AWS Government, Education, & Nonprofits Blog

Cancer Research UK finds freedom and culture change with AWS and the cloud

Cancer Research UK logoAs nonprofits work toward their missions, resource efficiency is top of mind, so that as much of their budget as possible is dedicated to achieving their mission. Working with limited budgets, nonprofits and charities use the cloud to help them remain lean, scale their missions, and address their skills gaps.

Cancer Research UK (CRUK) is the world’s largest independent cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through cancer research. Their vision is to accelerate the day when all cancers are cured, from the most common to the rarest types. In 2014, CRUK migrated to Amazon Web Services (AWS) due to limitations with their managed hosting provider, along with an increase in demand for the charity’s digital platforms. This enhanced CRUK’s ability to use technology in a secure and governed environment that is highly resilient and underpinned by recognized industry standards and processes.

Today, five years later, CRUK and AWS are focused on delivering long-term outcomes through transparency, technology optimization, and innovation. By working together, CRUK and AWS address existing technical deficiencies and speed up deployment cycles to foster innovation throughout the charity.

Transparent, collaborative, and iterative

Working together means understanding objectives and working within existing pressures. To do this, both AWS and CRUK are transparent about priorities, knowing what can wait, and how different priorities may impact an outcome. Collaboration is crucial to long-term success. There are many ways to architect solutions using AWS, and the collaborative relationship allows for suggestions, best practices, and constructive technical challenges. This comes from long-term thinking – not focus on achieving a single solution outcome.

Throughout their cloud journey, Cancer Research UK’s use of AWS continues to evolve, further extending the use of a microservices-based architecture, utilising AWS services such as AWS Fargate, AWS Lambda, Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS), and Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS).

Experimenting in the cloud with CRUK allows the flexibility to work with more than one solution or software-as-a-service provider. CRUK leverages AWS Professional Services for patterns and principles from the AWS Cloud Adoption Framework with consultants leading workshops and pilots that help to accelerate their cloud strategy.

AWS fosters CRUK innovation and mitigates against vendor lock-in

Three reasons why CRUK finds freedom in the cloud:

No long-term commitments: CRUK can adopt the cloud on their own terms. AWS is designed so CRUK only uses the services when they see value, and are free to use the technology of their choice. Pay-as-you-go pricing provides the ability to shut down environments, export CRUK data and close virtual machines (VMs), and walk away without ever incurring another expense.

CRUK choice: Technology choice is at the forefront of AWS’s customer-driven innovation cycle. CRUK has alternatives to proprietary tools with advances in open source software technologies, along with a range of “as-a-service” capabilities that can remake traditional IT. A wide range of solutions that support industry standards allow CRUK to choose what they want to invest in and architect for application portability from the start.

Moving into and out of AWS: AWS services are built to support both migration into and out of AWS, and AWS provides many tools and documented techniques to make it easy to do both. AWS cloud services are built on numerous open standards like SQL, Linux, and Xen. This flexible foundation allows CRUK to securely move information in and out of the cloud, regardless of where that information is going, whether cloud-to-cloud or cloud-to-data center.

Given AWS’s commitment to open standards, interoperability, and portability, AWS reduces or eliminates the dynamics of traditional vendor lock-in for CRUK.

“The fact that we are not locked into AWS, and AWS is not pushing for us to be locked in, is key for us when buying technologies,” says Sara Fontanive, Senior Category Manager, Procurement at Cancer Research UK. “What is valuable to us is our partnership with AWS. It goes beyond the traditional transactional customer-supplier relationship. Our teams have senior strategic alignment, access to key decision makers and AWS helps us to upskill and develop our CRUK talent. The transparency and openness of our conversations are very refreshing and earns trust for the long term.”

With this freedom in the cloud, CRUK is now empowered to unlock even more innovation. As they look to the next five years, the focus remains on making the best use of their funds and continuing to carry out world-class research to help cure cancer.

Whether your mission is to cure cancer or save the rainforest, we want to help. Learn more about getting started on AWS, and about busting the myth of vendor lock-in.