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About Brighte

Brighte Capital is a rapidly growing Australian company founded in 2015, making solar, battery, and home improvements affordable for Aussies all over the country. 

The company offers financing and zero-interest payment solutions for the installation of solar panels, batteries, air conditioning, and lighting equipment.

The process is simple and fast, all managed via Brighte’s website or smartphone app. Once your application is approved, you get access to highly vetted vendors offering interest-free products. Brighte recently received the Finder Green Awards 2020 in the category of Green Lender of the Year, an incredible achievement that recognises and solidifies its position in the Australian market.

The Business Challenge: Consolidate + improve the core digital platform architecture

Brighte’s business model is impressive and it has invested in a robust digital platform to support the different areas of the company. A lot of good technology is in-place behind the scenes, with the business featuring a dedicated team of professionals with diverse backgrounds and skills, all contributing to a strong work culture.

As a relatively young company, Brighte has experienced exponential growth. Even with best practices in-place, it was difficult to continually manage or upgrade the various IT solutions the business was using. 

Most of Brighte’s applications were developed in-house and based on a range of different programming languages and technologies. While its infrastructure was hosted on AWS, different services were being used to support each application, causing issues around ease of management and knowledge retention and sharing. 

Brighte decided to revamp its landscape and reevaluate the current architecture of its core digital platform. The business reached out to DNX looking for a solution that would improve its cloud strategy, apply DevOps best practices, reduce infrastructure operational overheads, and achieve overall cost optimisation.

The DNX Solution: infrastructure, pipelines, AWS Stack, deliverables, project, UI, frontend + backend

Prior to project kick-off, DNX began a discovery phase to maximise the information collected about the challenges faced by Brighte’s team.

Based on our DevOps Transformation guidelines, DNX was able to draft a plan for the required changes with a view for continuous innovation during the course of the project.

From an infrastructure perspective, DNX recognised that Brighte needed to improve control over its AWS resources using IaC (Infrastructure as Code) and restructure its AWS organisation and accounts strategy. 

To achieve this, DNX suggested its Cloud Foundation (a.k.a AWS Foundation) to provide the following benefits:

  • New structure of AWS organisation following the best practices in the market.
  • Ability to manage all the infrastructure resources across all of their AWS accounts based on Terraform and CI/CD pipelines.
  • Improved security and access strategy based on AWS best practices and recommendations.
AWS Resource

From the applications point of view, DNX identified Brighte was using different types of AWS services to deploy their applications, including ElasticBeanstalk, ECS with Fargate, and EC2 instances. 

With its Application Modernisation strategy, DNX suggested containerisation of the client’s main applications and deployment via ECS with spot instances. This change would substantially reduce Brighte’s costs and create a pattern for new applications that may be necessitated by future business growth.

The CI/CD pipeline strategy was also evaluated and Brighte’s team demonstrated a willingness to adopt solutions that would reduce the complexity of managing new deployments and providing faster response times to deploy new applications in their landscape.

Key Project Phases:

Cloud Foundation (a.k.a. AWS Foundation)

With our automated solutions based on Terraform (IaC), DNX restructured Brighte’s AWS resources such as AWS organisation, accounts, network, domains, VPN, and all the security controls for account access via SSO using Azure AD as their Identity Provider. 

Building a strong and solid foundation for Brighte’s applications was a critical first step prior to modernisation. With a multi-AZ strategy with ECS nodes running on spot instances deployed in their environments, Brighte was able to run a cluster of Docker containers across availability zones and EC2 instances, while optimising cost.

DNX One AWS Foundation

Costs savings:

There were three main cost optimisation drivers used for this project. The combined use of these three strategies brought savings in the order of 60%, compared with the same workloads on the previous environment, while allowing Bright to use several new resources delivering more value with less cost to its clients.

