Uchi.ru Takes Lockdown Schoolchildren Online with AWS
Uchi.ru became a first responder for education, keeping students learning, when COVID-19 hit. The company provides school-age learning services around the world, including Asia, Canada, Latin America, Russia, South Africa, and the USA. Originally designed for use in the classroom and for extracurricular self-education, its services employ an engaging, gamified approach to enhance education.
When the pandemic took hold, schools were shut down and the company found itself having to provide remote learning for a much larger student audience. It rapidly introduced new free services for schools, children, and teachers, providing large-scale informational, methodological support for its school communities.
The company soon found that its co-located servers were unable to cope with a massive increase in usage, with more than 240,000 users now on the site at once, compared to around 60,000 previously.
Uchi.ru turned to Amazon Web Services (AWS) for the urgent migration needed to scale and meet the demand—a migration that was achieved successfully and quickly.
The migration took three days. It wasn’t business as usual and we were outside our comfort zone, but it turned out to be fast, smooth, and practically flawless in execution.”
Chief Technical Officer, Uchi.ru
Turning to the Cloud to Cope with Overnight Demand
As the sector’s largest educational technology provider, Uchi.ru had some 350,000 Russian speakers access its classroom services at least once a day at the beginning of 2020. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, all schools closed with little notice.
The Uchi.ru team responded rapidly, introducing new distance-learning tools and services to support students and teachers. They found extremely high demand for distance learning and as a result, Uchi.ru was on the front line of education provision, no longer an adjunct but of primary importance to the whole school-age education system.
Overnight, the demand for Uchi.ru’s services surged more than eightfold, from 350,000 daily users to three million. The company’s infrastructure—largely data center-based—couldn’t cope, with users reporting major slowdowns or total service failure.
With no time to re-architect the service—which was inherently incapable of scaling to meet demand with sufficient connectivity and virtual machines—Uchi.ru had an immediate need to find a cloud provider that could easily host images of the server configuration.
A Successful Migration
Uchi.ru wasn’t entirely unprepared, though. In its market, school shutdowns as part of regional management of other health issues, like influenza, are not uncommon. The company had recently prepared a remote learning strategy to help teachers, parents, and students in that situation.
This plan was moved forward and launched in the last week of March, just after the lockdown was announced, and was in place for the peak workloads that hit in April. The company also had recent experience with AWS as part of its international product development, so it already had scripts for the online migration of services.
Although this wasn’t to be a typical migration, Uchi.ru felt confident that the best solution was to move its data center services onto AWS as quickly as possible. Conceptually simple, but with considerable time pressures, the migration was quickly planned with the help of AWS, with the goal of spinning up some 300 servers.
“The migration took three days,” says Alexey Vakhov, chief technical officer at Uchi.ru. “It wasn’t business as usual and we were outside our comfort zone, but it turned out to be fast, smooth, and practically flawless in execution.”
The transition occurred with minimal downtime, as most work happened at night. As its market was spread across multiple time zones, though, some disruption was inevitable.
Immediately after schools shut down, some customers complained about the service’s performance, says Maria Buldakova, international development manager at Uchi.ru. But most were sympathetic to the issues and provided good feedback after the migration was complete.
The major structural change within the company wasn’t technical but practical, with support staff numbers increasing from 15 to 50. And because the resulting solution was sufficiently stable and delivering the performance needed, Uchi.ru was comfortable launching further services during the pandemic.
As the platform is almost entirely self-contained, it uses a core set of AWS services—Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) for virtual machine hosting, Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) for connectivity and management, and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for the eight terabytes of storage required.
With the number of simultaneous users going from 60,000 to 240,000, the AWS migration quadrupled the traffic capacity of the remote learning solution, with scaling available for higher loads if needed.
Stability and Future Expansion
Educational services for schools have a highly seasonal demand, and needs have changed as schools and students adapt to the pandemic. Usage settled down to a typical 600,000 a day during term time and summer holiday figures of 100,000 users per day.
Today, Uchi.ru has eight million Russian-speaking school-age students on its books from all over the globe. With its main platform running smoothly, it says it will concentrate on adding more content, improving the quality of that content, and expanding its coverage of non-school offerings such as business management training, coding, time management, and reading. It is also making a major international push into India.
“We had the right level of preparedness and experience to know that AWS was the right choice,” says Buldakova. “We could give the teachers, pupils, and parents the confidence that we could support them, and even launch new services, during a very uncertain time. Everyone came together, and we’re well set up for the future.”
Uchi.ru is a global service provider of school-age online learning programs. The company provides school-age learning services around the world, and offers an engaging, gamified approach to enhance education.
Benefits of AWS
- Greater agility and flexibility
- Improved speed
- Improved service availability
- Fast time to market
- Better user experience
AWS Services Used
Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make web-scale cloud computing easier for developers.
Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance.
Amazon CloudWatch provides you with data and actionable insights to monitor your applications, respond to system-wide performance changes, optimize resource utilization, and get a unified view of operational health.
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.
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