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Platform licence costs removed. Infrastructure costs reduced.

Office for National Statistics: cloud platform creation and DevOps

We helped the ONS to establish a DevOps culture to enable continuous delivery of features with greater speed, security and control. To this end, we have created a new cloud platform for the ONS which has removed all platform licence fees and reduced infrastructure fees, and offers scaling on demand with greater flexibility and enhanced resilience.

COMPANY BACKGROUND

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is the largest independent producer of official statistics in the UK.

The challenge

The existing Cloud Foundry platform was supplied and supported by a Platform as a Service (PaaS) vendor. The platform offered High Availability but no Disaster Recovery or Backup & Restore. There were costly licence fees for the platform and it was oversized, resulting in excessive Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) fees.

There was limited internal expertise with which to manage, support and improve the platform – and it was out of date to the point where a full rebuild would be less work than an upgrade.

The approach

The UK Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES) project migrated ONS business surveys away from a costly legacy system. BRES presented the opportunity to create a flexible, scalable and much more cost-effective PaaS.

We set up an Open Source Cloud Foundry PaaS on top of Amazon Web Services IaaS, collaborating with InfoSec from the start to ensure compliance. The platform’s virtual machines (VMs) are ‘rightsize’ for their current tasks, massively reducing costs. Due to the level of automation, it’s simple to scale sizing and capacity on demand.

The platform we have created has established a new standard, replicable PaaS model for the ONS, offering High Availability, Disaster Recovery and cross-region Backup & Restore. We built a team around this new platform which is now onboarding developers across the ONS.

The platform is mostly self-service to allow developers to provision and delete environments on demand. In the longer term with our training, Operations staff will maintain the whole platform, and all Development teams will be self-sufficient in setting up their own spaces within it – helping to cultivate a collaborative, constructive culture between Development and Ops.

The outcomes

Our platform has removed all of the licensing fees associated with the previous platform and has considerably reduced IaaS fees. IaaS providers can also be swapped out easily, enabling ONS to get the best deal on infrastructure costs. In addition, one Cloud Foundry can be hosted by multiple IaaS providers, giving extra resilience where needed.

The platform can easily be scaled on demand, so increasing or decreasing capacity has become a routine operation. As the standard ONS platform, InfoSec can focus on application accreditation rather than needing to accredit each new platform along with each application.

The out-of-date vendor-supplied Cloud Foundry platform has been replaced by our platform. We continue to upskill ONS staff to maintain and improve our platform after we have left.

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