MHNext

Lower cloud Costs While Maintaining Application Performance During COVID Workload Spike

Executive Summary

MHNext, a provider of a global online service that helps men connect, wanted to maintain the performance of website services delivered by a legacy application and database while also reducing cloud costs. MHNext turned to Mission for advice on how to solve this challenge. The Mission Cloud Foundation team recommended utilizing AWS EC2 Spot Instances to reduce compute costs and a CloudFront private pricing agreement to lower content delivery network costs. By applying these changes, MHNext reduced the cost of EC2 server instances by 57% from $14K to $6K per month while the CloudFront agreement lowered content delivery network costs by 62%, from $8,600 to $3,300 per month. Altogether, MH Next reduced its overall cloud costs from $39K per month to $25K per month. But more importantly, through the use of EC2 Spot Instances, the MHNext web application handles spikes in workload demands while increasing costs at a fraction of what they would be if scaling with on-demand instances. By applying changes to the use of EC2 instances prior to a spike in demand caused by the unexpected COVID pandemic, MHNext avoided a 33% increase in the cost of cloud resources.

If we had not made the changes Mission recommended, our AWS compute costs likely would have gone up by as much as 33% due to that spike. This was key because our site runs heavy image video files—both uploads and downloads. Getting those cost savings is huge in assisting us to operate profitably.”

Joe Maldonado
CTO

Highlights

  • Maintained performance of web services delivered by legacy application and database.
  • Controlled cloud compute resource costs during spikes to MHNext web application, which occurred during  the COVID pandemic.
  • Provided a private agreement with discounted pricing for content delivery network.
  • Cost of EC2 server instances reduced 57% from $14K to $6K per month.
  • CloudFront costs lowered 62% from $8,600 to $3,300 per month.
  • Overall cloud costs decreased from $39K to $25K per month.
  • MHNext web application handles spikes in workload demands while controlling compute resource costs.

The Challenge

When MHNext CTO Joseph Maldonado joined forces with two partners to acquire the company, one of his first missions was to closely manage and monitor the AWS environment hosting the web application that enables MHNext customers to connect. “We always strive to improve the performance of our application while also looking for ways to reduce our cloud costs,” Maldonado emphasizes. 

A primary challenge Maldonado faced was the legacy application and database used by the website to provide services to customers. The software code was written prior to MHNext migrating its IT environment from an on-premises data center to the cloud in 2014. Getting the application and the supporting database to synchronize with AWS services to optimize performance and cost requires an in-depth understanding of cloud best-practices as well as how the application is architectured.  

To take on this challenge, MHNext already had the partner it needed readily available. “We have collaborated with Mission for several years on how to best utilize our AWS environment,” Maldonado explains. “As I took on a bigger role in managing our cloud infrastructure, we expanded our relationship, and both of us proactively began to look for ways to improve the delivery of our online services and lower our IT costs.”

Why AWS?

When MHNext first chose to migrate its on-premises environment to the cloud, AWS was the only public cloud provider to offer a mature set of services. Since that time, Maldonado has periodically evaluated other cloud providers to see if a transition would make sense. 

“But none of the others measure up in terms of performance, scale, and range of compute services,” Maldonado points out. “We’ve also found AWS costs less, and the technology is stronger in providing support for our Linux environment.” 

Why Mission?

The partnership with Mission goes back to 2016 when MHNext realized it was impractical to maintain an AWS environment without the help of external cloud experts who know the best practices to apply and how to avoid mistakes made by other AWS customers. Maldonado continues to collaborate with the Mission team for its level of responsiveness and breadth of technical knowledge. Maldonado also appreciates that he doesn’t have to worry about managing the partnership. Mission diligently handles its responsibilities and reports regularly with status updates on assigned tasks. 

Any time we have an issue, or if there’s a potential AWS service we want to consider, Mission is always there and responds quickly. As new AWS services become available, Mission proactively notifies us and gives us their take on whether it makes sense for our environment. They always make recommendations we know we can trust. 

Joe Maldonado
CTO

The Solution 

Shortly after Maldonado and his partners purchased MHNext, he and the Mission Cloud Foundation team examined opportunities to improve the performance of the MHNext application and to reduce cloud costs. After examining AWS spending and getting to know the intricacies of the MHNext application and database, Mission recommended moving away from AWS EC2 on-demand and reserved instances to take advantage of Spot Instances. 

Instead of auto-scaling the environment with standard on-demand EC2 consumption, MHNext now relies more so on Spot Instances that can be terminated when not needed. Mission showed Maldonado how to configure the auto-scaling groups to run at least two instances on-demand at base AWS rates, and to use Spot Instances for any additional workload demands. Mission also advised Maldonado to take advantage of the CloudFront private pricing agreement that Mission offers for the content delivery network MHNext relies on. 

“The way our team and the Mission team work together exemplifies how IT partnerships should function,” Maldonado says. “They advise on best practices, and our internal team handles most of the hands-on configurations in changing the AWS environment. It’s very easy to take what they tell us and apply it. We are also comfortable giving Mission the green light to apply changes when our resource bandwidth is limited. Because of the standard operating procedures we both follow, it’s easy to roll back changes if we decide to take a different approach.” 

The Results

Following the changes MHNext applied to right-size instances into modern families more suited for applications and to leverage Spot Instances, the cost of EC2 instances and related compute resources decreased by approximately 36% (from $39K to $25K per month). Even more impressively, those costs held steady even after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, when MHNext experienced a spike in its application usage. 

The new private pricing agreement for CloudFront has also cut costs considerably, from $8,600 to $3,300 per month—a savings of 62%. These savings remained in place after the spike due to the pandemic. CloudFront also performed more efficiently after Mission recommended making changes to the edge locations from which content is delivered.

Next Steps

MHNext continues turning to Mission for advice on how to improve the way the AWS environment is utilized and to discuss possible new AWS technologies. In one case, the two partners discussed an AWS Aurora database migration. But given the older application infrastructure, which MHNext plans to modernize, Mission helped MHNext realize the service did not fit their cost model until after the application modernization takes place.

Next on the docket is an analysis of Amazon Kinesis. MHNext currently relies on a third-party video service provider but would like to add video services to the AWS environment. 

Mission will help us examine the projected costs and the performance of the video service so we will know in advance if we can migrate cost-effectively. And that’s what our partnership is all about—collaborating on improving the services we deliver to our customers while keeping our AWS costs under control.

Joe Maldonado
CTO

AWS Services
  • Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2)
  • Simple Storage Service (S3)
  • Relational Database Service (RDS)
  • Elastic Block Store (EBS)
  • Elastic Files System (EFS)
  • ElastiCache
  • CloudFront
  • Amazon Elastic Transcoder
  • Redshift
  • Virtual Private Cloud (VPC)
  • DynamoDB
Third-Party Integrations
  • CloudHealth
About MHNext

MHNext provisions the first and largest dating site in the world for men. Since the website’s launch in 2001, MHNext has given men the ability to meet across the globe—with over six million members of the site to choose from. Online services include chat, videos, live broadcasts, and meet-up coordination services.

AWS Premier Consulting partner Badge