ClearScale Streamlines First Street Foundation's AWS Infrastructure So It Can Focus on Climate Analysis
ClearScale assisted with automating First Street Foundation’s AWS environment so software engineers can spend more time coding instead of worrying about the cloud infrastructure. First Street Foundation also benefits from automatic configuration updates to the AWS infrastructure along with visibility into application performance. When applications experience spikes in customer activity, the AWS environment automatically scales to handle the workload. First Street Foundation provides crucial climate risk data to individuals, governments, and industries, through a variety of Amazon services such as Amazon EKS, Amazon EC2, and Amazon CloudWatch.
Complex Environment Diverts Focus Away from Software Development
As a cloud-native systems integrator, ClearScale designs, builds, integrates, and manages complex infrastructures and applications exclusively on Amazon Web Services (AWS). When First Street Foundation sought a partner to help fine-tune its AWS environment, ClearScale quickly answered the call.
A partner in the AWS Partner Network (APN) and Public Sector Partner Program, ClearScale recognized the challenge First Street Foundation faced managing its AWS infrastructure with internal resources for several years. The Foundation had implemented a containerized application architecture using Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS), which created a more complex environment.
“We needed to offload the maintenance of Amazon EKS so our internal resources could focus their time on software enhancements for our FloodFactor.com tool,” says Daniel Seripap, head of software engineering for First Street Foundation. “This required expertise in automating the Kubernetes controller and plugin updates so we could maintain our services more efficiently.”
Clear Scope of Work Generates Confidence
First Street Foundation initially issued a request for proposal (RFP) to identify a partner to assist with managing and maintaining Amazon EKS. Several firms responded, with ClearScale quickly emerging as the right fit.
“In addition to demonstrating expertise in AWS technologies and Kubernetes, ClearScale did a great job documenting the scope of work and providing clear timeframes and deadlines,” says Seripap. “This gave us confidence ClearScale could deliver on its commitments.”
“We simply told ClearScale what we wanted to do, and they created a clear diagram of how all our services should flow together. ClearScale then automated the entire process using infrastructure-as-code and version control tools. When we push updates to our configuration, the process now automatically applies the changes across our cluster.”
- Daniel Seripap, Head of Software Engineering, First Street Foundation
Automatic Configuration Updates
ClearScale determined the best approach to solving the Amazon EKS challenge was to first create new Amazon EKS clusters on the latest version of the Kubernetes engine. ClearScale then recommended migrating the First Street Foundation services to the new cluster, which runs on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) server instances. ClearScale also updated the continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline to streamline application updates for the First Street Foundation software engineering team.
“We simply told ClearScale what we wanted to do, and they created a clear diagram of how all our services should flow together,” says Seripap. “ClearScale then automated the entire process using infrastructure-as-code and version control tools. When we push updates to our configuration, the process now automatically applies the changes across our cluster.”
Visibility into Application Performance
By taking advantage of Amazon CloudWatch, ClearScale implemented additional key capabilities, including application and resource utilization monitoring. First Street Foundation can now gather metrics for how well the containerized applications perform.
“It was also impressive how ClearScale figured out the networking connection issues among all our virtual private clouds,” adds Seripap. “This can get tricky when you start playing with the route tables within AWS.”
In the new environment, Seripap and his team can track AWS spend while relying on AWS Systems Manager for saving passwords, database strings, machine images, and license codes as parameter values. This improves the security of the environment by storing values as encrypted data, and the team can reference the parameters in scripts, commands, and documents by using the unique names specified when the parameters were created.
Boris Chernykh, the solutions architect for ClearScale who worked on the First Street Foundation project, notes how the approach of Seripap and his team fostered an environment of success for ClearScale and AWS. “It’s not often that we see an RFP like the one First Street Foundation submitted that clearly defines project requirements,” Chernykh says. “The team was eager to listen to our insights and accept our help so we could guide them on the best practices for modernizing their cloud infrastructure. They also made decisions right away so we could collaborate efficiently and stick to the project timeline.”
Scaling to Handle Workload Spikes
The AWS Auto Scaling capabilities for compute resources that ClearScale built into the Amazon EKS clusters give First Street Foundation confidence that its application can handle spikes in activity. These typically occur after a major flood—when homeowners, insurance companies, and other organizations involved in climate management often check on the flood risk for properties they are involved with Seripap also recognizes the value of collaborating with both ClearScale and AWS. ClearScale immediately responds to questions and resolves issues quickly with clear answers, and AWS services help with managing databases, servers, and caches.
“It’s like we have additional employees on our staff,” says Seripap. “Our software developers don’t have to worry about the infrastructure at all. This alleviates our internal workload so we can focus on providing our clients with the best products.”
With automatic configuration updates, application performance visibility, and scaling compute resources to handle workload spikes, First Street Foundation appreciates all the benefits the AWS environment architected by ClearScale delivers. “But most of all, we value peace of mind,” Seripap adds. “With no concerns about the performance of the compute resources in our infrastructure, we can focus our energies on software coding that enables us to give clients information that helps them protect their properties.”
About First Street Foundation
First Street Foundation is a nonprofit research and technology organization that helps define America’s growing climate risk. The foundation uses transparent, peer-reviewed methodologies to calculate past, present, and future climate risk as well as the economic impact on individual homes and properties. The data that First Street Foundation reconciles from various sources in the United States empower Americans to protect themselves from the increasing risk associated with climate change.
Founded in 2011, ClearScale is a cloud-native systems integration, strategic consulting, and application development company. The company designs, builds, integrates, and manages complex infrastructures and applications exclusively on AWS and has delivered more than 900 cloud projects for clients ranging from startups to large enterprises and public sector organizations.
Published March 2022