Creating a environment for digital services - with AWS hybrid cloud
Bristol City Council is one of the top ten unitary authorities by size in the UK, with approximately 7,000 employees delivering public services to around 440,000 people.
Eduserv has been working with Bristol City Council since January 2014 on a variety of different projects that are helping them adopt cloud technology to support business transformation.
Bristol City Council is committed to building better online services for its citizens. To do this it recognised that they needed to host its website in a more flexible and scalable environment than was available from their previous hosting partner. The Council chose Amazon Web Services (AWS) as a replacement, allowing it to adopt more agile approaches to the delivery and development of the website and ensure scalability to cope with peaks in demand (e.g. 'snow days' where large numbers of people need rapid access to information about school closures, travel information and emergency services).
However, some services are required to remain in-house, for information assurance or data sovereignty reasons, so secure connectivity between AWS and services hosted on its on-premise enterprise service bus (ESB) was also required.
Eduserv has worked with Central and Local Government for many years, as a Managed Cloud and Managed Infrastructure as a Service supplier, and understands the environments and business challenges faced by Government Departments and Local Authorities.
Using the strong and established relationships between Bristol City Council and Eduserv, the Council drew on Eduserv’s AWS knowledge and deployment expertise to design and deliver an effective and efficient IT solution to meet the Council’s objectives.
“Working closely with the Council and our development partner, Eduserv has implemented a multi-tier AWS architecture for the Council's digital services platform.” Tracy Dodds, Digital Services Manager, Bristol City Council.
Eduserv worked with the Council to design a resilient tiered architecture, with load balancing across multiple AWS Availability Zones (AZs) at each tier. The solution adopted ‘infrastructure as code’ approaches throughout (using AWS CloudFormation), allowing Eduserv to rapidly deploy a range of dev/test environments whilst using standard code-management tools (e.g. GitHub) to manage revisions. “The solution supports our drive towards a DevOps approach to software development and deployment”, added Tracy Dodds. Eduserv worked closely with the Council’s DevOps team to share responsibility for these deployments.
An AWS Virtual Private Network provides integration with back-end services via a Bristol City Council-managed firewall and its in-house enterprise service bus. All changes to the AWS infrastructure are managed through existing Council change control processes. AWS security best practices have been followed throughout, and the entire solution was subjected to external penetration testing from a 3rd party security organisation.
As part of a wider engagement, we provide a fully-managed infrastructure environment to Bristol City Council which sees their digital platform hosted on AWS whilst pulling in information from a range of sources including their own data centre, Eduserv colocation and third-party services.
“The platform is designed to be highly scalable and resilient, is deployed across multiple zones, and also delivers hybrid connectivity into BCC's on-premise infrastructure. This capability enables the digital services platform to interact with data held within the Council's datacentre.
Eduserv was able to utilise the automation capabilities of AWS to deliver a repeatable, scalable solution, with the project taking just three months to go from the initial proof of concept into live service”, concluded Tracy Dodds.
The work has resulted in a more flexible, scalable and resilient website for Bristol City Council. It has allowed the Council to build up an in-house DevOps team, working closely with Eduserv and the Council’s existing CMS partner to ensure continuity of service during the transition whilst still retaining secure connectivity to back-end services.
The Council is now much more agile when developing online services, and was winner of the “Best Use of Agile in the Public Sector 2015” at the Agile Awards. Using AWS, Eduserv is able to spin-up an exact copy of the Council’s digital platform in less than 20 minutes. The Council, and its partners, can develop and test on this environment before deploying it to the live service. When they are finished they can take down the test environment – only paying for what they use.
Since launch, the live website has received 100% uptime. To ensure it can cope for peaks in demand Eduserv successfully stress-tested the environment to cope with more than 1,000 requests per second. Eduserv use a range of standard AWS services to monitor website and infrastructure performance and availability.