Wellington City Council (WCC) has moved on from a regional shared infrastructure model to embrace cloud computing for most of its applications.
The council, along with other regional authorities including Porirua City Council, Upper Hutt City Council, and Wellington Water, inked a five-year deal in late 2015 to share infrastructure from Dimension Data, now NTT.
In 2018, however, WCC decided to examine how it could bring the management of its IT services back in-house, to have more control over IT provisioning. This was the foundation of broader plans to upgrade its infrastructure to ensure it could support the council's goals.
In the last months of 2019, in conjunction with the shared services organisations, WCC opted to move the bulk of its services to Amazon Web Services' (AWS') cloud, delivered from Sydney.
The shift required a coordinated plan to handle the migration of hundreds of servers, including servers for the library website, third party vendors, public internet computers, online payment processing and more.
While the library's website made the shift, the bulk of its systems in 13 servers moved to specialist library services provider The Library Corporation's cloud, which is managed and powered by Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.
Adding to the challenge, WCC manager of ICT services Hein Beukes said some of council's applications were highly integrated and dependent on other databases and services, making the planned migration more risky.
A council advertisement for an analyst programmer in late 2019 shows the range of skills required with a small team of half a dozen expected to work on around 40 applications, including web based applications and enterprise scale systems.
The technical skillset required included experience with the AWS platform including API Gateway, AWS Lambda, AWS RDS and more.
Experience with C# and Microsoft .Net platform was also required as well as database platforms such as SQL Server.
With its small, in-house IT team not well-versed with cloud operations additional support was needed. WCC clearly needed to find a partner.
Ultimately, the council selected AWS advanced consulting partner Consegna.
“While most clients prioritise experience and technical know-how, the council made it clear that it was also looking for a partner to help grow its in-house capabilities and competencies, so that the in-house team can manage its own infrastructure post-migration,” said Michael Butler, chief operations officer, Consegna.
Consegna and the council set up two isolated cloud environments -- a production environment, where the applications were provisioned; and a staging environment, where the council could learn to provision services and try out different configurations, without affecting live workloads.
WCC immediately saw the benefits of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and the control it delivered over computing resources. That also removed concerns about the security of the underlying infrastructure.
With every application migration, Consegna also worked with the project lead to ensure that the WCC's developers could learn how to set up and maintain AWS services on their own.
“It used to take up to two weeks to stand up a server," said Beukes. "It was also difficult to guarantee consistent delivery and provision of services, as no two servers were the same.
“With scripting and services from AWS, we can immediately configure and set up identical servers, in the matter of hours.”
Further, before the migration, WCC had to pay a fixed cost upfront for its hardware. Now it can set up and shut down test instances at any time - only paying for the computing power used.
Before the migration, WCC used a managed contact centre service to help operate its public hotline and internal telephony network.
However, the service was unreliable, and there were multiple instances when callers were not able to reach customer service representatives.
Consegna suggested WCC carry out a proof-of-concept with the Amazon Connect cloud contact centre. It was an investment that would pay off hugely when the global COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“Even though it was a self-service contact centre, we were blown away by the functionality that was available with Amazon Connect and how simple it was to change voice scripts and to add users, among other features," said Carol Wahrlich, contact centre manager at Wellington City Council.
"The team didn’t need any specialised skills or additional training, making it a breeze to onboard,”
The dual migration meant that when New Zealand entered into its first pandemic lockdown in early 2020, WCC could support remote workforce operations.
Today, WCC can support 1800 remote users concurrently, something it said would not have been possible under the old model.
“Our journey to the cloud is ultimately a project to improve our service delivery and not just an IT transformation," Beukes said.
WCC spent $16.8 million on information and communications technology in its 2020 financial year, little changed from 2019.