AWS Public Sector Blog

Georgia DHS establishes a cloud strategy through a multiyear modernization journey

Georgia’s Department of Human Services (DHS), the largest of the state’s agencies, was able to digitally transform their business and rapidly scale their Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud adoption with AWS Managed Services (AMS). The department used AMS to modernize legacy technology onto a hosted platform that meets rigorous security guidelines and adds reliability to an environment where speed and availability are critical. Their cloud platform has transformed the business and supported the Georgia citizen by providing a more seamless application process for critical services with highly available access to resources that offer support to all Georgians.

Georgia DHS developed an iterative cloud strategy that would allow them to think big, start small, and scale fast. At re:Invent 2022, Sreeji Vijayan, chief information officer of the Georgia DHS, spoke about the Georgia DHS’s migration journey with AWS. Read on for key takeaways from Georgia DHS’s migration experience with AWS, and watch the on-demand session to dive deeper.

Georgia DHS looks to the cloud to better deliver support services

Serving more than two million Georgians, the DHS’s mission is to strengthen Georgia by providing individuals and families access to services that promote self-sufficiency, independence, and protect Georgia’s vulnerable children and adults. Through each of its services and programs—like Integrated Eligibility Determination (Gateway), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), PeachCare for Kids, Child Support and Child Welfare— Georgia DHS strives to fulfill its vision of creating stronger families for a stronger Georgia.

To make it simpler for citizens to access these services, the state wanted to create a mobile application for residents and families to be able to view their benefits. However, initial state efforts to build a mobile application proved unsuccessful—they realized halfway through development of the application that they could not meet the go-live timeline using their proposed architecture. Acknowledging they were under a time crunch to meet the product launch date, they pivoted to a different approach where they could deliver the services within the expected timeline. DHS’s Assistant Deputy Commissioner of IT, Mohan Sundareswaran, stated “without the agility of cloud we would have never been able to change direction and still meet the launch deadlines.” The Georgia DHS quickly realized the speed and agility provided by AWS could support the Health and Human Services (HHS) programs in a way their existing legacy environment could not.

Georgia DHS used AMS for operational support of their AWS infrastructure environment, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) for their HHS compute, Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) to simplify database management, Amazon Pinpoint for citizen engagement-based services, and serverless/mobile applications to simplify support of their applications.

Georgia DHS’s migration experience produces key lessons

The Georgia DHS started their migration journey by establishing a strong collaboration with AWS Managed Services. The Georgia DHS began their migration journey in three repeatable steps, which provided key lessons for other organizations looking to make a similar migration:

1. Establish an AWS foundation

In 2020, the Georgia DHS began to plan and consolidate environments and selected AMS from AWS to provide the necessary cloud framework for migration. Tactically, the Georgia DHS established a multi-account landing zone (MALZ) environment for cloud management, the security guardrails required for DHS, and a change management plan. Security was paramount to making sure that the cloud environment and integrated application platform met stringent U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), Personal Idendifiable Information (PII), and IRS 1075 federal tax information (FTI) compliance requirements. The Georgia DHS was able to create a secure cloud environment in AMS that could meet all of their security, availability, and change management requirements.

The Georgia DHS learned that agencies and organizations need precise prior planning to be successful. “Make sure you plan and consolidate environments before you migrate,” said Sreeji Vijayan at re:Invent. In addition, Sreeji recommends gaining an independent point of view, like engaging a third-party auditor early in the planning process. And according to Mohan Sundareswaran, AMS was a “game changer” because it provided the necessary cloud framework for migration; plus, they could leverage cloud architects to assist their team throughout the cloud migration process.

2. Train internal staff and onboard cloud managed services team

Continuing in 2020, the Georgia DHS team and the AWS team, which consisted of AWS Professional Services (AWS ProServe) and the AMS team, came together to start training and onboarding Georgia DHS staff. The AMS team trained key stakeholders throughout the organization to make sure that security, finance, and technology teams learned how to set up a migration framework to the highest standards. The Georgia DHS also established a dedicated cloud managed services team to manage their migration progress over time. Quickly training and educating team members in cloud technology allowed the Georgia DHS to develop new skills and make sure that the cloud strategy could be technically managed over time.

3. Migrate applications

DHS started out small by migrating a few applications to AWS for the state’s SNAP and TANF program.  Then the agency advanced by developing automation for cloud management and migration approaches. During 2021 through 2022 they migrated the Integrated Eligibility system, called Gateway, document imaging system (DIS), and the Child Welfare System (SHINES). They learned it was important to create a specific window of time for migration, and to plan the production migration of applications over a long weekend to provide time for cut over activities and system validation. Cutover planning was very critical as enough time needed to be planned for post cut over validation of the application and the infrastructure.

Georgia DHS finds success in multi-year migration journey

The Georgia DHS’s new cloud-based platform helps the Georgia DHS provide citizen support in a way it has never done before. The Gateway system serves two million citizens daily, including Medicaid and several other human services programs. The hosting environment enables the speed and agility of application delivery to services that are vital to millions of Georgians. Since migrating these services to the cloud, the Georgia DHS has seen a 50% improvement in batch processing times, and an improvement in time required to scale applications by two times; and an improvement in recovery time objective (RTO) by 14 times. Additionally, 100,000 concurrent citizens were able to log in to the application in 15 minutes. These improvements help the Georgia DHS make sure that citizens have constant and seamless access to the services they need.

Georgia DHS looks to a new future in the cloud

Georgia DHS started small in their migration, but they are now moving to being all-in on AWS with their remaining applications. The next steps in the coming year will be to migrate their mainframe application from the data center to AWS, with server upgrades included as part of their nearly $60 million investment in AWS to support the stability and reliability of all state human services programs. Georgia DHS has built a repeatable architecture and operating model to manage some of the most sensitive applications in the State.

The Georgia DHS is only getting started in their modernization journey and have plans to migrate their legacy mainframe to AWS while continuing to migrate mission critical applications. They plan to use a microservices architecture to continue enhancing the citizen experience. Plus, to support the continued success of their migration and cloud-based platform, they plan to develop and enable their workforce by providing AWS Training and Certification across the team.

Learn more about how the Georgia DHS migrated their mission-critical services to AWS in the on-demand session recording from re:Invent 2022.

Discover how government agencies across the country use AWS to better serve constituents at the AWS Cloud for State and Local Governments hub.

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Matt McDonnell

Matt McDonnell

Matt McDonnell is a marketing leader for US state and local government within the worldwide public sector team at Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Sreeji Vijayan

Sreeji Vijayan

Sreeji Vijayan is the deputy commissioner of information technology for the Georgia Department of Human Services.

Mohan Sundareswaran

Mohan Sundareswaran

Mohan Sundareswaran is the assistant deputy commissioner of IT for the Georgia Department of Human Services.

Sushil Jain

Sushil Jain

Sushil Jain is an enterprise architect for the Georgia Department of Human Services.