Ademanda Helps Chile’s Virtual Police Station Handle Spike in Demand during Quarantine with AWS

Executive Summary

Moving Chile’s online police station to the AWS Cloud provided a substantial improvement in the public perception of government pandemic measures by increasing availability and performance. Gobierno Digital is a cross-government agency charged with digitally transforming the entire state administration. The customer uses an array of AWS services to smartly scale up to meet demand, including Amazon EKS for its containerized application, Amazon CloudFront for content delivery, and Amazon DynamoDB to manage requests. 

Government Mandated Permits Triggered Shift to the Cloud

Chile’s Gobierno Digital (Digital Government Department), under the Ministry Secretary General of the Presidency, works to digitally transform all areas of the Chilean government. One branch, the Comisaría Virtual or online police station, offers a range of standard police station services. It was originally designed to handle about 100,000 requests a month and did so satisfactorily with a MySQL relational database—application server in PHP scripting language for the site’s front end and backend—and a Network File System.

This all changed rapidly with the onset of the COVID-19 crisis in March 2020. The government quickly mandated quarantines to limit contagion, and Chileans had to request permits to leave their homes. Approximately eight million people were affected by the quarantine.

Permits can be requested individually or by companies through the Comisaría Virtual website. According to Joselyn Bolton, the Product Owner for Comisaría Virtual at Gobierno Digital, an average of one million permits are requested a day, and it had been as high as nearly two million earlier in the pandemic. 

Handling the Sudden Demand Surge

For public health reasons, it was crucial that the site be continuously available to meet the high demand. Manuel Múñoz, the platform’s Technical Leader at Gobierno Digital, says, “A company would want to upload a template for permits for 500 workers, and when you multiply that by 100 companies, you had a problem for the system.” Bolton also recalls, “There weren’t progressively more requests, it happened all at once—10,000, 20,000, 30,000 requests at the same time.” 

The platform, which Gobierno Digital had recently migrated to Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) from MySQL, at first appeared to be able to sustain the increase in activity by adding read replicas. However, when Santiago, the capital city, was put on full lockdown on March 26, Bolton says that “it just collapsed.” The system was overloaded, and the queues became very long.

We were under a lot of pressure,” said Patricio González, the DevOps Engineer at Gobierno Digital. “You’d see on TV how everyone was upset about the online process to request permits. Sometimes halfway through deploying it the system would crash, like a scary movie.” Since the online process wasn’t working, people were going to the police stations—the kind of in-person activity the government was trying to prevent—or they were just going outside without getting a permit at all. 

Going Serverless

Gobierno Digital worked with AWS local teams and its partner Ademanda—an AWS Select Consulting Partner in the AWS Partner Network (APN) and an AWS Public Sector Partner—to find an effective solution fast. “Ademanda didn’t just offer support, it also gave us Serverless 101,” says Bolton.

First, the team made the application available in containers using Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS) for high availability, security, and scalability. The learning curve was steep but Ademanda was on hand to help. “We didn’t know much about Kubernetes, but in three weeks, the Comisaría Virtual was up and running on it,” says González.

Then, the Gobierno Digital team and Ademanda decided to take advantage of Amazon CloudFront for content delivery and AWS Lambda for serverless administration of the application. They also rely on Amazon DynamoDB to manage millions of requests a second and Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances for scalable compute capacity. “We grew progressively from 10 to 30, 50, 80, and up to 150 Amazon EC2 instances to meet the Comisaría Virtual’s demand,” says González.

Serverless services made it possible to redesign the entire Comisaría Virtual website in under a week, streamlining processes and reducing operating costs. In addition, the virtual police station can now provide the government with vital anonymized data stored in Amazon DynamoDB for later analysis to help it design pandemic-containment strategies.

“One of Gobierno Digital’s key cross-government goals is to boost digital transformation. The pandemic accelerated that process, and Ademanda and AWS helped make it possible.” 

- Joselyn Bolton, Product Leader for Comisaría Virtual, Gobierno Digital

Serving the Public Faster, More Reliably, and at a Lower Cost

The biggest impact of the migration was increasing the platform’s availability. The redesign had “a huge impact on the Chilean people,” says Carlos Samaniego, Chief Information Officer at Ademanda. The time to load the website went from 5 seconds to an average of 200 milliseconds. Since the shift to the cloud, the website has gone more than two months with the system online. “You used to look at your phone, see alerts, and know the system had crashed,” says González. “But not anymore.”

Another benefit of the change in infrastructure was a 20 percent cost reduction. Samaniego says, “A major differentiator of AWS compared to on-premises or traditional hosting is the visibility of what you’re consuming,” which is an especially important aspect when public spending is involved.

The increased availability means Gobierno Digital can now serve Chileans promptly and meet the high demand. In fact, it delivered almost 50 million permits in the first three months using the AWS Lambda serverless architecture. Bolton concludes, “One of Gobierno Digital’s key cross-government goals is to boost digital transformation. The pandemic accelerated that process, and Ademanda and AWS helped make it possible.” 

Gobierno Digital

About Gobierno Digital

Gobierno Digital is the department of the Chilean government in charge of its cross-agency digital transformation. The department coordinates and advises agencies on the strategic use of digital technologies, supporting how they are used, how they manage their data, and how information is provided to the public to enhance management and delivery of high-quality and easy-to-use services. Gobierno Digital does so through the technologies it develops, newly drafted standards and policies, and digital adoption. 

About Ademanda

Ademanda is an AWS Select Consulting Partner, AWS Public Sector Partner, Cloud Security Alliance corporate member, and leader in cloud computing services and solutions. With 10 years of experience as a trusted government partner in digital transformation, Ademanda helps its customers find the cloud solution they need, transfer know-how through online and onsite training, assist during migration, and help the customer achieve the highest level of security.

Published January 2021