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MPAC Builds a Robust and Agile IT Ecosystem by Moving to AWS

2020

The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) is the largest assessment jurisdiction in North America, responsible for assessing more than five million properties in Ontario worth nearly $3 trillion, in compliance with the Assessment Act and provincial regulations. “Our property assessments are the foundation of Ontario’s property tax system, which generates nearly $30 billion annually for municipalities to provide local services,” says Gopi Balasingam, director of IT operations at MPAC. Every day, thousands of property owners access the organization’s external property-valuation application, AboutMyProperty. “Assessors use a workflow system to update information and property owners use AboutMyProperty to view their property profiles, assessment information, and comparable properties in the area,” says Balasingam.

MPAC hosted its application environment in a data center for many years but sought to move to the cloud because of end-of-life hardware and a desire to move to a sustainable system that can keep up with the rapid pace of technological advancements today. “As a government agency, we have to go through a lengthy procurement process for new hardware,” says Balasingam. “Whenever we wanted to refresh equipment, it was a cumbersome and expensive undertaking.”

MPAC also wanted to give its development team the agility to develop and deploy new application features more quickly. “We love prototyping and experimenting, and we wanted to iterate faster. That was difficult in an on-premises environment, so we knew we needed to move to the cloud,” Balasingam says. In preparing for a cloud migration, MPAC needed to have strong security capabilities. “We manage a lot of sensitive data in our applications, and we needed to meet ISO 27001 standard requirements for information security.”

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“Moving away from a CapEx model was huge for us, and we built a robust and agile IT ecosystem by migrating to AWS.”

Gopi Balasingam
Director of IT Operations, Municipal Property Assessment Corporation

Migrating a Key Application to the AWS Cloud

After careful evaluation, MPAC decided to migrate its workloads to Amazon Web Services (AWS). “AWS met our needs for managed services and security capabilities,” says Balasingam. “Also, AWS embraces open source technologies, which is a big part of our culture here. Moving away from a CapEx model was huge for us, and we built a robust and agile IT ecosystem by migrating to AWS.”

MPAC initially migrated its business-critical AboutMyProperty application to Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2). The organization increasingly uses AWS Fargate to manage containerized applications on Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS), and it relies on Amazon GuardDuty for threat detection. To enable data analytics, MPAC uses Amazon Redshift to support an internal property evaluation system. As the solution expands to store more data, the organization plans to use AWS Glue to process data and Amazon QuickSight to give business leaders real-time property data visualization.

Proving Resilience through Crisis

MPAC’s IT ecosystem has enabled its employees to work from their homes during the COVID-19 global pandemic. “Using AWS, we managed to keep our operations running with little to no disruption. Within the first week of the government’s emergency ban, 100 percent of our staff were working online,” says Balasingam. “We have also reduced our office footprint during this time, while we continue to serve Ontario’s property taxpayers and municipalities. By relying on several Availability Zones, we can always support our applications, so we expect to see savings on disaster recovery and environment replication.”

Improving Performance and Development

Since migrating to AWS, MPAC is running AboutMyProperty 1,000% faster than it could in its initial Amazon EC2 environment by leveraging core AWS services such as Elastic Load Balancing, Amazon CloudFront, AWS Auto Scaling, and Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS). The organization has also given developers the agility they need to create new features and get them to users more quickly using a streamlined DevOps process. “By running on AWS, we can deploy code to production every two weeks instead of every three to six months,” says Balasingam. “Sometimes we even do daily deployments. It’s all about getting new features out to our users and enhancing our existing application whenever we can. AWS gives us the agility and flexibility to do that.”

Recently, MPAC has developed and delivered new REST APIs to help users navigate the application more easily. “The APIs were a good example of a new feature we created and got into production quickly. Our development process is more seamless now,” says Balasingam.

Increasing Analytic Capabilities

Using its AWS-based data analytics solutions, MPAC can better visualize neighborhoods, traffic patterns, population density, and demographics. “It all comes back to modeling a given property, whether it’s residential, commercial, or industrial,” says Balasingam. “Using the insights gained from our systems running on AWS, we can gather and crunch the data around those three categories and easily produce accurate property values for our customers by leveraging big data services.”

Additionally, MPAC is ensuring regulatory compliance by running its application on AWS. “We are ISO 27001 certified, which is important for us as an organization. A lot of that capability is built right into AWS,” says Balasingam. “We have safeguards internally to make sure everything we do complies with all the ISO controls.”

MPAC is also working to make sure its developers and engineers are AWS certified. “We are always striving to get our workforce to think in cloud terms,” Balasingam says. “Anything we do now and in the future will be based on a cloud-native approach on AWS.”

To learn more, visit aws.amazon.com/cloud-migration.


About the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation

An independent, not-for-profit corporation funded by all Ontario municipalities, the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation values and classifies all properties in Ontario in compliance with the Assessment Act and regulations set by the provincial government. Municipalities use its assessments to determine the property taxes needed to pay for community services.

Benefits of AWS

  • Runs primary application 1,000% faster
  • Proving resilience through crisis
  • Delivers new features every 2 weeks instead of 3–6 months
  • Complies with ISO 27001 requirements

AWS Services Used

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud

Secure and resizable compute capacity in the cloud. Launch applications when needed without upfront commitments.

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AWS Fargate

AWS Fargate is a serverless compute engine for containers that works with both Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS) and Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS). Fargate makes it easy for you to focus on building your applications. Fargate removes the need to provision and manage servers, lets you specify and pay for resources per application, and improves security through application isolation by design.

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Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service

Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS) is a fully managed Kubernetes service. Customers such as Intel, Snap, Intuit, GoDaddy, and Autodesk trust EKS to run their most sensitive and mission critical applications because of its security, reliability, and scalability.

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AWS Glue

AWS Glue is a fully managed extract, transform, and load (ETL) service that makes it easy for customers to prepare and load their data for analytics. You can create and run an ETL job with a few clicks in the AWS Management Console. You simply point AWS Glue to your data stored on AWS, and AWS Glue discovers your data and stores the associated metadata (e.g. table definition and schema) in the AWS Glue Data Catalog. Once cataloged, your data is immediately searchable, queryable, and available for ETL.

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