Alef Education Transforms Learning in a Digital World Using AWS
Using AWS, Alef Education is helping schools overcome challenges in the industry such as a lack of teachers, growing student numbers, a need for digital skills, and more home schooling. Alef Education runs the Alef Platform, which provides a suite of digital learning services and products to K–12 schools. The company orchestrates its microservices architecture using Amazon EKS, and it relies on Amazon Aurora as a database service and Amazon CloudFront for supplying content.
Using AWS, we can help fix some of education’s greatest challenges and help future generations thrive in a digitally driven world.”
Director of Technology, Alef Education
Changing Needs of Education
Anyone who likes a challenge should probably work in education right now. Globally, there’s a shortfall of teachers that will rise to almost 69 million by 2030. Furthermore, in parts of the world such as the Middle East and North Africa, demand for schools is set to increase as youth populations rise. On top of this, the growing requirement for digital skills in the workplace means curriculum subjects need adapting, and, finally, there’s the pandemic, where classroom closures have impacted 94 percent of the world’s population.
Overcoming these challenges may seem like a tall order, but Alef Education is helping schools to do so. The company has developed the Alef Platform, which supports a suite of digital products and services for learning. The platform uses artificial intelligence to personalize lesson plans and provide immediate feedback to K–12 teachers on students’ progress.
A Digital Solution Supporting Development
When launching the Alef Platform in 2017, Alef Education looked to overcome the issue of spending significant time and money managing the accompanying IT. The company wanted the platform to be cloud-based, where infrastructure management came as part of the service. Amjad Khan, director of technology at Alef Education, explains, “The plan was to solve challenges—not to administer IT. I wanted to focus our resources on building software that would add value to our customers.”
How to Fully Leverage Cloud IT
The big decision for Alef Education was choosing which cloud service to adopt. Alef Education looked at leading cloud providers including Amazon Web Services (AWS), which it eventually selected. Khan comments, “We saw AWS as a market leader, and the breadth of its services stood out. We also found that AWS could help us follow best practices to ensure the platform was reliable.”
To reduce infrastructure management, Alef Education built a microservices-based architecture for the platform’s applications running on AWS. At first, the Alef Education
IT team used Docker Swarm as the orchestration tool for its microservices containers running on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) virtual instances. But then the team decided to switch from Docker Swarm to Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS). Khan says, “We made the move to lower our costs and maximize our resources.”
The migration to Amazon EKS is one of several examples where Alef Education has adopted new AWS services to make improvements. “The ability to continue enhancing the AWS infrastructure is a key reason customers stay on the platform,” comments Khan. Recently, Alef Education integrated Amazon Aurora, a relational database that provides five times the speed of a standard MySQL database in addition to the scalability of the cloud. For Alef Education, Amazon Aurora provides the Alef Platform, which delivers great performance to end users even as workloads increase. However, to Khan it’s just as important that the IT team doesn’t have to maintain the service. “We don’t have to be concerned about scaling. Because AWS manages the database for us, we stay focused on building software,” says Khan.
Service Cost Savings of 30% and 50%
Alef Education gains more value out of its AWS services using tools, such as CloudHealth by VMware, that are available via the AWS Marketplace. CloudHealth gives complete visibility into cloud and container costs, usage, and performance. “Based on our assessment using CloudHealth, we could save around 30 percent of our current spend by moving from On-Demand pricing to Amazon EC2 Reserved Instances,” Khan comments.
The IT team has also worked with its AWS account team to optimize Amazon Redshift, a cloud data warehouse that Alef Education uses to support its analytics services. “We worked with AWS and dug down into the data warehouse to see where we could make improvements. By the end, we had reduced our Amazon Redshift costs by 50 percent,” recalls Khan. “There are lots of options with AWS where you can lower your IT costs and free up resources to invest in other areas of the business.”
Improving Video Streams by 300%
The range of AWS services has also meant Alef Education has been able to overcome a challenge that would have impacted its ability to support schools during the pandemic. As a result of schools closing, demand for the Alef Platform increased greatly, creating a spike in the number of videos the platform needed to stream. “We had to find a way to reduce the data size to avoid buffering and impacting the viewing experience,” comments Khan. Alef Education found a solution in Amazon CloudFront, which makes it easy to securely deliver video. “Our integration of the service cut the size of our streams by 300 percent, ensuring teachers and students can access uninterrupted video across their home broadband connections.”
Enabling Rapid Pilots and Global Growth
Thanks to AWS services and the scalability of the AWS Cloud, Alef Education ensures that platform performance stays aligned with business growth. The number of students using the platform is growing—currently there are more than 120,000—and platform services are increasing. Yet performance is as impressive as ever. What’s more, the availability of AWS Regions around the world ensures Alef Education can quickly enter new markets. “We’re about to launch a pilot in Indonesia involving 500,000 students,” says Khan. “We can spin up the infrastructure to support the pilot quickly.” Alef Education is also currently integrating AWS Educate—an initiative to increase the number of students with cloud skills—into the Alef Platform. “Using AWS, we can help fix some of education’s greatest challenges and help future generations thrive in a digitally driven world.”
About Alef Education
Alef Education is a leading K–12 education technology company based in the UAE with
a presence in the US. The company built the Alef Platform to transform the education experiences for K–12 students.
Benefits of AWS
- Enables global expansion
- Allows greater focus on software development
- Reduces IT costs by 30%
- Lowers data warehouse expense by 50%
- Cuts video stream sizes by 300%
AWS Services Used
Amazon EKS gives you the flexibility to start, run, and scale Kubernetes applications in the AWS cloud or on-premises.
Amazon Aurora is a MySQL and PostgreSQL-compatible relational database built for the cloud, that combines the performance and availability of traditional enterprise databases with the simplicity and cost-effectiveness of open source databases.
Amazon Redshift Spectrum queries and retrieves structured and semistructured data from files in S3 without loading the data into Amazon Redshift tables.
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.
Organizations of all sizes across all industries are transforming and delivering on their missions every day using AWS.
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