Jarred Clayton, EROADShifting to public cloud has let road services and charging company EROAD save money by avoiding over investment in infrastructure and scaling compute nodes up and down depending on the time of day.
The company -- which designed, implemented and operates the world's first network-wide autonomous GNSS/cellular tolling system -- uses as much cloud as possible, says its engineering manager, Jarred Clayton.
EROAD's services include GPS tracking, driver behaviour, service and EZ message modules and business analytics.
Clayton has been with EROAD since its founding six years ago. He now leads the team responsible for the architectural design, integration, Web services, database, and payment architecture.
Initially a traditional approach to IT infrastructure suited the business, but as EROAD moved from being a start-up to a growth company -- in 2012 it was Australasia's fastest growing technology company in the Deloitte Technology Fast500 Asia Pacific with over a hundred employees -- the company reviewed its ICT infrastructure, Clayton explains.
The organisation did not want to buy servers and throw them away after a year: "That is a big distraction, and you have to justify the procurement," Clayton says.
EROAD moved its IT production infrastructure to Amazon Web Services. The AWS public cloud means EROAD can build new environments in minutes across multiple regions and availability zones.
"We were constantly adding volume and scaling," Clayton says; traditionally this would involve buying more hardware. "It is really cumbersome and difficult to 'right size' for a point in time so you can't get an efficient use of your money because you over invest for the next 12 months. Then you end up throwing that gear away and over invest again."
Cloud infrastructure means EROAD can continually scale based on requirements that change throughout the course of the year or even a day.
Clayton explains EROAD's business is typically 6am-6pm, and the system can add compute nodes during the day as required, and then take them away at night when they are not used.
The end of the month is a high activity period for EROAD, so it can "seamlessly" add capacity. "The customers don't realise it is a high activity period, so we can improve the quality of service at the right cost," Clayton says.
Another big driver to the cloud was the ability to stage environments on demand: "It is something you can't do with a traditional environment because it is very expensive and often the gear is just sitting there doing nothing."
Clayton adds that moving to the cloud has allowed EROAD to have a global infrastructure network.
"I do not need to employ someone in North America to look after the infrastructure for the market. I can have everyone centrally located here as a team."
Moving to cloud services also allowed EROAD to automate the work across multiple regions. For those looking to move to the cloud, going down the automation path is critical, he says. For instance, if he wants a particular middleware, he can automatically build it up and not have someone spend a couple of hours to do it.
A conservative beginning
When EROAD moved to Amazon, Clayton says it took a fairly conservative approach, using infrastructure-as-a-service and not taking on platform-as-a-service. That way, the company could easily transition away if necessary.
Amazon had been on EROAD's radar for two years before the company started using its cloud services. EROAD had viewed it as an "online shopping cart," and not so much in the enterprise business. That perception changed 18 months ago, when it provided services that addressed EROAD's concerns.
Amazon has provided EROAD with an account manager and a group of architects to help the company make the most of AWS.
Clayton says EROAD is also using Amazon's data-warehouse-as-a-service offering, Redshift.
Redshift allows EROAD to put a data warehouse together in a matter of days whereas some companies might take years to build a scalable data warehouse, he says.
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"Everyone knows analytics is going to be big but you want to do it as low cost as possible; that space allows us to do that," Clayton adds.
EROAD's use of cloud is not confined to AWS, he says. For instance, the company has been on Google Apps from day one. EROAD uses Salesforce for call centre and CRM, and a cloud-based financial system.
Integrating these systems is vital, Clayton says. As well, he says, "We always build something so we can always swap it out if we have to."
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