Case Studies

From digging in the backyard to reconstructing roads and highways, the stakes can be high when deeper sods of dirt are turned. Without the right information, a digger or shovel could hit high-voltage wires. Game over. No wonder that utility companies and essential infrastructure services are so reliant on PelicanCorp to manage safe access to the huge volumes of data about where those cables lie.

PelicanCorp is a global leader in software services for the utilities and essential services industry. Best-known for its software and services for the ‘Dial Before You Dig’ services around the world, PelicanCorp’s global business is all about making lives safer. To do this, its software solutions give diggers safe access to data about cables, gas pipelines, sewers and more. As the company grew, it became evident that the on premises handling of this service would not cut it. PelicanCorp began its journey to cloud in 2007 by building its own cloud in a co-located data centre. Yet it wasn’t long before it outgrew that setup. By 2013, it had turned to Amazon Web Services (AWS) – and it has never looked back.

A More Cost-Effective Way to Serve the High-Risk Utility Market

The utility market is conservative and risk averse. Software vendors in this industry must commit to the highest levels of availability, reliability and security to serve their customers – which PelicanCorp was able to do in-house to a point. But global expansion was putting upwards pressure on the bottom line, with more racks of servers needed, plus all the other costs they entailed.

To bring costs down, PelicanCorp started shifting its software onto AWS in 2013 using Amazon Elastic Cloud Compute (Amazon EC2) on Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC). This gave it the ability to scale operations in new countries and establish points of presence around the globe – without having to buy the hardware. Its focus could shift from managing infrastructure to pursuing innovation.

From that simple starting point, PelicanCorp has progressively evolved its relationship with AWS, adding everything from Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) to store a permanent audit trail of everything the company has done for customers; to Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) for greater redundancy and availability; to Elastic Scaling Groups for automated infrastructure.

Today, PelicanCorp utilises a complex system of AWS servers – a framework of web, applications and databases, deployed behind load balancers in-country, with its own single sign-on, supporting digital marketplace, running 24/7, handling millions of enquiries, and supporting millions of tickets.

It’s impressive just how far PelicanCorp has come. But it is certainly not done yet. As Karl Geppert, Chief Development Officer, PelicanCorp, says, “The journey to cloud is simple to achieve but complex in its possibilities. We are on an endless quest to find new ways to leverage AWS technology to save money, and increase the scale, size, efficiency and reliability of what we offer.”

Going Serverless With AWS to Enable True Scalability

Indeed, PelicanCorp has recently completed a project with AWS to explore serverless. Geppert explains, “Our goal was to build development frameworks for our products so we can operate anywhere we can get value. Could we do this and install to all of our customers 1000 times in a week, and the week after?”

With AWS, the answer was yes. AWS worked side-by-side with PelicanCorp developers to build a solution that delivers reliability, speed, scalability, flexibility, cost and efficiency – all the key metrics that would ensure a strong future for the global software company. The solution includes a set of architecture proposals around serverless workflows, decoupled from the database, with every enquiry processed independently. The serverless solution ensures that PelicanCorp only ever pays for what it needs, while delivering on the demands of its risk-averse customer base.

Gaining the Freedom to Think Big

The move to AWS has paid off in spades for PelicanCorp. With this new serverless solution, the company is achieving 100 percent uptime by having new ephemeral instances on event-driven architecture. It now takes just 30 seconds to process hundreds of requests, compared to over three minutes previously.

PelicanCorp can now map expenses to demand, paying only for what it uses while having the peace of mind that the infrastructure it needs is guaranteed to be available. It has also experienced a reduction in operational overheads by eliminating the need to maintain its own servers.

As Geppert says, “We are forecasting five-fold savings in hosting costs, which translates to tens of thousands of dollars. More importantly, with AWS, we have the freedom to think big. Our development team can focus on new opportunities like leveraging digital subscription marketplaces, machine learning for damage prediction, and more.”