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Thorogood’s move to the cloud with AWS

Case study by Paul Taylor

Given the pace of evolution in cloud technologies, firms are finding it increasingly attractive to migrate their on-premises solutions to the cloud. Prior to the cloud and as-a-service offerings, keeping up with the latest technologies required considerable capital investment and maintenance efforts.

It also meant slower adoption of new technologies, features, and software versions. At Thorogood, this precise conundrum was a significant driver behind the recent decision to move our internal business management tool from an on-premises server to a new home in the Amazon cloud. Our experience before, during and after the migration matches that of all of our clients who have made similar transitions: with an appropriate amount of planning and expertise and the right cloud provider, companies can seamlessly move away from the world of on-premises solutions and reap the significant benefits the cloud provides.

A better future for MIPS

As is the case with most of our clients, a high-performance business management tool plays a critical function in the conduct of business at Thorogood. Known familiarly to our consultants as MIPS, the Management Information and Planning System is a tool that serves a number of vital functions in the Thorogood planning process and plays an integral role in the tracking, reporting and planning of consulting time and project revenue. Consultants use the tool to plan and track the hours that they log on client projects, as well as any expenses that they incur. They use it to coordinate their availability by tracking the bookings they have on their schedule for obligations that range from external client projects to internal meetings, sales and marketing activity, and holidays. Our executive team utilizes its robust reporting function to monitor a range of revenue and performance benchmarks, including a weekly measure of income expectations that features prominently in planning meetings.

Given the vital role that it plays, the maintenance and upkeep of MIPS and its underlying architecture is inextricably linked to Thorogood’s ability to monitor its own performance. The MIPS solution resided in an on-premise end to end Microsoft architecture, utilizing tools like SQL Server, Analysis Services, and Reporting Services.  As the warranty on the original platform’s Bangalore-based server neared its expiration and the benefits of the cloud became more alluring, Thorogood began to consider the value of migrating. While the existing setup had largely served our needs well, MIPS was not without its headaches. The reliance of a single geographic internal data centre limited redundancy and functional availability. High usage volume could slow performance. For the most part, downtime was limited, but even the occasional outage could create significant disruption if it occurred during a key moment in the weekly or monthly planning, reporting or invoicing process.

While any move away from an on-premises setup necessitates the sacrifice of some degree of autonomy, that also means a reduction in the demands and stress placed upon a company’s internal infrastructure management team. In Amazon Web Services, Thorogood knew it would have a proven and trustworthy provider, whose server performance could only be matched on premise with significant capital expenditure, not to mention recurring maintenance and support costs. The time was right to move to the cloud.

The Three Pillars of Information Security

Despite having an Azure infrastructure and Office 365 services in place, we ultimately settled on AWS for two reasons. First, AWS offered cost options catering to usage and commitment needs that were better suited to our situation. Second, we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to better inform our future work with clients who hoped to run Microsoft workloads in AWS environments.

Key to the success of any migration is a planning process built on the three pillars of information security: confidentiality, integrity, and availability. In our case, preserving availability meant utilizing transit gateways to connect our on-premises networks to the AWS network, with the potential to connect to different networks across multiple AWS accounts. Furthermore, we defined multiple VPN’s from same source to same destination that would serve as back-ups in case one failed. The result was a seamless, stress-free migration that had MIPS up and running in its new home in a relatively short period of time.

A Better System with Unforeseen Benefits

The new MIPS setup has proven to be more conducive to our needs as a company. Instead of worrying about server upkeep, our infrastructure team can now devote more time and energy to direct business concerns. While critical services still need to be monitored, that would have been the case even if the platform remained on site.

MIPS’ new home in the cloud will better enable it to adapt to business growth. One of the big draws of the AWS cloud was the way in which it expands its capacity as resources are consumed. Just as significant is the ability for MIPS adapt with a changing software and business environment. Moving forward, we will change the path using the .net web application for the front end to the latest in the web application market. Infrastructure as a service will also be moving to a platform as a service (SSIS, SSRS, SSAS.) MIPS 2.0 will also better integrate with AWS services/API gateways. Meanwhile, the new environment has resulted in a noticeable increase in processing speed, despite the lower processor setting of the new platform.

In short, the migration from on-premises to the AWS cloud has resulted in a faster, less stressful, more robust tool that is better situated to handle user needs.

Find out more

Contact Paul Taylor. Paul is a Principal BI & Analytics Consultant and a member of Thorogood’s Global Executive Team.