Migrating UK’s largest key holding company to AWS

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Written by Richard Kacerek April 17, 2017 | 4 minutes read

It has become obvious that Nexus National Security Network outgrown their current hosting infrastructure and solid long term plan was needed urgently

Nexus National Security Network is the UK’s largest outsourced key holding company that has been continuously growing. It has become apparent that Nexus has outgrown its current hosting infrastructure, and a long-term plan was desperately needed.

Empire Elements researched all the available technology options. Amazon Web Services was the best possible platform to build a cloud computing platform for unlimited future growth.

The migration

The case for AWS was strong. Powerful features, rock-solid reputation and relentless pace of innovation. We planned Nexus migration project carefully and split the process into several milestones. Continuously testing, deploying one feature at the time fully embracing DevOps principles and practices, while keeping existing customers on the live site and Nexus security business running.

AWS cloud architecture

DevOps team at Empire Elements created cloud architecture blueprint, listing all AWS services that Nexus will need. Amazon Cloud Storage S3, Elastic Compute Cloud EC2, Elastic Load Balancers, CloudFront, Lambda Functions, Simple Email Service were among the top services.

New production and development processes in place helped us to test each feature before deployment. Decoupling services then became a straightforward task with a realistic set of milestones.

Moving away from a monolithic environment to micro-services was a bit of a challenge and required innovative thinking to separate storage from computing and other services.

New production and development processes in place helped us to test each feature before deployment. Decoupling services then became a straightforward task with a realistic set of milestones.

Nexus Amazon Web Services Architecture

S3 storage

First and perhaps most important was the storage of the assets like images. Nexus web application needed to be modified to allow for this external storage to be used at all. The old version used local server storage only which is not possible to use when autoscaling.

AWS S3 storage offers virtually unlimited object storage that can scale to trillions of objects worldwide. The first problem with S3 - fast, scalable and reliable object storage was addressed. Nexus web application now encrypts the newly uploaded data from users by default, with separate lifespan policy with automatic archiving. The data is, therefore, never lost.

Autoscaling

Another fundamental problem to address was the horizontal scaling of the Nexus PHP CodeIgniter application. During the predicted and unpredicted traffic peaks, this was becoming a severe problem on the old platform. After evaluating several options, we chose Docker and AWS Load Balancer with Autoscaling Group using AWS Elastic Compute Cloud. Results are amazing as Marc Stanton says:

Since our migration to AWS, Nexus had 0% downtime. That’s just incredible!

Containers

Docker is a world’s leading software container platform and relatively new technology. The idea is that using Docker we build the application, it’s all dependencies and deliver it to any environment. Apart from controlling the application in detail, there is another inherited benefit. Production and Development pipelines are, therefore, both in-line, and Docker application can be tested in development as if it was a production. To put it, developing the web application further just got a lot easier.

Results

Amazon EC2 service has an auto-scaling setup. When the load hits a predefined threshold, a new unit is created and destroyed when not needed.

So far, we have implemented just three things and validated the reasons to move to AWS beyond a doubt. Scaling application is something that would be out of the reach for most businesses only five years ago. Now with the power of Amazon Web Services Nexus web application can expand.

Businesses are moving to AWS, the benefits are too attractive, features plentiful, pricing model affordable, and it allows companies to grow, rapidly!

2019 update

Over the past three years, Nexus achieved terrific results. Moving to AWS cloud computing platform enabled the team to reach business goals of 750,000 activities while keeping the web application downtime to zero and making the system stable and reliable.

In terms of the business, moving to AWS translates to substantial maintenance savings. Resources can be now adequately allocated to a growing company, and everything can be planned, instead of reacting to issues and trying to solve them. Nexus is currently in the process of planning significant system upgrades and working with Empire Elements firmly on scheduling milestones in achievable and transparent goals. Everyone in the team knows what is happening, why and what the business benefits are.

nexus website showing their dashboard


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