Rapid Migration of Enterprise Business Applications to AWS at OFX

Executive Summary

Facing two significant international events, Brexit and the U.S. election, both of which were expected to drive a significant increase in traffic to their foreign exchange and payments platforms, OFX engaged Sourced to mitigate these events by migrating production platforms from their traditional data centre environment to the AWS Cloud. Sourced began by implementing a lightweight deployment framework that enabled OFX to deliver environments and applications in a controlled, standardised and repeatable manner. This was followed by a modern blue/green deployment approach for the platform migration, ensuring an easy roll-back should the migration fail. However, the migration was a success and during the Brexit vote, OFX was one of the few currency sites that remained up and running. The site also operated smoothly during the U.S. election despite a significant spike in traffic.

About

OFX is an Australian online foreign exchange and payments organisation targeting consumer and medium-sized business foreign exchange by providing competitive rates compared to traditional banks. OFX handles approximately $20 billion per year in transactions with a strong presence in Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States and countries in Europe and the Asia Pacific.

The Challenge

OFX hosted their applications in a traditional data centre which imposed limitations on their ability to scale on-demand, an issue that became increasingly important with Brexit and the US election looming ahead and promising to drive an unprecedented amount of traffic to the business.

The physical nature of the infrastructure also resulted in non-production environments inaccurately simulating the production environment. This left the operations teams struggling with the amount of effort required for each release of their main business application dealing with and rectifying outages as they occurred while developer velocity was hampered due to the lack of confidence in delivering change.

Other constraints included having limited internal resources to manage the environments and a Content Management System (CMS) platform that was unable to deliver key capabilities.

The Sourced Solution

Leveraging prior experience in the financial services sector, Sourced Group, in close collaboration with OFX’s Operations team, first implemented a lightweight deployment framework that enabled OFX to deliver environments and applications in a controlled, standardised and repeatable manner. The blended team then planned and carried out a migration of OFX’s production environments from their traditional hosting platform onto Amazon Web Services (AWS); this included the OFX Database, the suite of Windows-based API Services Business Service Layer (BSL) and auxiliary applications.

A key component to OFX’s transformation journey was the data migration from an on-premise database to Amazon RDS. This migration required a 12-hour outage and included an upgrade from SQL Server 2008 Enterprise to SQL Server 2012 Standard Edition.

In order to allow the business to extensively test the new Production AWS environment prior to migration, a blue/green deployment approach was adopted for the entire migration with the environment and application teams adopting release control services, such as DNS. This ensured that none of the existing infrastructure architecture was impacted, hence allowing for an easy roll-back procedure should the migration fail by simply removing the ‘Sorry’ page and moving the database out of read mode.

The Benefits

During Brexit, some OFX components were hosted on AWS to offload pageview requests on their public site. This allowed OFX to handle the increased traffic from the event, but not with a high degree of confidence. OFX was one of the few currency sites that remained available during the Brexit event, out of the top 10 web results for “currency converter”.

Further investment post-Brexit in moving to AWS meant that during the US election, the majority of OFX components were on AWS, apart from a few legacy applications which were due to be decommissioned/replaced. By taking advantage of the scaling abilities of AWS, the operations team was simply watching the graphs during the US Election event, despite a large increase in web traffic.

Post-migration testing of the AWS environment indicated that OFX is now able to serve 120 times the load experienced during Brexit, a load that almost brought their traditional hosting provider down.

Brent Harrison is a Senior Consultant in Sourced Group's Sydney consulting practice. Joining the group in 2014 after leaving the science industry, Brent enjoys helping customers solve complex problems in novel and inventive manners.

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