather the key business drivers behind – and technical details of – the university’s existing technology environment.

Comprehensive understanding of the university’s strategic goals was critical in defining a set of processes and technologies that would deliver on those objectives.

Vertical Trail’s Cloud and DevOps architects then validated and adjusted the university’s strategic architecture.

Perfectly Tailored Tools

In less than 12 weeks, Vertical Trail facilitated the construction of the new application development environments – and the operational processes that support them – employing a combination of technologies that included:

  • Git and Jenkins, for continuous integration and automation of a wide variety of development processes and procedures
  • Terraform, to define infrastructure as a service and build infrastructure on demand, and facilitate infrastructure as code
  • Native AWS services like AWS API GatewayLambda and Elastic Beanstalk, to support the application services (e.g., managing and deploying web application interfaces)
  • AWS Container Services (e.g., Docker), to componentize the software ecosystem
  • A “rolling deployment” process that allows implementation of new functionality without risk to the existing production environments

Options & Opportunities

With the new environment in place, the university began to see immediate benefits, including:

Access to a state-of-the-art development environment and deployment process that allows developers to quickly apply new production capabilities in days (rather than weeks or months)

Reduced infrastructure costs from pay-as-you-go provisioning, and the elastic compute capacity of AWS (which enables users to cut costs during off-hours, and ramp up capacity as needed during peak usage periods)

Over time, the university will also see numerous long-term benefits, including:

  • Continued reduced costs
  • Reduced risk via better SLAs in AWS
  • Increased agility in the development process
  • Increased quality of development

This client’s experience demonstrates the power of blending the flexible, affordable, and accessible services of a leading cloud provider with the opportunities provided by recent DevOps breakthroughs. It is now possible now to do more with less – and do it better than ever before.

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