As a result of the pandemic, White Rose Maths responded to enable rich media and worksheets to aid the sudden transition to distance/home learning. Enabling learners provided the immediate challenge due to increased usage on their existing infrastructure and left the content unavailable for long periods.
Working closely with CirrusHQ, and utilising AWS, a rapid migration to cloud to drive the step-change to give enablement, as well as resilience to their learning platform and content. Within 36 hours significant changes were made to completely transform their infrastructure on AWS and enable focus back onto their learners by providing continued access to materials and resources.
Ultimately, the reaction and dedication of the efforts of White Rose Maths provided industry award recognition as a result of their positive impact to learners during the pandemic.
WHITE ROSE MATHS:
White Rose Maths is an award-winning industry front runner of online Maths that combines leading research, experience, and passion for Maths to provide training, content, guide, and help in schools. White Rose Maths is used by 80% of primary schools and 40% of secondary schools in England with a growing international presence and reach.
The White Rose Maths vision was created by Trinity Trust Multi-Academy Halix, and formed in 2017, during 2020 the team of over 100 delivered 700+ online videos and 1000s of worksheets and teaching aids online. In addition, revenues grew exponentially tracking over £400k as of August 2020.
The pandemic and first lockdown in the UK changed the landscape of learning resources. Pre-pandemic the Maths resources would get a few hundred thousand visitors per month to the website. As a result of schools closing, online learning materials for teachers and parents were essential to support key learning activities. In addition to the rich resources available, White Rose Maths produced a daily video and provided worksheets for pupils to maintain their learning against the curriculum. As a result, overnight visitors to the site went up exponentially per day, getting hundreds of thousands of views.
As a result of White Rose Maths responding to aid educators and learners, their servers couldn’t cope with the demand, and the website became unresponsive during this critical time. These outages affected learners and ultimately reputation.
White Rose Maths reached out to AWS with the intention of getting the experience needed to help migrate to AWS and cope with the unprecedented usage that their current data centre simply couldn’t cope with. As advanced AWS partners and holding the Education Competency, CirrusHQ helped to migrate and ensure the performance of their infrastructure to ensure educators and learners gain access to the content as the country moved to home-schooling overnight.
UNLOCKING LEARNING BY MOVING TO AWS:
White Rose Maths had two WordPress sites to be migrated to AWS, their Resources and Training site, and their main platform. Given the outages experienced, agility and collaboration were critical to ensure that migration to AWS happened at speed and with the right services to withstand the usage required. Over the course of 36 hours, a target infrastructure was agreed, critical plugins and configurations applied, and all migration activities from backup and restoration and DNS completed. The project team across both CirrusHQ and White Rose Maths worked in collaboration to respond to these challenging events.
To ensure WordPress could not only be architected at scale, as well as secure, the diagram below demonstrates the overall infrastructure architecture built. The comprehensive set of AWS services, especially managed services, were deployed using infrastructure as code, via CloudFormation, to ensure performance and costs were maximised from day one.
In terms of the infrastructure building blocks of the architecture to ensure WordPress can cope with the usage, there are a few critical components:
- Securing entry but maximising ‘edge’ for delivery of content
- Increased security at the entry point to protect the application
- Reduced latency for the customer, no matter where they are
- Maximising AWS Content Delivery Network and benefiting from scale and costs
- Scaling the WordPress Application using target tracking scaling policies to ensure the scaling was as responsive as possible
- Infrastructure scales to the usage and maximising the resilience from AWS
- Improved availability for the customer as the application is spread across multiple servers while still being cost effective
- Ensuring the MySQL database gain all the cloud advantages of managed services
- All learning data now benefits from scale, patching, and operational overhead. Giving customers secure, reliable access to critical data within the platform.
Caching layer on queries and on the plugins as well
- Enhanced performance and fine grain tuning of WordPress, removing dependencies on the database, and ensuring best of breed services used to deliver the best experience for the fast growing customer user base
- Utilising our WordPress knowledge to protect against attacks and recovery strategies
An Image Server was created on Amazon EC2 where plugins are installed, and the auto-deployment scripts. Everything was written as AWS CloudFormation to ensure a secure, repeatable, and maintainable infrastructure. This was critical, as despite urgent requirements to shift to AWS, operating and maintaining the infrastructure was also vital to ongoing success for White Rose Maths.
In terms of migration plan, CirrusHQ utilised their knowledge of WordPress and worked with Whiterose Maths to review their current servers, data, traffic profiles, as well as other key metrics. Once the infrastructure was all in place, a backup and restore (via MySQL dump) was taken, then a Rsync script was run during the short migration period.
Once WordPress was up and running the next step was to optimise the solution and implement caching. An Elasticache layer was applied for help with query caching, sessions, etc out of WordPress and onto Memcache. This meant that performance and costs were paramount to the success of migration and to provide maximum benefits of moving to the cloud.
Finally, the DNS switch was undertaken from their old DNS IP to a CloudFront address.
During the hours, days, and weeks following the migration, CirrusHQ undertook a hypercare period reviewing the instance sizes, traffic, and performance to ensure uptimes, right-sizing, and costs were maximised.
RESULTS AND BENEFITS:
Being on AWS has meant that the platform can cope with demand, coupled with the knowledge that it’ll scale with usage and perform as intended. The enablement to the team at White Rose Maths means that they were able to continue to support all aspects of learning maths proactively during this critical time. Enablement in learning has always been key and the agility and collaboration ensured that learners remained core to White Rose Maths brand ethos.
The infrastructure built on AWS and the migration has positioned the overall solution in a strong position to manage ongoing operations. Key aspects from scaling, caching, security, and building out infrastructure as code have given a repeatable, reliable, and performance-driven infrastructure to allow White Rose Maths to deliver on learning objectives and outcomes.
Head of External Initiatives (Trinity MAT): Our customers have benefitted from a more reliable service that is faster and swifter. CirrusHQ has been there all the way and felt like a real partner to our organisation. They respond quickly and keep us informed at all stages.
As an AWS Advanced Consultancy with 50+ staff certifications, we are 100% exclusively AWS cloud which enables us to have a broad and deep expertise on the platform. Customer Service is also critical to us as our NPS score +78 validates that we care about our customers and provide excellent service.