There were three key deciding factors — which AWS won on all counts: (1) Pricing — it offers the lowest cost (2) Support — it's team has been most helpful (3) Reliability — It gave us a proven platform of reliability that we can build and grow our business.
NorthStar is built using Free and Open Source Software technologies, and AWS is an ideal choice because it provides a flexible platform that supports any operating system, programming language and programming model. There is no long term contract and no upfront commitment from us.
98 percent of our product runs on the AWS cloud, with the exception of the SMS sending system, which is routed through the TRAI servers. The GPS server, database, messaging system, business rules engine, applications server, reporting engine, web server and notification engine all run on the AWS cloud platform.
How has it helped with storage?
NorthStar receives hundreds of kilobytes of data every second from tracking units across the country. Data such as location, speed, traffic patterns, driving habits, video, audio, fuel levels, etc., need to be stored permanently, and continuously analyzed to detect and report school bus and child safety issues.
We use Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) extensively. EBS provides a highly available, highly reliable, predictable storage that is vital for such a mission critical service such as child safety. It gives us the ability to create point-in-time snapshots of our data for rapid restores if needed, and automated, periodic database monitoring reports that allow us to monitor the health of our database and take proactive, preventive action to minimize downtimes.
Could you give us some quantify some of the other benefits you have reaped ?
Today, our roll-outs are 60 percent faster (down from three days to one day per release). We add over 50GB of new data every week, and Amazon EBS has saved us 70 percent in new RAID hardware.
What would you say is NorthStar's main USP?
NorthStar's solution tracks school buses, vans and other vehicles used to transport students, to ensure their safety and security. It notifies parents of their child's impending arrival at pick up and drop off stops; it enables parents to monitor for instances of unsafe driving; and it helps schools reduce transportation costs by optimizing bus routes.
Our in-house manned control room or Command Center receives a constant stream of data and alerts from the AWS Cloud. The operators of the command center then are able to analyze the data and alerts, and provide immediate feedback to the schools, parents and bus drivers.
Our key differentiator and an important aspect of our solution is the ability to consistently provide real time updates to parents, with minimal or zero downtime. Since moving to the AWS Cloud, we have been able to increase our ability to provide these updates from 85 percent (previously on-premise hosting) to 100 percent. This is a selling point for us - we claim (and provide) 99.9 percent uptime because of AWS, which none of our competitors are able to provide.
We treat the school bus and children's safety as a mission-critical service, and so we ensure that our SMS messages/alerts to parents, schools and police (in cases of accidents) are guaranteed to be delivered in six seconds.
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