Quick Take

Following years of rapid growth, Schoolblazer was in need of modernisation to both infrastructure and operations. We helped the technology team to adopt containers and DevOps best practices, meaning less time managing infrastructure and more time developing new product features.

What We Did

  • Cloud readiness assessment
  • Continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) platform implementation
  • Containerisation of applications
  • AWS infrastructure cost optimisation

The Challenge

As an online retailer, Schoolblazer sought our help for an e-commerce platform migration project. Previously, the Schoolblazer team were running their platform on a hybrid environment consisting of on-premise CRM and a cloud based payments provider. The environment was expensive and extremely hard to maintain, it also did not allow for elasticity, flexibility and was not fault tolerant. New deployments and upgrades would take hours, complicated migration scripts and the inability to test merged changes made recovery an operational nightmare.

The biggest challenge for the Schoolblazer team was related to increased demand based upon seasonal buying cycles of their customers, they needed an experienced partner to work with the team to build a next generation platform.

The Solution

We therefore performed a full AWS well architectured assessment to gain a deeper understanding of the Schoolblazer architecture and development practices. To stay competitive and maintain their status as an industry leader, Schoolblazer needed to alter their existing testing environment to support their plans for moving all of their containerised workloads into AWS. The E-commerce platform was re-architectured using containers, cloud-native tooling and DevOps ways of working to maximise business agility. Using agile delivery, we worked closely with the team to develop a CI-CD containerised architecture which replaced their current OpsWorks managed deployment stack. AWS Fargate was used to minimise the operational and management requirements of the platform, while reducing cost.

The OSO DevOps team comprised a broad range of specialist skills including consulting, database and testing automation expertise as well as deep AWS technical competency and experience. Our cross-functional team was critical to meeting the needs of engagement and pushing the boundaries of traditional software delivery inside the business.

We then built and implemented AWS foundational components including VPC setup, application load balancing setup and configuration, security group configuration, and configuring logging and auditing. Schoolblazer now has a production-ready Cloud platform that can be leveraged to launch new feature requests at pace and scale.

Cloud services & technologies leveraged:

  • GitHub – SCM used as the code repository with commit hooks to trigger builds.
  • Amazon CodeBuild – Created an AMI build process to harden the underlying OS and install applications using Ansible playbooks.
  • Amazon System Manager - Used for EC2 session management and securing sensitive information with AWS ParameterStore.
  • Amazon S3 – Store static content including images, stylesheets, artefacts, and configuration.
  • Amazon CloudFormation – Used to automate the infrastructure including VPC definitions and separate definitions for the application and the Serverless RDS data tier.
  • Amazon ALB & Fargate – Application infrastructure scaling by utilising Application Load Balancing to the ECS Fargate service.
  • Amazon IAM – Access control of users across accounts and environments; Use of IAM Roles to limit the use of access keys in implementations.
  • Amazon RDS – Using the Aurora Serverless RDS capability to host a database when required.

The Business Outcome

Schoolblazer recognized several benefits following the successful migration to a containerised architecture and implementation of OSO DevOps’s AWS and DevOps strategies. Schoolblazer now has the ability to launch their entire infrastructure and application deployments at the push of a button. Their environments are repeatable and auditable. Scalability has also been achieved, harnessing the power of containers with scaling policies combined with infrastructure automation tooling, Schoolblazer can roll out new environments to quickly test new features. We followed our usual dual delivery and upskill model, working with Schoolblazer to enhance internal capabilities and knowledge around DevOps on the platform, while delivering an enterprise grade solution.

Schoolblazer was prepared for the most recent new academic year and was confident in supporting promotions during peak holiday periods. Some examples of immediate and tangible benefits for Schoolblazer include:

  • Traditional timeframes and SLAs for managing and executing IT change across a business have been challenged and myths about “why everything must take so long” have been dispelled.
  • The new AWS environment was able to deliver a 200% increase in performance across the platform.
  • Significant knowledge transfer and competency uplift across development and operational teams.
  • Measurable technical debt has already been retired and a new can do attitude has emerged.
  • Legacy ways of working and traditional ways of hosting IT applications have been demonstrated to be inefficient.

With our help, Schoolblazer has the ability to continuously innovate without any limits, its estimated they are able to save £80,000 per year in infrastructure costs as a result of the move to AWS and the guidance from our team.

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