"Using AWS, we can implement security best practices that help our client keep student and staff information safe."
The colleges that make up the state community college system are served by a centralized information technology center. The center’s mandate is to support greater educational consistency, access, and efficiency across the entire organization while enabling students to seamlessly transfer from one institution to another using a single identity to access records and course data. To further these goals, the technology center engaged Infiniti Consulting Group to migrate its entire IT environment to Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Infiniti Consulting won the business in a competitive RFP process, and its partnership with AWS was a key factor in the decision. Although the technology center did not initially specify AWS as its platform of choice, it was clear to Infiniti’s technical specialists that AWS was the most appropriate destination given the college system’s requirements. Scott Drossos, president of Infiniti, says, “The fact that the technology center specified Linux as its preferred operating system immediately led us to believe that AWS was the right choice. Additionally, the sheer scale of the transformation the college system had in mind required a platform with the breadth and depth that only AWS can provide. Finally, security was a critical concern because the college system must protect the private data of students, faculty, and staff.”
The technology center concurred with the choice of AWS and, together with Infiniti Consulting cloud services experts, planned to migrate all applications and services from on-premises and hosted environments to AWS. This multiyear effort is currently underway, and several of the largest applications have already been migrated successfully. The services being moved range from an application portal that processes millions of student enrollments each year to a centralized enterprise resource planning environment that is used across colleges.
Infiniti uses a DevOps approach, managing the underlying platform and release schedule while working with the application development team at the technology center. “We provide migration planning, an integrated release schedule, bug fixes, and testing for very large software releases, and offer 24/7 support to manage the environment,” says John Gray, chief technology officer at Infiniti. Over the first 18 months, the Infiniti DevOps team successfully managed more than 70 software releases. It uses a range of leading open-source automation tools such as Jenkins, GitHub, Packer, and Chef to support the DevOps work and drive an efficient software development process.
The environment uses Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) and Elastic Load Balancing for the scalable computing necessary to meet the needs of the 114 institutions in the system. It also takes advantage of AWS CloudFormation and Docker containers to provide consistent deployments with minimal customization and a high degree of accuracy. Additionally, by adopting Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), the college system has achieved high availability and geo-redundant disaster recovery for its databases. The Infiniti DevOps team uses Amazon Elasticsearch Service, including Logstash and Kibana (collectively referred to as the “ELK stack”) to consolidate application log files generated from the application stack.
Using AWS, Infiniti has created a dynamic, scalable and efficient environment for the technology center to deliver all its applications to the more than 100 colleges it serves. AWS and Infiniti also help the colleges secure personally identifiable information for millions of individuals to meet stringent regulatory requirements. “We performed a security assessment of the entire environment and act as the college system’s IT security advisor,” says Gray. “Using AWS, we can implement security best practices that help our client keep student and staff information safe.” To do so, Infiniti uses AWS CloudTrail for governance, compliance, and operational and risk auditing of the college system’s AWS environment. It also takes advantage of highly secure, built-in encryption offered by AWS.
In addition to improving security, Infiniti’s solution architects and data scientists are using AWS to pursue advanced new scenarios on behalf of its client. For example, the company is combining the scalable infrastructure and machine learning tools available from AWS to help reduce application fraud in the college's application system. Submitted applications can be automatically scanned and suspect items flagged for further review. “Using AWS machine learning capabilities, we are building a solution that will protect the system’s online application process from fraudulent attempts, while saving the college system thousands of hours of valuable staff time annually,” says Drossos.
Infiniti is also helping the college create an analytics tool that will identify ways to improve the student experience by gleaning insights from millions of applications and surveys. The team has already seen results. For example, by looking at data from the enrollment process, Infiniti’s data scientists were able to identify elements of the application process that tended to reduce completion rates. Armed with this insight, the college could find better ways to obtain the state-mandated information it requires while delivering a student-friendly experience.
Ultimately, the community college system wants to use algorithms to recommend the best courses, professors, and activities for each student to drive course completion and the attainment of educational credentials. Infiniti is building these analytics capabilities based on AWS services, enabling the consultancy to rapidly experiment to find the right solutions for its customers without having to manage complex infrastructure and software.
It's all part of Infiniti’s long-standing mission to help public-sector clients deliver better services to citizens. Drossos says, “We are very proud to be partnering with a system that is educating millions of students, using the AWS platform to reduce unnecessary costs, enhance the educational experience, secure data, and free up time for technology staff to innovate.”
Today's public-education institutions must use technology effectively to improve the student experience while reducing waste and ensuring secure, seamless access to resources. Infiniti Consulting Group, an AWS Partner Network (APN) Advanced Consulting Partner understands the challenges these organizations face. For over a decade, the company has collaborated with state and local clients to help them overcome challenges, seize opportunities, and positively impact the people they serve by bringing the innovations of the private sector to the public sphere. It recently had the opportunity to do so with the largest community college system in the United States.