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Playbk Sports provide their clients with a unique Learning Management System that is hosted on AWS. When initially launched, their solution quickly gained market traction, but as they became more successful, it became apparent that their infrastructure wasn’t performing as intended. They approached Fitzroy IT for help to address issues with Reliability, Performance and increasing Costs.

Fitzroy IT performed a well-architected review, undertook detailed software and configuration analysis, and performed load-testing to ascertain the root causes of the problems and then fix them.

The two companies have continued to work together in a long-term partnership that has been extremely beneficial, proving that continual improvement and ongoing maintenance can easily pay for itself.

Customer Challenge

Formerly known as Leaders of Evolution, Playbk Sports started their business with a basic WordPress set up and expanded and upgraded and reconfigured as business needs dictated. However, they quickly discovered that their infrastructure could not cope with the number of users that they were attracting. Attempts to fix the problem by their development team added additional services and cost, but did not alleviate the performance and reliability issues.

Fitzroy IT - The Perfect Partner

As an Advanced Consulting and Well-Architected Partner with a team of infrastructure experts and web developers, Fitzroy IT was perfectly placed to work with Playbk Sports to analyse, fix, test and maintain their infrastructure. Our experience in the education market, and in working with WordPress were also highly advantageous.

But the main reason that Playbk Sports chose to engage with Fitzroy IT was its friendly, dedicated and on-call staff, who were there at every step of the process.

Why AWS

The decision to choose AWS was based on Playbk Sport’s need to scale their services to a global audience and respond rapidly to changes in load.

AWS also support Playbk Sports through the EdStart program, providing benefits such as equity-free financial support through AWS Promotional Credit, technical training and support.

Solution

After being introduced to Playbk Sports, Fitzroy IT began by undertaking a Well-Architected Review of Playbk Sport’s environment. Well-Architected reviews provided an excellent way to understand a client’s expectations for their infrastructure, as well as determining how things have been set up.

The Well-Architected Review showed quite clearly that Playbk Sport’s infrastructure was not performing as intended. Numerous performance bottlenecks were identified, along with misconfigurations and unnecessary services. In the first instance Fitzroy IT undertook load-testing on the Playbk Sports Portal, using Apache jMeter and AWS ECS. This clearly identified issues with the auto-scaling configuration which were quickly remedied.

Once the auto-scaling was operating correctly, AWS Global Accelerator was identified as superfluous and was decommissioned, being replaced with AWS CloudFront.

While it may have been tempting for Playbk Sports to think enough had been done at this point, they saw the benefit in continuing the partnership to continuously monitor performance, reliability, security and ongoing costs. This continuous monitoring indicated that some downtime was still occuring and the judicious use of CloudWatch quickly isolated the issue as being related to the misconfiguration of EFS burst mode.

Monitoring also provided detailed performance-over-time numbers that allowed Fitzroy IT to confidently recommend a switch from the EC2 auto-scaling environment to a dockerised-setup utilising ECS, and fronted by WAF and CloudFront.

Results and Benefits

The changes made so far have dramatically improved all five pillars of Playbk Sport’s well-architected environment:


• Security: The use of CloudFront with WAF has significantly reduced the attack surface of Playbk Sport’s applications

• Cost Optimisation: The initial fixes to auto-scaling resulted in substantial cost-savings as EC2 instances were scaled in much faster than the previous setup. And the savings were further increased by switching to ECS, which saw Playbk Sport’s monthly spend decrease by 28%.

• Operational Excellence: The entire engagement with Playbk Sports has been an exercise in Operational Excellence - continuously monitoring, improving, making small changes, anticipating failures and learning from them. The establishment of development, staging and production ennvironments, the use of CloudWatch (dashboards, alarms and synthetics) and the use of EC2 and ECS templates are just some examples of the ways that Playbk Sports are making Operational Excellence part of the fabric of their operations.

• Reliability: The implementation of CloudFront and the deployment of appropriate auto-scaling settings, have had a huge impact on the reliability of Playbk Sport’s portal as it can now rapidly scale to meet demand, meaning failures due to overloading are a thing of the past.

• Performance: CloudFront and auto-scaling have also boosted the performance experienced by end-users, as there are always resources available to service requests.

Next Steps

As the changes made to date have more than paid for themselves, Playbk Sports are continuing to look for avenues of improvement. These include:


• Adopting reserved instances to realise even greater cost savings.

• Benchmarking their applications to look for bottlenecks at the code level.

Testimonials

As a start up business who have had to learn technology along the way, FIT have been a bedrock of consistency, support and knowledge as we have grown and exited our first business (Leaders of Evolution) and started up our second (Playbk Sports). Up until meeting the team at FIT we had struggled to find an IT partner that truly understood our business, the challenges of deploying online learning en masse and the sophistication it took to ensure safe and reliable delivery.


The team at FIT have lead our rebirth from a technology perspective, firstly by stabilising our environments and finding cost efficiencies, then by identifying performance enhancements. Their ability to develop infrastructure on AWS that scales with the load of the learning portals we manage has allowed us to worry less about technology and spend time focusing on growing our business and delivering for our clients.
After working with the team for the last two years we are most excited about what is to come next. With a very clear understanding of our business and the types of tools we can harness within the AWS product suite, our partnership with FIT will accelerate our business growth and allow us to develop new and innovative solutions that change the way people learn online.


Damian Hecker
Co-Founder
Playbk Sports

Playbk Sports Architecture Diagram