TekStream Uses AWS Technology to Move Georgia Department of Public Health GRITS Application to the Cloud 

Business Challenge 

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) has utilized a long-standing on-premise, shared datacenter for its applications and IT infrastructure which had required the agency to commit to servers and services to meet anticipated demands without having the ability to scale based on actual utilization. This practice meant that DPH had to predict what peak loads would be and commit to server configurations to meet those expectations which led to having to budget infrastructure cost based on those expectations rather than actual utilization.  In addition, infrastructure utilization expectations were established before the onset of the COVID pandemic.  At the onset of the pandemic,  Georgia Registry of Immunization Transaction Services (GRITS), had its focus expanded to support COVID data which was collected and managed in the system. DPH experienced several instances of the system crashing due to the large amount of data being processed, relative to the fixed infrastructure capacity, during the pandemic which negatively impacted the system’s reporting capabilities and public-facing dashboards.

Key Pain Points 

To overcome the challenges that DPH had been facing with on-premise management, cost, and difficulty to scale to meet un-anticipated events, DPH adopted a mission to move critical servers to the cloud to gain the following objectives:

  • The ability to adjust infrastructure resources as demand on the system increased or decreased –  providing the added benefit of reducing technology costs by moving away from fixed assets.
  • Provide faster response times for new infrastructure requests, incidents, and resolutions.
  • Provide more robust business continuity and disaster recovery capabilities over the legacy on-premise environments.

How We Fixed It 

TekStream worked with the Georgia DPH and its application vendor to review the GRITS application’s infrastructure, security, and operational requirements to devise a migration plan allowing DPH to safely and efficiently move the GRITS platform to Amazon Web Services (AWS).  Working with DPH’s IT staff and the application vendor’s developers, the GRITS application has been moved into AWS.  This move allowed for right-sizing the support architecture for standard operational requirements while taking advantage of AWS cloud services such as Application Load Balancers and Auto Scaling to support increased demand on an as-needed basis.  This had an additional benefit of allowing GTA to only pay for the capacity they need at any given time without having to pay for peak capacity perpetually.  As part of the project, TekStream worked with DPH to:

  • TekStream initiated the project with Quickstream and engaged DPH and application vendor team resources to analyze existing pain points and opportunities for modernization.  A review of the 6 R’s of Cloud migration strategies were discussed and compared to customer priorities.
  • After the high-level design, priorities were identified as speed and cost as the most important.
  • With this feedback, TekStream took a re-platforming approach, with Modernization to be considered for a future phase.
  • Re-platforming consisted of using MGN for application and webtier servers and a move of Oracle Databases to RDS using Datapump.
  • During the project, DPH brought on Cloud architects experienced with other DPH AWS implementations, so TekStream worked side by side coaching and reviewing CloudFormation configurations.  Allowing them to build on AWS skills while working within a safe environment.
  • TekStream’s focus was working with AMS Advanced to clone copies of existing Web and App servers with AWS Migration service (MGN) and working through the AMS Advanced WIGS ingestion process and also TekStream DBA’s worked with DPH DBA’s to migrate on-premise data to AWS Oracle RDS.
  • With the MGN migration, the vendor application team was able to do minimal modifications to a familiar JBOSS application and web tier environment.
  • The AMS Advanced WIGS ingestion process was automated to prep the machines to be AMS Advanced hardened and certified so for max security and for patching automation.  AMI’s were created from an intermediary tools account and shared along with EBS volumes to application accounts where they were launched alongside VPC and other infrastructure components using CloudFormation.

Key Successes  

As a result of migrating the GRITS Application services to AWS, DPH has been able to decommission their existing on-premise environment while gaining the ability to auto-scale workloads as needs change while reducing infrastructure cost accordingly. In addition, DPH was able to take advantage of the AWS Migration Acceleration Program (MAP) to offest implementation fees.  The Map program allotted a savings of 30% (over $50,000) of the implementation costs to DPH for the GRITS project. 

Other benefits of the migration and modernization to AWS include: 

  • Creation of a more highly available and resilient infrastructure for the workloads
  • Replaced existing Web Infrastructure tier with AWS CloudFront/WAF with Elastic Load Balancing providing more performant and secure access to the GRITS applications 
  • Provide a more efficient and sustainable backup and recovery strategy for GRITS databases and application servers 

Technology Involved 

  • AWS Elastic Load Balancer
  • AWS S3
  • AWS Migration Services (MGN) – for application server migrations
  • AWS EC2
  • AWS RDS for Oracle