Each year, our sister publication Computer Dealer News hosts the Channel Elite Awards to recognize IT Solution Provider for their innovation, leadership, and commitment for creating value for their customers. As Canada’s leading IT channel publication, CDN invited solution providers to submit their best work to nine different categories for 2013’s awards. Here, we present the case studies these award nominees put forward to us. Find out who the big winners are on Sept. 11 when CDN presents them at the CEA Awards Gala.

Learn more about CDN’s Channel Elite Awards 2013

Nominee: EPAM Systems from Toronto, Ontario

Cloud Solution description

Our client is an e-commerce company hosted on Heroku, a platform as a service. Heroku allows the website to be hosted without any need for local or in-house infrastructure, and allows the development team to solely focus on development tasks. Heroku supports continuous integration and automated deployments, so we are able to deploy changes multiple times a day in a matter of minutes when needed. Heroku also allows add-ins and integration to third-parties which allows simple configuration to add on monitoring, backups, logging, email integration, SSL setup. We have also build a proxy service on Amazon Web Services to allow for third party integration where white listing of IP’s are needed, and to allow a VPN connection to a back-end system.

What type of cloud architecture was deployed and how were these decisions made with security in mind?

Our development platform is within EPAM’s private cloud, but UAT and Production environments are on Heroku’s public cloud. We were able to create and configure new environment for penetration testing that was equivalent to production within 30 minutes and discard that environment post-testing in about one minute. In choosing Heroku, we reviewed Amazon Web Services and Google, but Heroku with its ease of use for the developer’s and full suite of add-on’s made perfect sense for us. We did end up using Amazon Web Services for our proxy as we needed detailed setup for the proxy routing and VPN service. This proxy has ended up being used as a bus to route connections from other client systems (ie: Salesforce) that needed integration to the same backend. While security was a key factor in choosing our solutions, we have not had any issues in becoming PCI compliant.

How does this solution push the boundaries of a typical cloud computing solution and qualify as innovative?

We host over two public clouds (primary Heroku, proxy on AWS) which allows us to gain all the advantages of the various services while allowing multiple integration methods and various security needs to the enterprise back-end systems and various third-party systems. We are also using internal private cloud to host and build development, and use continuous integration and automated deployments to deliver the code to the public cloud. The website we have built is service based, and is unique in allowing full underwriting and validation of the customer without any paperwork for the loan application process. We are able to do a large number of partner and service calls as well as intensive local processes to provide this service, not just host content. Our development team is located in Ukraine, and the client is in Canada. This solution allows for maximum use of the offshore team, and allows the whole team to focus purely on providing business value. The mix of pure agile, off-shore teams, mix of cloud solutions with a service oriented website providing a business solution unique to Canada in a matter of weeks is an amazing use of cutting edge techniques that has been very successful.

Why was this type of cloud solution the right choice for this business case?

The client did not have easily available hosting, and an express requirement of the project was to use agile methods to deliver, as well as take advantage of cloud hosting, open source software to minimize expense. Heroku provided a great package which included add-on’s at a very reasonable price. Taking into account that the development team did not need to manage infrastructure, and focus on building, we were able to deliver the minimum viable product to production in 12 weeks. This kind of flexibility and speed would be impossible with traditional data centre and local hosting.

How was the success of the system measured and what were the results?

The previous site was difficult to use for customers, and the loan application process was very manual once the data was input. The average time to complete an application was seven days. There was no customer information captured, and no ability to accept documentation through the site. The goal was to greatly reduce the time to process a loan, convert a larger percentage of visitors to customers and bring more visitors to the site. Once live, the site has shorted the loan application from seven days to as short as 15 minutes. The average is under two days where intervention by a human is needed. Conversions are up, and site visitors are up. There is now excellent customer information and management abilities, as well as detailed metrics and data about the process and the customers available to the client.

How did the design and implementation of the solution break new ground for you as a solution provider?

This was EPAM’s first implementation with Heroku. Understanding the value of Heroku, then acclimatizing the team to the particulars took a little time up front. Heroku does have excellent technical support, and they are a great partner to work with. Heroku is relatively young, and some of the add-ons were immature and needed updating. We were able to work with the add-on providers to solve most challenges. Our website is service oriented and there were challenges with items around memory management, SSL, single IP for white listing that EPAM and Heroku worked on together to resolve.

How does the solution further your client’s green or environmentally friendly plans?

Reducing the amount of manual applications and allowing a fully automated approach to underwriting and validation greatly reduces the amount of paper being used at easy financial Canada. Even the loan agreements, bank statements, proof of ID’s and all other previous paper based items are now processes in electronic format.

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