The Caton Companies select eCloud

Executive Summary

For nearly 45 years, The Caton Companies which make up eight separate companies now combine to form an alliance of nearly 600 employees in 12 markets in 2 states. Their philosophy is the same now as it was when Doug Caton began operations 45 years ago – it’s all about management: no matter the product or service, it takes good people and well thought out direction to achieve ultimate performance.

“eCloud Managed Solutions was there to answer our questions and provide the background and technical expertise that led to a very organic and natural migration to AWS. Throughout the process, each step was explained, and as we approached completion of the project and migration off of our legacy hardware to a hybrid AWS environment. eCloud Managed Solutions provided the needed support to ensure that our first experience would be the best while fully supported and with ongoing managed services.”

Jon Honeycutt, Director of IT, The Caton Companies

The Challenge

The Caton Companies had been experiencing performance degradation and availability issues due to their continued organic growth, aging hardware, legacy technologies and several single points of failure in their architecture. When a hardware refresh cycle came due for their servers and infrastructure, The Caton Companies decided it was the perfect time to migrate to the public cloud, but which one…AWS or Azure?   AWS was selected in order to provide the flexibility they needed to grow and modernize their operations which were predominantly being run on a  Microsoft Windows platform with IIS/.NET applications.

High level requirements:

  • Reduce outages / increase availability
  • Increase Scalability and Elasticity of services
  • Reduce IT management overhead
  • Automate infrastructure and application deployment
  • Increase Recoverability – Disaster Recovery

Microsoft applications, such as Active Directory, DNS, Exchange, Certificate Services, RADIUS, and Remote Desktop Services needed to be integrated with AWS.  A total of 25 on premises sites needed VPN tunnels to AWS.  A SSL VPN solution was needed for employees and customer to connect remotely over the Internet.

The eCloud Solution

The Caton Companies chose eCloud Managed Solutions based on our Advanced Tier Partner status with AWS and our extensive experience performing Microsoft Workload & Application migrations away from legacy infrastructure. We began with a detailed analysis of the client’s requirements, then we began planning the architecture design, automation implementation and deployment in AWS, including data migration using real-time file sync and real-time database replication.

In this case, because of the client’s organic growth over the last 45 years and the diminishing returns they were experiencing with their existing architecture, a “lift-and-shift” migration methodology was not an option if we were to meet their specific requirements. As opposed to simply porting their applications to the cloud with minimal, if any, changes made to their underlying function, it was necessary to wholly re-evaluate their needs and design a new architecture that would meet those needs while supporting continued growth and future acquisitions.

AWS services implemented were; CloudFormation, Amazon Machine Images (AMI),  CloudWatch, CloudTrail, GuardDuty, AWS Config, Identity & Access Management (IAM), Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), Simple Storage Service (S3), Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Multi-AZ MySQL RDS, VPN Gateway, AWS Key Management Service (KMS), AWS Shield, Directory Service, Route53, and AWS Certificate Manager.

Implemented Single-sign-on federation between AWS and Active Directory.

Built a hybrid cloud network to connect their 25 on premises sites to AWS, while maintaining encryption and network redundancy.  We implemented an OpenVPN SSL Solution for remote users and customers to connect security and efficieitly to AWS.

Infrastructure Design

Throughout the infrastructure design and implementation, we leveraged PCI compliant AWS services for enhanced security. An important goal of the new architecture was to provide improved scaling for future growth, along with the necessary redundancy to ensure smooth operations.

Instances were deployed in multiple AWS Availability Zones (AZ) to further the goal of constant uptime and redundancy. AWS allows for application resources, such as instances and relevant data, to be placed in multiple AZs. This ensures that if Amazon experiences a failure in one data center, The Caton Companies’ applications will still function.

Because the new infrastructure run on multiple AZs, Amazon RDS for MySQL was incorporated to help ensure that the underlying database could scale to the demands of the application. We implemented Amazon RDS to automatically maintain synchronous copies of the database in each of the AZs in use.

The implementation of VPC VPN Gateways were used to connect 25 on premisie sites to AWS.  This also provided a much more robust path to disaster recovery, as there were multiple network routes to AWS.  In addition, implementing Single Sign On federation between AWS and Active Directory.

AWS Deployment Diagram:

Automation

CloudFormation was used to provide developers and admins with an easy way to create, deploy and manage AWS resources. Using stack templates (Master, VPC, Application Level, Database), CloudFormation manages the various dependencies or runtime parameters an application needs to function properly.

AMIs, in turn, contain the information needed to launch an instance or virtual instance on AWS. The instance can include an operating system, application server and the applications to run, along with the various permissions that control access to the applications.

Implementation and Migration

To ensure the smoothest transition possible, eCloud Managed Solutions used a three-step process for implementation.

  1. Application, OS and data migration occurred once the applications were identified, grouped, and prioritized. This involved a thorough application dependency mapping, collaboration with the customer to prioritize each application group and develop AWS target environment.
  2. eCloud provides the toolset and migration expertise to “clone” the customer’s application move group, deploy in AWS target environment and capture differential data prior to final cutover.
  3. The production cutover to the new environment was performed once all applications and data was verified by customer, while the existing system was temporarily left in place while testing and DNS re-routing occurred to AWS and network settings finalized.

 

The Benefits

The Caton Companies has matured their infrastructure capabilities, reduced IT management overhead, and implemented a controlled/automated method for provisioning additional infrastructure and releasing code. All single points of failure have been replaced with HA systems or mitigated with automatic failover configurations. The new environment is elastic and highly scalable, and infrastructure automation drives quality and repeatability of deployments. The Caton Companies chose to leverage managed services, which drastically reduced IT overhead and maintenance costs. Ultimately, their new architecture eliminates single points of failure and provides quality, high availability service to their users and the eight companies that make up The Caton Companies.

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