The reliability of AWS, along with multiple Availability Zones, gives us fantastic availability for our applications. Our data is always available for learners.
For 20 years, D2L has provided online educational services to transform learning for millions of people across the globe. As it has grown, the Ontario, Canada–based company has realized the importance of ensuring high availability for its applications and services. “If we’re not delivering to students when they’re ready to learn, they will disengage quickly,” says Mike Maloney, vice president of SaaS, security and IT for D2L. “We need to make sure our product always works.”
The company also needed to find more time to develop innovative new services, which was challenging given that many of its applications were hosted in a collocated data center. As the organization’s IT team struggled to find the time to manage a growing infrastructure with multiple petabytes of data, D2L realized it needed a new solution. “We are a smaller company, so we only have a certain number of resources to allocate, and when resources are tied up with providing a stable environment, the time to develop innovative services is limited,” Maloney states. “That was a problem as we looked to offer more engaging content to meet the growing demands of online students.”
Although D2L had built its own internal cloud platform to host some applications, the bulk of its learning applications were hosted in the data center. To meet its goals of ensuring high availability and innovating more easily, D2L chose to move some of its applications to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud. “We like the breadth of what the AWS public cloud brings to the table in terms of security, orchestration, and tooling,” says Maloney. D2L began running dozens of learning applications on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances, and the organization also started storing application data in Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) buckets.
Shortly after it began running applications on AWS, D2L decided to migrate its entire application environment to the AWS Cloud. “Our new COO, who had a lot of experience with AWS, told us to go all in on AWS because it would help us with agility and new product development,” says Maloney. However, D2L was cautious because it knew how risky it would be to migrate course content, test scores, and other data that students and institutions need access to. “It’s risky work to move petabytes of data and not lose it,” admits Maloney.
To avoid risk during migration to the cloud and to increase data protection in the AWS Cloud, D2L used NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP (formerly ONTAP Cloud) for AWS. NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP for AWS is a data-management software that provides protection, visibility, and control for workloads in AWS. “Cloud Volumes ONTAP for AWS was a perfect solution. We wouldn’t trust any other vendor to help with this,” says Maloney. Because NetApp is an AWS Partner Network (APN) Advanced Technology Partner, its solution is available for easy procurement in AWS Marketplace.
By moving its learning application platform to AWS and using Cloud Volumes ONTAP, D2L increased its data protection through the solution’s built-in features like Snapshot copies, replication, and deduplication. “Because of the replication and protection provided by NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP for AWS, we were able to easily move multiple petabytes of data out of our collocated data centers and into AWS,” Maloney says. “This solution takes a very risky piece of work—migrating data and not losing it—and does it efficiently and safely.” Additionally, the deduplication feature in Cloud Volumes ONTAP for AWS helped D2L reduce the number of files it needed to migrate, leading to a 20–60 percent space savings for various workloads.
D2L is taking advantage of AWS Availability Zones and the replication capabilities of Cloud Volumes ONTAP for AWS to ensure high availability for its online learning applications. “The reliability of AWS, along with multiple Availability Zones, gives us fantastic availability for our applications,” Maloney says. “Our data is always available for learners. We also minimized any disruption to our customers during the migration because of both AWS and Cloud Volumes ONTAP for AWS.”
In the event of a disaster, the company can still guarantee high application availability because Cloud Volumes ONTAP for AWS offers better backup and disaster-recovery capabilities than the organization’s former on-premises environment. “Because we can run the Cloud Volumes ONTAP data layer in a highly available way across AWS Availability Zones, we have excellent coverage in a disaster-recovery scenario,” says Maloney.
Relying on the AWS Cloud to run its critical applications, D2L no longer needs to spend time and money on managing backend IT systems. “Moving to AWS with Cloud Volumes ONTAP lets us focus on our core business while leveraging the breadth of what AWS and its partner ecosystem bring to the table,” says Maloney. As a result, D2L can focus more on delivering new, more engaging content for learners.
D2L can also more easily scale to support its growing workload volume in the cloud. “We are closing in on having half of our entire customer base on AWS,” says Maloney. “Using AWS, we can now grow our business with a relatively flat headcount. Overall, we have the platform to scale our business tenfold from where we are now.”
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