Macmillan Learning Case Study


Macmillan Learning is an educational solutions company focused on delivering content, tools and services to facilitate instruction and learning. Through partnership with the world's best researchers, educators, administrators, and developers, the company facilitates teaching and learning opportunities that spark student engagement and improve outcomes. The company provides educators with tailored solutions designed to inspire student curiosity and measure progress. Macmillan Learning’s flagship digital courseware, LaunchPad, is an application educators can use and customize to achieve their specific course objectives to facilitate student learning.

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Using AWS, we have on-demand capacity for Launchpad. We can easily scale the application to support the exponential user growth we are witnessing each academic year.”

Dawit Lessanu
Vice President of Architecture and Engineering, Macmillan Learning

The Challenge

Launchpad is one of the company’s fastest growing digital-learning applications. For the 2016-2017 school year, Macmillan expects three times the number of Launchpad users the company saw in the previous academic year. “The demand for the application keeps growing every year,” says Dawit Lessanu, vice president of architecture and engineering at Macmillan Learning.

Accommodating that rapid growth had become challenging, however, because Launchpad was hosted in a collocated data center facility. “The traditional data center model wasn’t working for us anymore,” Lessanu says. “To quickly provision the capacity we needed to support our growth, we required more scalability and agility.”

Macmillan Learning also needed the elasticity to address cyclical application traffic. “We have peak times during the school year when more students access our application, but to meet that need, we had to provision for full capacity 24/7 in the data center,” says Kate Geraghty, vice president of communications for Macmillan Learning. “We wanted the ability to rapidly scale the application down during breaks in the school year.”

Why Amazon Web Services

To meet its need for scalability, agility, and elasticity, Macmillan Learning made the decision to move Launchpad to the cloud. The company considered different cloud technology providers before choosing to go all in on Amazon Web Services (AWS). “We found that AWS was simply the best fit for our company when it came to innovation and scalability,” says Lessanu. AWS worked with Macmillan Learning to identify a partner to assist in the migration to the cloud. “We needed someone to augment our internal teams in the planning and execution of the migration strategy,” Lessanu says. AWS suggested Relus, an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner. “One of our challenges was the short time frame we had to move a highly complex application platform from a data center to the AWS Cloud,” he says. “That required deep technical understanding of AWS, and Relus offered that.”

Relus helped Macmillan Learning move Launchpad to AWS, running on 90 Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances with a mix of Linux and Windows servers, in front of Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) storage volumes. Launchpad also uses Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) to store static content, and Amazon CloudFront as its global content delivery network (CDN). Macmillan Learning also relies on AWS Direct Connect for a dedicated Gigabit network connection from the company’s data center to AWS. “We still have some on-premises legacy applications and authentication servers, so Direct Connect helps mitigate any risks between the cloud and the data center,” says Lessanu. Additionally, Macmillan uses Auto Scaling to automatically scale its Amazon EC2 capacity up or down depending on conditions.

Working with Relus, Macmillan Learning was able to fully migrate Launchpad to the cloud within a few months. “Relus accelerated the migration through its own proprietary tools and helped us have a smooth transition when we moved the application’s virtual instances from the data center to AWS,” says Lessanu.

The Benefits

By migrating Launchpad to the AWS Cloud, Macmillan Learning can more quickly meet Launchpad’s growth in users. “Using AWS, we have on-demand capacity for Launchpad. We can easily scale the application to support the exponential user growth we are witnessing each academic year,” says Lessanu. “We can now provision new instances in minutes, as opposed to the hours it used to take.”

Macmillan Learning is also able to scale elastically based on time of year. “We can right-size the Launchpad architecture using AWS, which gives us the elasticity to support peak usage during the school year and scale capacity down during the summer or when students are on holiday breaks,” Lessanu says. “We no longer have to provision for full capacity all the time. That will save us a significant amount of money.”

The company is using the agility of the cloud to go to market faster with new Launchpad features and other services. “The agility and flexibility we get from AWS help us more quickly provide innovative services to teachers and learners,” Geraghty says. “Our customers expect us to move fast and continue moving Launchpad forward. If we can’t do that, we aren’t meeting their needs. Using AWS, we can move faster and be more responsive, which will be critical for us as we keep growing.”

Macmillan Learning also anticipates being able to facilitate further international expansion of Launchpad. “We are better positioned to meet global learning demands in the future, because AWS gives us that global presence we need,” says Lessanu. “We have a great foundation for the growth of our business.” Macmillan Learning intends to take advantage of additional AWS services as it expands. “We definitely have plans to use more and more of the AWS ecosystem for analytics and other business requirements,” Lessanu says. “And we will leverage the innovation of AWS to better meet our customers’ needs.”

About Macmillan Learning

Macmillan Learning is an educational solutions company focused on delivering content, tools and services to facilitate instruction and learning. 

AWS Services Used

Amazon EC2

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make web-scale cloud computing easier for developers.

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AWS Direct Connect

AWS Direct Connect is a cloud service solution that makes it easy to establish a dedicated network connection from your premises to AWS.

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Amazon CloudFront

Amazon CloudFront is a fast content delivery network (CDN) service that securely delivers data, videos, applications, and APIs to customers globally with low latency, high transfer speeds, all within a developer-friendly environment.

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Amazon EBS

Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) is an easy to use, high performance block storage service designed for use with Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) for both throughput and transaction intensive workloads at any scale.

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Amazon S3

Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance.

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