Why F1 Solutions
OmniStar is an industry leading, best practice, cloud-based grants, ethics and research management platform. It automates administration processes, soothes pain points and develops new insight and potent processes in organisations that make or receive grants, conduct or support research, or have an ethics focus.
OmniStar is a purpose built, state of the art, software-as-a-service platform incorporating the very latest principles, practices and standards for grants, ethics and research management. It has been developed over more than a decade of consultation with many of Australia’s leading research and grants institutions and now powers such institutions as the NHMRC
F1 Solutions had always invested heavily in servers and hardware to support its SaaS solution OmniStar. Over the years this investment continued to increase as the company and clientele expanded. The existing solution was operated from a Tier 1 data centre and achieved IRAP compliance that satisﬁed Australian Government security standards.
When the hardware was reaching an end of life milestone and its ability to satisfy requirements neared capacity, it was an opportune time to revisit the server, hardware and hosting strategy in relation to providing F1 Solutions’ SaaS and software development capabilities.
The challenge was to meet the following requirements of the solution:
• Adopt a scalable yet ﬂexible growth platform to meet the changing needs of the organisation and its rapidly growing customer base.
• 25,000 projects • 35,000 applications • 190,000 documents • 40,000 users
• Compatibility with ePPMS, RDS private cloud and other SaaS products. • Comply with ISM & ASD guidelines including data sovereignty, ensuring IRAP compliance is maintained. • Cost eﬃciency and, if possible, cost neutral with the current solution excluding any transition costs.
In considering a cloud platform, a review of AWS and Azure was performed. Both Microsoft and Amazon were engaged to discuss the platforms and the intended use case. Amazon architects performed a complete review of the designs, including a health check and best practice scorecard.
F1 Solutions ultimately determined AWS was the best choice to establish a long-term partnership based on multiple factors, including AWS being the industry-leading cloud services provider.
The design of the new AWS environment was carefully considered, with input from F1 Solutions AWS certiﬁed engineers and AWS architects. A considered decision was made to avoid a simple lift and shift and instead take advantage of the services the new cloud platform had to oﬀer. As a result, changes were made to the application and infrastructure that included use of S3 for storage, SES for sending email, integration with SNS and SQS, changes to the application release process to take advantage of blue/green style deployments, in addition to other changes to work with load balancing and publishing of web applications in AWS.
Application environments were deployed entirely using infrastructure-as-code, which allowed the replication of production environments identically, and rapidly for other environments such as development integration, test and user acceptance testing. Separate management and other environments were provisioned in a similar fashion where appropriate to house core services such as logging and authentication.
At a high level, the following activities were performed as a part of the project:
Complete provisioning of development, quality assurance, user acceptance testing, training and production environments using infrastructure-as-code
Integration of appropriate application components with AWS services, e.g. replacement of ﬁle shared- based storage with Amazon S3, replacement of managed SMTP servers with Amazon SES, use of Amazon SNS and SQS to integrate with third party systems, etc.
Implementation of auto scaling within AWS EC2 for dynamic web server scaling
Compliance and assessment of ISM guidelines via an independent IRAP assessor
Enhancements to the automated software deployment process
In a space of eight months from deciding to consider a new platform to cutting over all existing production services to AWS, F1 Solutions achieved signiﬁcant results, most notably, moving from a previously constrained environment to a web-scale environment. This enabled scalability, availability and disaster recovery at a level not previously possible.
The solution provided F1 Solutions with a number of beneﬁts including:
Faster scaling of applications to cope with spikes in application usage.
From user error to cyber attacks, threats facing OmniStar were mitigated as systems were secured, backed up and actively managed.
Greater return on investment by providing increased services and capabilities at the same cost as traditional datacentre hosting-based approach.
Increased compliance with ISM and ASD guidelines.
Reduced maintenance and administrative overhead.