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2021 Blog, AWS Platform, Blog, Featured

The year 2020 undoubtedly brought in unprecedented challenges with COVID-19 that required countries, governments, business and people respond in a proactive manner with new normal approaches. Certain businesses managed to respond to the dynamic macro environment with a lot more agility, flexibility and scale. Cloud computing had a dominant effect in helping businesses stay connected and deliver critical solutions. Relevance Lab scaled up its partnership with AWS to align with the new focus areas resulting in a significant increase in coverage of products, specialized solutions and customer impacts in the past 12 months compared to what has been achieved in the past.

AWS launched a number of new global initiatives in 2020 and in response to the business challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The following picture describes those initiatives in a nutshell.


Relevance Lab’s Focus areas have been very well aligned
Given the macro environment challenges, Relevance Lab quickly aligned their focus on helping customers deal with the emerging challenges and those areas were very complementary to AWS’ global initiatives and responses listed above.

Relevance Lab’s aligned its AWS solutions & services across four dominant themes and by leveraging RL’s own IP based platforms and deep cloud competencies. The following picture highlights those key initiatives and the native AWS products and services leveraged in the process.


Relevance Lab also made major strides in improving Initiative to progress along AWS Partnership Maturity Levels for Specialized Consulting and Key Product offerings. The following picture highlights the major achievements in 2020 in a nutshell.



AWS Specializations & Spotlights
Relevance Lab is a specialist cloud managed services company with deep expertise in Devops, Service Automation and ITSM integrations. It also has an RLCatalyst Platform built to support Automation across AWS Cloud and ITSM platforms. RLCatalyst family of solutions help in Self-service Cloud portals, IT service monitoring and automation through BOTs. While maintaining multi-sector client base, we are also uniquely focused with existing solutions for Higher Education, Public Sector and Research sector clients.


Spotlight-1: AWS Cloud Portals Solution
Relevance Lab have developed a family of cloud portal solutions on top of our RLCatalyst platform. Cloud Portal solutions aim to simplify AWS consumption using self-service models with emphasis on 1-click provisioning / lifecycle management, dashboard views of budget / cost consumption and modeling personas, roles & responsibilities with a sector context.


A unique feature of the above solutions is that they promote a hybrid model of consumption wherein users can bring their own AWS accounts (consumption accounts) under the framework of our cloud portal solution and benefit from being able to consume AWS for their educational and research needs in an easy self-service model.

The solutions can be consumed as either an Enterprise or as a SaaS license. In addition, the solutions will be made available on AWS Marketplace soon.


Spotlight-2: AWS Security Governance at Scale Framework
The framework and deployment architecture uses AWS Control Tower as the foundational service and other closely aligned and native AWS products and services such as AWS Service Catalog, AWS Security Hub, AWS Budgets, etc. and addresses subject areas such as multi-account management, cost management, security, compliance & governance.

Relevance Lab can assess, design and deploy or migrate to a fully secure AWS environment that lends itself to governance at scale. To encourage clients to adopt this journey, we have launched a 10-10 Program for AWS Security Governance that provides clients with an upfront blueprint of the entire migration or deployment process and end-state architecture so that they can make an informed decision


Spotlight-3: Automated User Onboarding/Offboarding for Enterprises Use Case
Relevance Lab is a unique partner that possesses deep expertise on AWS and ITSM platforms such as ServiceNow, freshservice, JIRA Service Desk, etc. The intersection of these platforms lends itself to relevant use cases for the industry. Relevance Lab has come up with a solution for automated User onboarding & offboarding in an enterprise context. This solution brings together multiple systems in a workflow model to accomplish user onboarding and offboarding tasks for an enterprise. It includes integration across HR systems, AWS Service Catalog and other services, ITSM platforms such as ServiceNow and assisted by Relevance Lab’s RLCatalyst BOTs engine to perform an end-to-end user onboarding/offboarding orchestration in an unassisted manner.


Key Customer Use Cases and Success Stories in 2020
Relevance Lab helped customers across verticals with growing momentum on Cloud adoption in the post COVID-19 situation to rewrite their digital solutions in adopting the new touchless interactions, remote distributed workforces and strong security governance solutions for enabling frictionless business.


AWS Best Practices – Blogs, Campaigns, Technical Write-ups
The following is a collection of knowledge articles and best practices published throughout the year related to our AWS centered solutions & services.

