The MiX brand is about delivering high-quality solutions to our customers globally. Hosting with AWS helps us deliver on that promise.
Catherine Lewis Executive Vice President, Technology

MiX Telematics (MiX) is a leading global provider of fleet and mobile asset management solutions. It gives customers immediate, round-the-clock access to secure information about their drivers and vehicles, such as vehicle location and status, driver identity, fuel usage, distances travelled, and trip start and end points. Its services are delivered as software as a service (SaaS) to more than 566,000 subscribers in approximately 120 countries.

MiX Telematics was founded in 1996 and has offices in South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States, Uganda, Brazil, Australia, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates as well as a network of more than 130 fleet partners worldwide. According to international ABI Research, “MiX Telematics stands out for its ability to provide solutions across multiple market segments, including construction, public transport, emergency services, and oil and gas. Furthermore, the company was one of the few assessed with a truly multinational reach.”

By connecting on-board computers in vehicles to the Internet and people, MiX Telematics has been an early adopter of Internet of Things (IoT) technology.

MiX Telematics provides its SaaS from data centers around the world. It found that managing disaster recovery (DR) and backup was a time- and cost-consuming exercise. “Even with our cloud hosting partners, we still had to design a traditional backup and DR architecture, which required us to pay for idle resources at a secondary site," says Catherine Lewis, executive vice president technology at MiX. "We were looking for a global cloud partner who could offer us a smarter way of dealing with uptime and data security, as well as providing us with the other classic benefits of the cloud.”

These included global reach to keep latency to a minimum and the ability to scale to match the growth of MiX Telematics and its customer base. The MiX team also wanted a solution that was easy to manage on a technical level, with detailed insight into what it was costing. “We’re looking to move our IT bills from capital expenditure toward consumption-based operational expenditure,” says Lewis. “Having control of billing structures helps us keep track of that.”

The team went to an Amazon Web Services (AWS) summit, to find out more about the cloud provider. “AWS was on our radar, but we had never got deeply involved until we went to the summit. There we started talking about how our SaaS infrastructure could work, and it started to make sense,” says Lewis.

Working with AWS, MiX Telematics came up with a global infrastructure using three AWS regions: US East (N. Virginia), EU (Ireland), and Asia Pacific (Sydney, Australia). “Spreading our AWS infrastructure across several regions gives us good latency and uptime worldwide,” says Lewis.

The MiX Telematics team deployed the SaaS platform relatively easily on AWS. “The instances we set up were in new locations, so it was an easy fit because we knew what the platform would look like,” says Lewis. “We just redesigned our application to fit well across multiple regions.” Based on an AWS reference architecture, the application has a web and application tier based on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances with Elastic Load Balancing automatically distributing incoming traffic across servers in each layer. Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) provides block-level storage volumes for each instance. Amazon Route 53 allows MiX Telematics to manage its domain name system (DNS) services to direct global traffic to its application. The database layer is made up of managed Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) instances – a managed and scalable database service. Storage comes in the form of Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), with tiering policies in place that move older data to low-cost Amazon Glacier archives. The infrastructure exists within five Amazon Virtual Private Clouds (Amazon VPC).

MiX Telematics worked with local AWS Support staff for the design and migration. “As the team tries new features and we need advice, we can reach out to the AWS Support team. We speak to them regularly and are impressed with the strong relationship we have built in such a short time,” says Lewis.

Using AWS, MiX Telematics now hosts its SaaS platform on a secure, fault-tolerant, and low-latency global cloud. It has achieved its goal of securing data, while lowering costs and simplifying compliance.

“There’s definitely a cost and service benefit to using AWS,” says Lewis “By shifting our infrastructure costs away from large, one-off purchases towards manageable monthly bills, we have better control.” What’s more, MiX Telematics can avoid increasing the price of its own service offering. Lewis says: “Because our business is largely based on annuity revenue, the cost of hosting the application is something we have to manage very carefully without compromising our service. The MiX brand is about delivering high-quality solutions to our customers globally. Hosting with AWS helps us deliver on that promise.”

The application is now highly available across time zones, and customers can rest assured that their data is safe. “We strive for a very high uptime,” says Lewis, “but we have to guarantee absolutely no data loss. Each customer has an agreed recovery time objective (RTO). However, the recovery point needs to be zero in all circumstances. Thanks to AWS, we now can ensure this, while it was difficult to achieve it before.” Latency has also improved, particularly for customers in Australia and New Zealand, who have been quick to praise the new platform.

Regulatory compliance is a must for MiX Telematics’ customers, so by extension it demands the same of its suppliers. Having ISO27001 certification, for example, was a non-negotiable prerequisite. “We do business across various industries, and some of them have very strict requirements regarding data privacy, retention, and security. It certainly helps that AWS carries all these certifications,” says Lewis.

The team also discovered a wealth of AWS features that a traditional hosting company—cloud or otherwise—doesn’t provide. “We’re looking at increasing our use of AWS with new features like Amazon Aurora and PostgreSQL databases, as well as Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS) and AWS CloudFormation. Plus, we’d like to use Amazon Route 53 more extensively, such as for latency-based routing,” says Lewis. “We also like the AWS Marketplace for prototyping because we can easily deploy something, have a look at the product, and then delete it if it’s not working for us. Using traditional hosting, the whole process could take a couple of months.” Using the AWS APIs and Amazon SQS, MiX Telematics has already been able to provide telematics data directly to one customer that also runs its own systems on AWS.

“One of the features I really enjoy on AWS is getting a very detailed idea of the costs of a service,” adds Lewis. “We get a lot more time to focus on optimizing our product instead of trying to optimize hardware.”

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