Developing a flexible, scalable and secure cloud hosting solution
In 2016 the Department for Education asked the ETF to additionally commission the delivery of online resources for learners to support the government’s Prevent strategy to counter radicalisation and extremism. To host these new resources, the ETF commissioned DCL to provide a cloud hosted solution that would host the new learner LMS and also the existing Foundation Online Learning systems. wanted to migrate its entire hosting infrastructure to the public cloud in order to offer more flexible hosting services to its clients.
The DCL team proposed that the Moodle platforms were consolidated into an existing ETF hosting Environment – this allowed the ETF team to take advantage of economies of scale and the existing High-
Availability design and infrastructure which had already been operating successfully for several years.
The Challenge: Migrating Education and Training Foundation to a new LMS Developing a flexible, scalable and secure cloud hosting solution The Education & Training Foundation (ETF) provides CPD for staff across the Further Education and training sector. Part of this support is provided through Foundation Online Learning, the ETF’s Learner Management System, LMS, for online staff training.
In 2016 the Department for Education asked the ETF to additionally commission the delivery of online resources for learners to support the government’s Prevent strategy to counter radicalisation and extremism. To host these new resources, the ETF commissioned DCL to provide a cloud hosted solution that would host the new learner LMS and also the existing Foundation Online Learning systems.
Peter Munday, Strategic Change Adviser at ETF said: “We needed our hosting solution to be a flexible, scalable service, able to cope with significant fluctuations in demand. This project, because of its very nature, is high profile and very sensitive. It’s important our client base is able to easily and securely review materials as it has a reputational risk to us when they can’t.
The reputational risk and trust in always being able to deliver were important factors for us. We feel confident from the outset we can always rely on Digital Craftsmen expertise and professionalism.”
One of the key initiatives for 2017 was to support the provision of these learner Prevent resources via https://www.etflearners.org.uk/, a site which provides learners in the FE sector with valuable and important access to training materials and information to help them stay safe online.
A hosting tender to consolidate the hosting into a secure environment was issued and companies were asked to pitch. Digital Craftsmen was awarded the contract after the tender response demonstrated the best services solution, system hosting and value for money. ETF knew Digital Craftsmen had the ability to deliver having worked with them previously and were confident any issues with migrating the different hosting solutions into one central place would be handled quickly and efficiently.
Bernadette Bourgoin, IT Services Manager at ETF also commented: “We needed the element of security, with the reassurance of and understanding security protocols are rigorously followed. Working with the Digital Craftsmen team, we can see they are following all the required IT controls, management and procedures. There’s a clear methodology in their work which is understood by all.”
The Digital Craftsmen Solution: The DCL team proposed that the Moodle platforms were consolidated into an existing ETF hosting Environment – this allowed the ETF team to take advantage of economies of scale and the existing HighAvailability design and infrastructure which had already been operating successfully for several years. The DCL team then split the project into several component parts
1. Testing system design, automation and auto-scaling
2. Migration of existing Moodle Websites into the existing ETF Hosting environment
3. Development and Launch of new Moodle website for Prevent initiative Migration
After the DCL team had successfully tested running the websites within a development environment, they were confident there would be no issues when migrating the websites to the ETF Hosting environment. Virtual Machines (VMs) use the AWS Elastic Load Balancer (ELB) service to monitor system health and deploy new VMs when required.
This trigger also notifies DCL Lambda functions to complete the deployment of a new VM (Notifications to the DCL team and adding the VM to monitoring automatically. The migration of the websites was co-ordinated by Ben Sanders from the DCL team with the involvement of all stakeholders. Good communication was key, combined with a well-documented plan and rollback options.
On the day of the migration, the websites were transferred and the existing ETF Moodle websites were deployed into the ETF hosting environment. This allowed the development team to focus solely on the next phase: Developing the new Moodle Prevent website. Development To facilitate testing for the migration and continued development of the Prevent website, the DCL team deployed ETF a temporary Development Environment entirely isolated from live systems. This was built and ready for use within the hour thanks to the DCL Automator tool which leverages the excellent AWS CloudFormation technology.
The DCL Automator provided a VPC with dual NAT, a VPN Server, Configuration Management server (Puppet) and allowed the DCL team to quickly deploy ELB’s, Webservers and Database components that closely matched the setup of live systems. Key features included with the DCL Automator tool include the ability to automate snapshots of instances on a schedule, power instances on\off for business hours (Saving up to 66% of AWS compute costs) and access to easily build new VMs using Puppet (Foreman).
All combined, the temporary ETF Development environment enabled ETF and their developers to get started very quickly, reduce expenditure on AWS costs in a secure and resilient environment. Once the ETF developers had finished and the newly developed website was launched, all stakeholders agreed the development environment would not be needed in the short term and it was entirely deleted to further reduce costs (Safe in the knowledge that DCL can build another Development Environment on-demand, using CloudFormation).