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Responding to Shifting Markets with AWS

ECMC Group is a nonprofit corporation with a mission to help students succeed. Headquartered in Minneapolis, ECMC Group and its family of companies provide financial tools and services, nonprofit career education and funding for innovative programs to help students achieve their academic and professional goals.

The Situation

In 2015, ECMC Group made major investments in infrastructure and consolidated all their data centers into two colocation data centers. Built on DellEMC, Oracle, and VMware, these two data centers supported the entirety of their virtualization, Disaster Recovery, and active-active high availability workloads.

ECMC Group began researching alternatives ahead of the next data center refresh. Rather than continuing to invest in perpetual overhead and end-user licensing agreements, the organization decided to migrate to a more agile platform that could flex with changes in business demand. ECMC Group began to invest in AWS because they could right-size their environment with on-demand capacity, leverage relevant platform capabilities, and pivot in the future as needed.

AHEAD’s engagement with ECMC Group helped the non-profit to continue to fulfill its important financial academics mission with a solution that:

  • Saved them significant expense by avoiding a software renewal deadline
  • Helped them migrate over 520 servers and over 66 application workloads to AWS
  • Migrated their database workloads to the AWS RDS Service
  • Deployed AWS Workspaces (VDI) for 400+ users in support of the migration of ECMC Group’s two biggest revenue generating applications.

The Challenge

Initially, ECMC Group considered refactoring their core applications to leverage cloud-native features. With critical and significant software renewals approaching within the next six months, the organization decided to postpone application refactoring and accelerate their migration to AWS to avoid a significant software renewal fee.

ECMC’s Public Cloud Journey

Based on their long-standing relationship, ECMC Group turned to their trusted advisor, AHEAD, to augment the transformation, leveraging AHEAD’s technical expertise and history of data center migrations. After performing a Project and Technical Readiness Assessment, as well as evaluating replication tooling, AHEAD and ECMC Group determined that a “lift and shift” approach would be best, reserving application refactoring for a subsequent phase.

AHEAD helped ECMC Group decompose their complex integrated workloads into a sequenced migration plan with an identified critical path. The plan would move ECMC Group off Oracle Enterprise Edition licensing and onto AWS RDS Oracle Standard Edition.

In addition to the migration plan, AHEAD designed and deployed AWS WorkSpaces to replace VMware Horizon View for over 400 users. Amazon WorkSpaces served as the front end for users of their core applications. It had to be planned, tested, and have all the backend processes in sequence. Since this migration was mission critical, AHEAD and ECMC Group executed two end-to-end dry runs for validation before migrating production workloads.

“AHEAD was able to provide the technical expertise and a process methodology that were very beneficial and were willing to work side by side with us. This helped with knowledge transfer and bringing more discipline into our process.”

Rahoul Ghose, CIO, ECMC Group


ECMC Group fully migrated out of their colocation data centers and became fully hosted on AWS. This migration included over 520 servers and over 66 application workloads that are now in AWS. Additionally, the organization was able to migrate their database workloads to the AWS RDS Service.

ECMC Group was able to significantly reduce their annual IT budget while continuing to deliver the same level of performance, availability and reliability in their workloads.  In addition, they no longer need to make investments in data center equipment refresh that would have faced them down the road.  

Best of all, with capacity on demand, ECMC Group accelerated their market response time and positioned themselves to scale up or down as business needs change and respond with agility to shifting market needs.

What’s Next for ECMC

ECMC Group’s digital transformation has just begun. Phase 2 will focus on operational enhancements, becoming more efficient and optimized, and increasing speed and agility. By the end of 2019, the organization will be delivering digital business initiatives that will transform the market.

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