As the customer base for the Kanopy video-streaming service began to increase rapidly, the company decided to migrate its platform to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud environment. To capitalize on all the advantages AWS offers, Kanopy partnered with Mission experts to build and manage the AWS environment. Kanopy now benefits from consistent video-streaming performance, the ability to scale and roll out new cloud services automatically, and a web platform that’s secure for customers and partners to access. The partnership with AWS and Mission assures Kanopy that its customers will always have access to quality video entertainment.
“We would have had to hire costly high-level expertise to provide what Mission has delivered. As we grow rapidly, from both a customer and an employee standpoint, not having to worry about who runs the cloud allows us to focus on hiring developers to work on our application.”
Dave Barney, CTO
As the Kanopy customer base began to grow rapidly and the company expanded partnerships with libraries and universities, the time had arrived to migrate to a more robust cloud-hosting service. Up until that point, Kanopy had relied on a co-location data center hosting provider.
“Ensuring our IT infrastructure remains stable was a primary reason why we wanted to migrate to a more mature cloud offering,” says Simon Deconde—the original developer of the Kanopy video-streaming platform and now the Principal Architect for the solution. “We also placed a high priority on making our environment more secure from cybercriminals in order to protect our customers as well as our library and university partners.”
Another key challenge Kanopy faced was gaining the ability to more easily scale compute services for the provisioning of films. Deconde wanted to make sure the video-streaming platform could accommodate the continued future growth that the company anticipated.
“We wanted greater agility in adapting our IT infrastructure to meet changing business requirements,” Deconde says. “Staying nimble is vital in meeting customer demands.”
After conducting research on cloud providers and closely examining the offerings of two platforms, Kanopy determined Amazon Web Services (AWS) provided the ideal cloud environment for a video-streaming platform. “AWS offers a wide range of mature cloud services that are proven for their up-time reliability and stable end-user performance, especially for our large video files,” Deconde says. “We particularly appreciate the shared instances of in-memory caching. The technology delivers faster responses to our customers when they request videos.”
By migrating the IT architecture supporting the video-streaming platform to AWS, Kanopy was able to consolidate multiple cloud environments into one infrastructure, which simplifies on-going system management and maintenance. “And with the virtually unlimited compute resources that AWS offers, the environment can accommodate anything we might need to do in the future,” Deconde says. “It’s good to know we have that flexibility as video-streaming technologies evolve.”
Dave Barney, the Kanopy CTO, points out the strength of the AWS partner program. “AWS has formed relationships with leading IT solution providers that offer in-depth cloud expertise,” Barney says. “That’s an important factor in choosing any technology—we know resources are readily available to help design and manage the technology.”
That strong AWS partner network quickly proved its value after Kanopy first tried managing the AWS environment using internal IT resources. “One of the lessons we learned is that the wide range of cloud services that AWS offers requires specialized expertise,” Deconde says. “To fully and efficiently leverage all that AWS has to offer, it’s critical to know the best practices and to have experience with the cloud environments of other companies. Given that our internal team focuses on our video platform, that’s a skill set we don’t possess.”
Kanopy found the exact partner it needed by turning to Mission, which was recommended by an IT consultant that Kanopy collaborates with. “We found out about Mission just in time,” says Deconde. “We had many projects that required high-level expertise. Hiring an internal resource would likely have cost more money, and it would not have allowed us to scale so that we could work on all the projects at the same time.”
Deconde was immediately impressed with Mission’s technical expertise and how the Mission team demonstrated AWS best practices that would enable Kanopy to fine-tune the AWS environment. He also values Mission’s project management and communication capabilities.
“Mission’s technical capability to configure and support AWS environments is certainly critical, but it’s just as important that they know how to manage projects so they are completed on time. They also proactively communicate on issues they encounter so that we have the chance to work together to resolve them.”