  1. Using ECS clusters with EC2 Spot Instances: Spot instances are unused AWS capacity that is available for a fraction of the normal On Demand prices on a bidding model. Spot instances can be reclaimed by AWS when there is no available capacity, so DNX uses an auto-scaling model with several instance types that ensures availability while saving around 75% compared with On Demand. For instance, an On Demand t3.xlarge instance costs $0.2112 per hour while the same Spot instance costs $0.0634.
  2. Savings plans for Databases: As the databases are stable and their use can be predicted over a long duration, AWS allows us to reserve a DB instance for one, two, or three years, with monthly or upfront payments, charging a discounted hourly rate saving from 30% to 60%, according to the chosen plan.
  3. Automatic scheduler for turning on and off resources according to a usage calendar: For Development and Testing environments, which are not meant to be used on a 24/7 basis, Brighte can easily schedule when these environments are available for the teams and when it should be turned off (scaling them to zero), saving around 50% compared to a full-time available environment. The scheduler mechanism allows the resources to be used at any desired time, bypassing the default calendar, in an easy to use way.

 

Application Modernisation

Brighte had a good set of applications based on different technologies deployed across multiple AWS services. During this phase, the DNX team focused on the refactoring of the main applications to deploy the content via Docker containers and subsequently make use of ECS with spot instances.

They had previously adopted some of the 12-factor principles, but needed to improve their control over sensitive data and credentials. DNX proposed the use of AWS System Manager Parameter Store and adapted all the applications to follow this pattern.

A few serverless applications and UI static pages were deployed as part of this phase, even without demanding a strong code refactoring, we adapted the remaining apps to the 12 factor app methodology and to make use of our CI/CD pipeline strategy.

Each environment in AWS was made identical to one another, varying only in EC2 instance types in each environment (dev, uat, production). The same immutable application image was deployed and tested across these environments. By adopting this approach, Brighte has improved its operational resilience, greatly reducing production incidents to zero through its self-healing platform.

Logs

Due to the high volume of logs, Brighte was using the ELK stack (ElasticSearch, Logstash, and Kibana) in legacy accounts to aggregate all of its application logs and avoid losing data during the process. The solution was working fine, but since it’s not a fully managed solution, the operational overhead was a point of impact. 

DNX suggested the replacement of Logstash with Kinesis Firehose and CloudWatch Subscription Logs to send the data directly to ElasticSearch cluster. This way Brighte was able to avoid the need of having dedicated resources to manage the solution and took advantage of the automatic transfer of logs between the applications, CloudWatch and ElasticSearch.

Kinesis-Firehose-and-CloudWatch-Subscription

CI/CD pipeline

Brighte was using Bitbucket as a provider for its applications pipelines. DNX adjusted the pipeline strategy reducing the complexity of deployments across different environments and including tools to automate the replacement of data used for automated tests using AWS System Manager Parameter Store. This strategy improved the security and removed any kind of sensitive data from Brighte’s codebase.

AWS-System-Manager-Parameter-Store

Databases

The databases were already deployed in RDS prior to this project, but DNX increased the security by encrypting all of the database workloads and improving redundancy by activating Multi-AZ strategy during the database migration phase.

Multi-AZ-strategy

Conclusion

From conception to its conclusion, the project was completed in approximately five months, with the restructure of AWS accounts, infrastructure resources, and a total of 15 applications migrated to the new AWS environments. 

The performance of the applications is working consistently based on auto-scaling of the clusters and without any risk of downtime due to the redundancy and self-healing strategies delivered by DNX products. The infrastructure and application deployment operational overhead has reduced significantly and this is reflected directly in Brighte’s ability to release products more frequently. 

Finally, with the new pattern adopted across all applications and the use of ECS clusters with spot instances, Brighte has achieved a cost reduction of 50-60% – an outstanding result for such a large set of applications and infrastructure resources used by its digital platform.

At DNX Solutions, we work to bring a better cloud and application experience for digital-native companies in Australia.

Our current focus areas are AWS, Well-Architected Solutions, Containers, ECS, Kubernetes, Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery, and Service Mesh and Data Solutions (movement, transformation, lakes, warehouses and analytics).

We are always hiring cloud engineers for our Sydney office, focusing on cloud-native concepts.

Check our open-source projects at https://github.com/DNXLabs and follow us on Linkedin or Facebook.

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