Sensis Gains Cloud Agility While Reducing Infrastructure Costs with AWS

Sensis

Data-Driven Online Directories

Sensis has a 140-year history in Australia, from producing the first telephone directory in the region to the world’s first online directory. Sensis now provides digital platforms and marketing services to connect Australian businesses and consumers. Its specialized tools and digital directories help businesses of all sizes and governments connect with customers or constituents online. Sensis believes in using technology to solve problems and views data as its biggest asset. In fact, the business owns Sensis Data Solutions, a data-cleansing service for organizations struggling to reconcile large datasets.

As Sensis transformed from legacy directories to a fully digital business, the company began an aggressive push to exit its five data centers and migrate all 6,000 digital assets to the cloud. The business decided to migrate to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud and built an internal team around core capabilities of the project for the 18-month migration. “The Sensis executive team was brave enough to make the decision to move the business to the cloud,” says Aman Sahani, executive general manager of IT at Sensis. “But overall it was the partnership between Sensis and AWS that was key to the success of the project.”

“With the stability and self-healing capabilities on the AWS Cloud, our teams are much more productive.”

- Rob Marino, Enterprise Technology Manager, Sensis

  • About Sensis
  • Benefits
  • AWS Services Used
  • About Sensis
  • Sensis helps Australians connect and engage through its leading platforms such as Yellow Pages, White Pages, True Local, Whereis, and Skip, and its marketing services such as SEM and SEO, website products, and social, data, and mapping solutions. It is also Australia’s largest print directory publisher.

  • Benefits
    • Reduces IT operating costs by 50%
    • Provides agility to test new ideas in the market before heavy investment
    • Gives visibility to link infrastructure costs directly to business units
    • Engineers can now spend 80% of their time on product development
  • AWS Services Used

Data-Driven Online Directories

Sensis has a 140-year history in Australia, from producing the first telephone directory in the region to the world’s first online directory. Sensis now provides digital platforms and marketing services to connect Australian businesses and consumers. Its specialized tools and digital directories help businesses of all sizes and governments connect with customers or constituents online. Sensis believes in using technology to solve problems and views data as its biggest asset. In fact, the business owns Sensis Data Solutions, a data-cleansing service for organizations struggling to reconcile large datasets.

As Sensis transformed from legacy directories to a fully digital business, the company began an aggressive push to exit its five data centers and migrate all 6,000 digital assets to the cloud. The business decided to migrate to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud and built an internal team around core capabilities of the project for the 18-month migration. “The Sensis executive team was brave enough to make the decision to move the business to the cloud,” says Aman Sahani, executive general manager of IT at Sensis. “But overall it was the partnership between Sensis and AWS that was key to the success of the project.”

Professional Tools Accelerate Migration

Sensis began by implementing the AWS Cloud Adoption Framework to guide its teams on best practices. “We had architectural guidance and governance very early into the project so that we could set ourselves up for a successful deployment,” says Rob Marino, enterprise technology manager at Sensis. Employees had been using a VMware hypervisor in a virtual computing environment and found it easy to transition to the cloud. VMware migration tools were leveraged for shifting to AWS, and today the company uses 400 Amazon WorkSpaces to enable secure cloud desktops, particularly for offshore staff.

To accelerate migration, Sensis relied on AWS Professional Services. “This support was critical to a successful delivery,” says Marino. “The AWS representative knew who to engage quickly if an issue arose, targeting the right support group within AWS to deliver the quickest solution. It played a big part in expanding our teams and assisting with troubleshooting issues during migration. ”Sensis is also using Amazon Redshift to power its data warehouse and Amazon RDS for PostgreSQL to manage databases. The business had a lot of Oracle databases that were quite costly in terms of licensing. “Being able to lift, rationalize, and shift from Oracle to Amazon RDS for PostgreSQL delivered substantial savings,” says Marino.

Under Budget, Above Targets

The migration was a grand success and came in under budget. Furthermore, the migration was completed four months ahead of schedule and 97 percent above the benefit target. Executive sponsorship was key to achieving such results. This is evidenced by the fact that the development teams were granted a great degree of autonomy to design, test, and implement as needed, avoiding the bottlenecks that often weigh on enterprise migrations due to lengthy approval processes.

With strong support from its executive general manager of IT, Sensis also explored large-scale refactoring, which helped to ensure that proposed cloud architectures took advantage of cloud-native capabilities as much as possible. This helped the business in terms of long-term cost reduction and environment flexibility. As a result, Sensis has cut its monthly IT operational expenditure (OpEx) in half and nearly eliminated capital expenditure (CapEx) for infrastructure.

Agility to Test New Ideas

In addition to cost savings, one of Sensis’s goals was to establish a secure cloud foundation on which new digital services could be built. According to Marino, the greatest advantage of being on the cloud is the agility that teams have gained for quickly testing ideas. Business units are encouraged to try out new ideas by testing them in the market for two to three weeks before making large financial commitments. As a result, a culture of experimentation has flourished.

On the engineering side, teams are now spending 80 percent of their time on product development and only 20 percent on break-fix activities, whereas previously that ratio was reversed. “We’ve found that with the stability and self-healing capabilities on the AWS Cloud, our teams are much more productive,” Marino says. Sensis’s cloud engineering team has gone through major operational efficiencies and brought the company’s FinOps architects into the team.

FinOps Brings Financial Discipline

The FinOps team represents the second phase of Sensis’s cloud journey, which was launched earlier this year after the migration was complete. The cloud environment brought a new level of visibility into costs that was unattainable in the data center. Marino says, “The more data people have, the more they want to interrogate it.” The FinOps role evolved from a former capacity management role as a means of connecting business units directly to their infrastructure spend. FinOps governance has allowed IT to exert more control over the organization’s expenses rather than simply being a cost center.

In the year since the migration, Sensis reduced IT OpEx further by 25 percent. Now, Marino adds, the team is “ensuring those financial disciplines we’ve put in place are being applied to new projects as the next iteration of our cloud journey.” The next phase for Sensis involves building an analytics pipeline by enriching its data lake with the data it has collected across all its products and business units. “Data is the way forward, and we continue to look at how we can productize our datasets,” Marino explains.

Next Up: Containers and Serverless

Teams have also started containerizing workloads using Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS) and aim to move to a serverless architecture. The benefits they’ve experienced from a serverless architecture thus far include a 5 to 15 percent increase in processor performance and speed-to-market that results from developers being able to provision new services very quickly using containerized templates.

Reflecting on the cloud journey, Marino says, “It’s been a very dynamic experience that has changed our way of thinking. The speed at which the business reacts to things is amazing—having moved from a physical infrastructure to on-premises virtualization, and now to a cloud virtualization platform so quickly. The pace at which we now develop and deploy is what surprised me the most in moving to the AWS Cloud.”