John Holland Group

John Holland Group Improves Data Protection by Migrating 90+ Critical Applications to Amazon FSx

2021

Australian construction company John Holland Group (JHG) lost access to over 90 critical business applications, documents, and data due to a legacy file storage environment failure. Because it was simultaneously engaging in an audit and review of its digital services using Amazon Web Services (AWS), JHG was able to perform an emergency migration to Amazon FSx for Windows File Server, a service that provides fully managed, highly reliable, and scalable file storage that is accessible over the industry-standard Server Message Block protocol.

Using AWS services and the support of multiple AWS teams, JHG launched and ran a new environment on AWS within hours and actively migrated over 90 key applications within 48 hours. Through the migration, JHG gained a high-performing file storage system, experienced minimal disruption, and unlocked greater long-term stability and productivity.

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Amazon FSx for Windows File Server hasn’t missed a beat. The speed, the stability, and the ability to tune throughput speed and availability to our environment are quite positive for us.”

Kier Morrison
General manager of information technology operations, John Holland Group

Migrating a Critical Application and File Environment to the Cloud

JHG is a tier-one Australian construction company managing the construction of rail, buildings, and large-scale infrastructure in Australia, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia. The company has over 100 locations throughout Australia and delivers projects for both government agencies and private enterprises. In 2020, JHG had begun a digital transformation strategy to continue to innovate and stay ahead in the competitive construction industry.

When developing its digital infrastructure, JHG built a large dedicated file storage environment, which contained everything from archive data that was accessed annually to mission-critical data that was used daily by hundreds of people across its human resources, finance, and project teams. This legacy environment began experiencing problems and minor outages that increased in frequency and impact. During an upgrade on a Monday in February 2021 to address stability issues, the environment failed, becoming corrupted and taking over 90 enterprise applications offline. While JHG engaged with its previous provider to solve the problem, it also saw an opportunity to review its environment in line with its digital engineering initiatives and migrate to a cloud-based managed service. “Each day that the system was down, the business was significantly impacted,” says Kier Morrison, general manager of information technology operations at JHG. “Many employees could only perform bare essential tasks like responding to emails.”

Performing an Emergency Migration with Lasting Benefits

Early during the outage, JHG reached out to its AWS account team to find an alternative to its former file storage system. At the time, AWS teams were engaged in a holistic review of JHG’s storage strategy and data lifecycle. JHG used Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3)—an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance—to host the backups for the legacy environment. The company began to review and audit data and formulate a restore-and-migrate plan, working alongside its AWS account team, the AWS Worldwide Specialist Organization (AWS WWSO) team, and AWS Professional Services—a global team of experts that can help companies realize their desired business outcomes when using AWS. 

The teams recommended that JHG use FSx for Windows File Server because it would provide a fully managed replacement of the company’s existing network-attached storage, facilitating a simple migration. JHG could use the service to initiate a fast and secure restoration process from its cloud-based repository on Amazon S3. JHG knew it needed to work quickly to get the business back online, so it consulted the AWS teams about best practices for architectural designs. Three JHG engineers began building the new environment using FSx for Windows File Server, and by Thursday morning, JHG started migrating data into that environment. “Our backup system got us out of trouble,” says Morrison. “It runs on AWS, and because we were able to rely on this proven system, we were able to turn around and restore directly into FSx for Windows File Server.” On AWS, JHG was able to handle five to six simultaneous imports ranging from several hundred gigabytes to a few hundred terabytes each. By Friday, the most critical areas of the business were restored, and JHG’s systems were fully operational again by Monday, 1 week after the outage began. “If we’d had to restore back into the previous environment, the business would have been impacted for 3–4 weeks,” says Morrison. All in all, the company restored most of its critical applications in 24 hours and migrated all 90+ critical applications within 48 hours.

After resolving the outage, JHG continued its cloud transformation on AWS. “The AWS teams have taken the time to understand what we’re trying to do and what our business and capabilities look like,” says Morrison. “AWS is effectively with us all the time.” In its previous environment, JHG had implemented a service to track and audit file changes. However, this feature was not available in FSx for Windows File Server at the time of migration. JHG told the AWS team about its needs, and within 4 months, AWS developed a solution. FSx for Windows File Server now supports file access auditing, a feature that lets companies record user accesses of individual files, folders, and file shares based on defined audit controls. JHG can now track and audit file changes to meet its security protocols.

Since the emergency migration, JHG’s solution using the fully managed FSx for Windows File Server has been faster and more stable than the former environment. “FSx for Windows File Server hasn’t missed a beat. The speed, the stability, and the ability to tune throughput speed and availability to our environment are quite positive for us,” says Morrison. “We certainly know that we have plenty of bandwidth to scale the solution up even further if we wanted.” Other business units within JHG have expressed appreciation for the improved service, with some even approaching the information technology team to ask how they can become part of the ongoing digital transformation. Because the file-sharing environment is managed by AWS, JHG’s engineers can focus their efforts on future strategies and planning, as well as building services that drive business value. “We aren’t a large consumer of managed services,” says Morrison, “but FSx for Windows File Server is running at such a high standard today that we are comfortable leaving AWS to look after it on our behalf.”

Continuing Digital Transformation on AWS

By migrating over 90 critical applications to FSx for Windows File Server, JHG saved an estimated 3 weeks of downtime and improved the manageability, scalability, and performance of its file and application environment. JHG continues to pursue its digital transformation through several projects, such as building a data lake in Amazon S3, redesigning its wide area network, and improving its security posture on AWS. The company will also transform its AWS environment, which it had established in 2017, into a more agile structure featuring cloud-native services, serverless tools, and the use of AWS Cloud Development Kit (AWS CDK), an open-source software development framework.

“Every business must undertake its own digital transformation to be competitive,” says Morrison. “AWS provides services, support, training, and the architectural guidance for our team to start achieving our goals.”

To Learn More

 To learn more, visit aws.amazon.com/fsx/windows.


About John Holland Group

John Holland Group (JHG) is an infrastructure and property company responsible for projects in Australia, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia. For over 70 years, JHG has focused on creating people-centered solutions to complex challenges and opportunities.

Benefits of AWS

  • Restored most critical applications in 24 hours
  • Migrated all 90+ critical applications within 48 hours
  • Seamlessly migrated from in-cloud backup to Amazon FSx for Windows Server
  • Freed up engineers to focus on future strategy and planning
  • Improved performance for critical business application environment
  • Improved stability and speed of file-sharing process
  • Improved relationship between IT and other business units

AWS Services Used

Amazon FSx for Windows File Server

Amazon FSx for Windows File Server provides fully managed, highly reliable, and scalable file storage that is accessible over the industry-standard Server Message Block (SMB) protocol. 

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File access auditing

Amazon FSx for Windows File Server supports auditing of end-user accesses on files, folders, and file shares.

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Amazon Simple Storage Service (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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AWS Professional Services

Adopting the AWS Cloud can provide you with sustainable business advantages. Supplementing your team with specialized skills and experience can help you achieve those results. 

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