Simon Deconde, Principal Architect
Mission first advised on how to stabilize the existing Kanopy AWS environment, which included the reconfiguring of Docker containers. To improve the performance and scalability of the AWS environment, Mission then consulted on how to re-architecture the infrastructure. Mission also created a virtual-private-network (VPN) for users to access the video service, thus establishing secure connections.
“Mission also validated the architectural changes we were considering and implemented those changes to ensure compatibility with our Terraform infrastructure-as-code tool,” Deconde adds. “We now have a template to spin up new environments when needed.”
As Kanopy and Mission worked closely together, the two teams made sure that web traffic would switch over properly once the new AWS architecture was ready to go. Mission then tested that the Kanopy MariaDB database would work properly on AWS Relational Database Service (RDS), and then migrated the database over to the new service.
“Mission does not insist on completely taking over and doing everything,” Deconde stresses. “Throughout our collaboration, we worked as though we were one team. We took on what we are comfortable with, and Mission provided expertise and implementation services where we needed them.”
Mission enabled Kanopy to apply DevOps best practices to the AWS environment that eliminate the manual processes of setting up new servers. Forming the partnership with Mission also made it possible for the internal IT team at Kanopy to continue focusing on the development of the video-streaming platform.
The expertise in both AWS and Terraform that Mission brought to the project accelerated the change-over to the infrastructure-as-code environment. “We achieved the switch to the new infrastructure much faster and less expensively than if we had tried to hire new resources and handle the project on our own,” Deconde says. “And in the future, we can provision new services automatically, rather than manually, which will speed up new deployments.”
Throughout the partnership, Deconde notes how the Mission team does not hesitate to escalate issues and bring in additional expert resources when necessary. “Everyone on our dedicated team knows when it’s time to consult with someone back at the Mission office,” Deconde says. “They don’t spin their wheels when something pops up that they need help with. They’re always upfront about what is going on and make a strong effort to do whatever it takes to get things done.”
The migration of the Kanopy video database to Amazon RDS simplifies maintenance, improves fault tolerance, and eliminates performance issues when rendering videos; website response times have decreased by 22%. And with system backups fully managed by AWS, Kanopy can quickly spin up database snapshots in a new environment if a server fails.
Kanopy now has a master template for the infrastructure that’s validated and which the IT team can run through Terraform to spin up various AWS services automatically—web, database, search, storage—that are confirmed to work together. “We just click on a button and point DNS to the architecture,” Deconde says. “Everything runs smoothly."
Barney emphasizes the peace-of-mind that Mission’s on-going 24x7 monitoring services provide. “When we made auto-scaling changes and rolled over to the new RDS database, we went home knowing Mission would make sure the system would continue to deliver strong performance. It’s good to know we have a cloud partner we can trust.”
During the collaboration between the two firms, Mission has helped the Kanopy software development team identify application code changes that can be applied to improve the performance of the video-streaming platform. “That’s an example of how Mission knows how cloud environments impact applications,” Deconde says. “It’s also unique expertise that most internal IT teams do not have.”
Looking ahead, Kanopy plans to turn to Mission again for help in improving the CI/CD pipeline by adding more automation for delivering code, utilizing blue/green software updates, and increasing the amount of automated code testing. Kanopy also plans to revamp the code and infrastructure of the back-end web services for the video-streaming platform.
“As we plan for the next stage of growth for our company, Mission will help us make sure our code continues to run smoothly in the cloud and enable us to push updates out as efficiently as possible, as often as we want, and with as much testing as needed. They are the ideal partner for helping us take full advantage of all the benefits AWS has to offer."
Simon Deconde, Principal Architect
Kanopy partners with public libraries and universities to provide a video-streaming platform that delivers films to desktops, TVs and tablets—with no fees and no commercials. Founded in 2008, the company was established to provide academic institutions with films that foster learning and conversation. Today, Kanopy delivers a diverse collection of 30,000+ enriching films that are available anytime and anywhere. With an ideal platform for showcasing independent films that fuel lifelong learning, Kanopy is on a mission to ensure everyone has access to enriching entertainment.