Once we factor in personnel and data-center costs, AWS is considerably cheaper than using physical servers to support the rapid increase in traffic fuelled by the sharp rise in the number of students. 
Dr. Kalpesh Parikh IT Advisor

Established in 2007, Gujarat Technological University (GTU) provides business, engineering, pharmacy, and software development courses to about 500,000 students per year from about 500 locations across India. GTU also provides laboratories and associated facilities for researchers to deliver advances in science and technology.  

In 2008, GTU used physical servers, storage, and networking equipment to support about 52,000 students. However, as the number of students and teachers increased, servers started to overload and critical applications and services—including the GTU website and a project-monitoring and management system—could not be accessed. These availability issues that persisted up to three days each time were unacceptable to GTU, as the institution relied heavily on the internet to deliver services to students and researchers, and to complete administrative tasks. “Our website would typically attract about 50,000 visits a day, except on Mondays when the number would increase to 100,000,” says Dr. Akshai Aggarwal, vice chancellor at GTU. “We faced the unenviable problem of having to invest in enough infrastructure to support demand peaks, much of which would be unutilized for the remainder of the week.” 

GTU determined that a public cloud service could deliver the availability needed, as well as the scalability to support growth and the elasticity to manage demand peaks. As GTU was reviewing various local cloud services, a former GTU student working at Amazon Web Services (AWS) in the United States contacted Dr. Aggarwal and pitched AWS as being a strong fit for the institution’s needs. GTU undertook a detailed assessment that confirmed the student’s perspective, and developed a plan to build and migrate to an AWS architecture. GTU undertook the preliminary work itself before turning to AWS as the project gained complexity and momentum. “AWS was extremely helpful in working with us to determine an optimum architecture and configuration to meet our requirements,” says Dr. Kalpesh Parikh, IT Advisor at GTU. “We also received strong assistance from an AWS partner for troubleshooting.”

GTU is now running Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances to provide the compute resources to run its applications and services, with Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) providing storage resources. Amazon Glacier provides data archiving and long-term backup, while Amazon CloudWatch provides monitoring and alerts for AWS resources and GTU’s applications and website.

AWS and its partner have helped to train GTU’s technology team to help optimize GTU’s use of AWS resources and address any problems that may occur. This included monitoring usage of the website and applications between 12 a.m. and 5 a.m., and scaling down the resources to minimize the cost to GTU. “The team was also able to configure security groups within AWS to better protect our resources from external attacks, and minimize the risk of data loss and leakage,” says Dr. Parikh.

The figure below illustrates GTU’s Project Mentoring and Monitoring environment in AWS:

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GTU has achieved a range of benefits from using AWS. The institution has achieved 99.999 percent availability for its website, applications, and services. This minimizes outages that can set back teaching and lesson plans, and previously had threatened to compromise the education of tens of thousands of students. “Once we factor in personnel and datacenter facilities costs, AWS is considerably cheaper than using physical servers to support the rapid increase in traffic fuelled by the sharp rise in the number of students,” says Dr. Parikh. “We can confidently scale out from supporting 3,000 concurrent users of our website to 30,000 concurrent users.”

Dr. Parikh is excited about the prospect of gaining further efficiencies and opportunities to innovate by using AWS. “We would like to have very tight integration with AWS, and establish a very long relationship,” he says.

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