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Jamaica Public Service migrates efficiently to the cloud with AWS

Jamaica Public Service migrates efficiently to the cloud with AWS

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Jamaica Public Service, the sole distributor of electricity in Jamaica, has migrated efficiently to the cloud, reducing costs by 40% using AWS Instance Scheduler.

Electric utility company Jamaica Public Service (JPS) generates and distributes electricity to more than 680,000 customers. The company focuses on continuing to grow and innovate while it is expanding digital channels. Its most recent effort to improve its customers’ digital experience involved building the MyJPS Mobile and Web Application.

JPS chose to use Amazon Web Services (AWS) for its elasticity, scalability and economies of scale, which the company used to build out improvements for its customers at a fraction of the cost of its on-premises solution.

Since then, the electricity distributor has continued to benefit from a suite of AWS services, including an AWS Solution called AWS Instance Scheduler, which helps businesses control their AWS resource costs by configuring start and stop schedules for AWS services. On AWS, JPS can automatically toggle its web and mobile portals and other mission-critical applications on and off to drastically reduce its cloud costs.

Migrating mission-critical applications to the cloud

JPS is an integrated electric utility company and the sole distributor of electricity in Jamaica, operating power stations, hydroelectric plants and thousands of kilometers of power lines.

The company wanted to create a complete web-based and mobile solution that would offer customers an improved digital experience for tasks related to managing their services, such as making timely payments online.

However, about 90% of JPS’s infrastructure was on-premises, which was expensive and neither robust nor elastic enough to support the planned initiatives.

“Our previous infrastructure setup did not offer the level of instantaneous scalability and elasticity that we needed,” said Phillip Hamilton, IT Specialist, infrastructure, at JPS. “Adaptability and time to market are critical to our projects.”

To modernize its infrastructure, JPS chose to migrate to AWS for its wide range of services.

“AWS set the bar high as a cloud provider with its affordability and history of success,” said Hamilton.

In early 2020, JPS began designing its infrastructure on AWS to support the new web portal and mobile app. The company received valuable support from the AWS team, which was especially important in the initial stages when building internal support for the project was crucial.

“The first challenge was migrating our huge archive of bills, and we had no trouble doing that using AWS services,” said Hamilton.

“After that success of moving terabytes of data overnight, we were no longer cloud-shy.”

By the end of 2021, JPS had increased its cloud presence by over 90% as a result of its newfound confidence in AWS.

Improving elasticity and reducing costs on AWS

JPS uses Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud, to host API services for its web portal and app and to run other mission-critical applications.

Running applications in the cloud has resulted in massive cost savings because it has virtually eliminated the need to reinvest in on-premises infrastructure and to pay licensing costs.

JPS also migrated its database to Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) – a managed service that makes it easy to set up, operate and scale a relational database in the cloud – to run one of seven relational database engines.

One of the company’s largest collections of data is its PDF bills archive. On AWS, it could cost-effectively store bills from as early as 2005.

“Managing on-premises databases proved to be cumbersome and, at times, expensive,” said Hamilton. “Migrating to AWS has minimized time spent on maintenance and reduced costs by more than 40% compared to our customer-based solutions.”

A key part of JPS’s successful transition has been AWS Instance Scheduler, which can be used to configure schedules for Amazon EC2 and Amazon RDS instances.

“Deploying the mobile app in the cloud was a game changer,” said Hamilton. “We’d allotted one week for the deployment of supporting infrastructure, but we were able to complete the process in less than one day.”

JPS also found that most of its costs came from non-production environments.

“We work with in-house and third-party developers,” said Hamilton. “Using AWS Instance Scheduler, we can manage which Amazon EC2 instances are active based on team needs and work schedules, using only what is needed and drastically lowering our development costs.”

The migration to AWS became even more valuable when around 60% of the company’s offices closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. JPS also used AWS to provide high-quality customer support and near-real-time usage data through Amazon QuickSight, which facilitates everyone in an organization understanding its data by asking questions in natural language, exploring interactive dashboards or automatically looking for patterns.

Another staple of JPS’s operations is Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security and performance.

“The mobile app was a tremendous success and one of the biggest wins of our migration to AWS,” said Hamilton.

In total, JPS’s cloud-based solutions have brought on more than 300,000 new users. It now has more than 200,000 active monthly users with at least 2,000 concurrent users at any time. With more than one-third of its customer base using the app to track usage and place service requests, JPS must manage fewer calls from customers.

Running on agile cloud infrastructure means that JPS no longer has to plan five to seven years into the future.

“We have a small, intimate team, and we’ve off-loaded a lot of operational work to AWS,” said Hamilton. “Using AWS has been a tremendous boost to productivity and innovation.”

The company has also bolstered the reliability and robustness of its systems.

“Deploying the mobile app was the first time in my more than seven years of working on the JPS infrastructure team that we could simply spin up entire solutions with no performance issues due to how easily we can configure, deploy and scale the infrastructure,” said Hamilton. “Downtime is now non-existent for us.”

That agility is also conducive to development and testing. One of the largest pain points for project development was being able to provision servers for specific projects and tests.

“Those concerns went away entirely on AWS because we can spin up a server in minutes,” said Hamilton. “It’s no longer a US$10,000 investment to add a new server.”

By using AWS Instance Scheduler and other AWS services, the company has increased the overall dependability of its infrastructure while reducing manual work and costs.

Continuing the migration and expanding use cases

The cloud journey is on-going for JPS as it continues migrating more applications and enterprise solutions to the cloud. The company also plans to use AWS for analytics work to improve its forecasting abilities. And in this year, JPS will fully migrate its most critical application: the billing system.

“There are services on AWS to support virtually any use case you might have,” said Hamilton. “Our migration to AWS is a true success story.”

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