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Using Amazon Web Services at Bristol City Council

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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 the council to adopt cloud technology to support business transformation.

The challenge

Bristol City Council is committed to building better online services for its citizens. To do this it recognised it needed to host its website in a more flexible and scalable environment than was available from its previous hosting partner.

The Council chose Amazon Web Services 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 such as ‘snow days’ when large numbers of people need rapid access to information about school closures, travel 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 (a communication system between mutually interacting software applications) was also required.

Why Eduserv?

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.

The solution

“Working closely with the council and our development partner, Eduserv has implemented a multi-tier AWS architecture for the council’s digital services platform,” said Tracy Dodds, digital services manager at Bristol City Council.

Eduserv worked with the council to design a resilient, tiered architecture, with load-balancing across multiple AWS availability zones at each tier. The solution adopted ‘infrastructure as code’ approaches throughout, allowing Eduserv to rapidly deploy a range of development/test environments whilst using standard code-management tools to manage revisions.

An AWS virtual private network provides integration with back-end services via a 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 third party security organisation.

As part of a wider engagement, Eduserv provides a fully-managed infrastructure environment to Bristol City Council which sees the council’s digital platform hosted on AWS whilst pulling in information from a range of sources including its own data centre, Eduserv colocation and third-party services.

The benefits

“The platform is designed to be highly scalable and resilient, is deployed across multiple zones, and also delivers hybrid connectivity into Bristol’s on-premise infrastructure. This capability enables the digital services platform to interact with data held within the council’s datacentre,” said Ms Dodds.

“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.”

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 software development and IT operations 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 prize for Best Use of Agile in the Public Sector 2015 at the Agile Awards. Using AWS, Eduserv is able to create 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.

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