AWS Service Management


AWS Practice Solution Campaigns

AWS Governance at Scale

AWS Workspaces

RLCatalyst Product Details

AWS Infrastructure Automation

AWS E-Learning & Research Workbench Solutions

Cloud Networking Best Practices


Summary
The momentum of Cloud adoption in 2020 is quite likely to continue and grow in the new year 2021. Relevance Lab is a trusted partner in your cloud adoption journey driven by focus on following key specializations:

  • Cloud First Approach for Workload Planning
  • Cloud Governance 360 for using AWS Cloud the Right-Way
  • Automation Led Service Delivery Management with Self Service ITSM and Cloud Portals
  • Driving Frictionless Business and AI-Driven outcomes for Digital Transformation and App Modernization

To learn more about our services and solutions listed above or engage us in consultative discussions for your AWS and other IT service needs, feel free to contact us at marketing@relevancelab.com



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2020 Blog, AWS Platform, Blog, Featured, Research Gateway

While there is rapid momentum for every enterprise in the world in consuming more Cloud Assets and Services, there is still lack of maturity in adopting an “Automation-First” approach to establish Self-Service models for Cloud consumptions due to fear of uncontrolled costs, security & governance risks and lack of standardized Service Catalogs of pre-approved Assets & Service Requests from Central IT groups. Lack of delegation and self-service has a direct impact on speed of innovation and productivity with higher operations costs.

Working closely with AWS Partnership we have now created a flexible platform for driving faster adoption of Self-Service Cloud Portals. The primary needs for such a Self-Service Cloud Portal are the following.

  • Adherence to Enterprise IT Standards
    • Common architecture
    • Governance and Cost Management
    • Deployment and license management
    • Identity and access management
  • Common Integration Architecture with existing platforms on ITSM and Cloud
    • Support for ServiceNow, Jira, Freshservice and Standard Cloud platforms like AWS
  • Ability to add specific custom functionality in the context of Enterprise Business needs
    • The flexibility to add business specific functionality is key to unlocking the power of self-service models outside the standard interfaces already provided by ITSM and Cloud platforms

A common way of identifying the need for a Self-Service Cloud portal is based on following needs.

  • Does your enterprise already have any Self-Service Portals?
  • Do you have a large user base internally or with external users requiring access to Cloud resources?
  • Does your internal IT have the bandwidth and expertise to manage current workloads without impacting end user response time expectations?
  • Does your enterprise have a proper security governance model for Cloud management?
  • Are there significant productivity gains by empowering end users with Self-Service models?

Working with AWS partnership and with our existing customer we see a growing need for Self-Service Cloud Portals in 2020 predominantly centred around two models.

  • Enterprises with existing ITSM investments and need to leverage that for extending to Cloud Management
  • Enterprises extending needs outside enterprise users with custom Cloud Portals

The roadmap to Self-Service Cloud portals is specific to every enterprise needs and needs to leverage the existing adoption and maturity of Cloud and ITSM platforms as explained below. With Relevance Lab RLCatalyst products we help enterprises achieve the maturity in a cost effective and expedited manner.


Examples of Self-Service Cloud Portals



Standard Needs Platform Benefits
Look-n-Feel of Modern Self-Service Portals Professional and responsive UI Design with multiple themes available, customizations allowed
Standards based Architecture & Governance Tightly Built On AWS products and AWS Well Architected with pre-built Reference Architecture based Products
Pre-built Minimum Viable Product Needs 80-20 Model – Pre-built vs Customizations based on key components of core functionality
Proprietary vs Open Source? Open-source foundation with source code made available built on MEAN Stack
Access Control, Security and Governance Standard Options Pre-built, easy extensions (SAML Based). Deployed with enterprise grade security and compliances
Rich Standard Pre-Build Catalog of Assets and Services Comes pre-built with 100+ catalog items covering all standard Asset and Services needs catering to 50% of any enterprise infrastructure, applications and service delivery needs


Explained below is a sample AWS Self-Service Cloud for driving Scientific Research.



Getting started
To make is easier for enterprises for experiencing the power of Self-Service Cloud Portals we are offering two options based on enterprise needs.

  • Hosted SAAS offering of using our Multi-tenant Cloud Portal with ability to connect to your existing Cloud Accounts and Service Catalogs
  • Self-Hosted RLCatalyst Cloud Portal product with option to engage us for professional services on customizations, training, initial setup & onboarding needs

Pricing for the SAAS offering is based on user based monthly subscription while for self-hosting model an enterprise support model pricing is available for the open source solution that allows enterprises the flexibility to use this solution without proprietary lock-ins.

The typical steps to get started are very simple covering the following.

  • Setup an organization and business units or projects aligned with your Cloud Accounts for easy billing and access control tracking
  • Setup users and roles
  • Setup Budgets and controls
  • Setup standard catalog of items for users to order
  • With the above enterprises are up to speed to use Self-Service Cloud Portals in less than 1-Day with inbuilt controls for tracking and compliance

Summary
Cloud Portals for Self-Service is a growing need in 2020 and we see the momentum continuing for next year as well. Different market segments have different needs for Self-Service Cloud portals as explained in this Blog.


  • Scientific Research community is interested in a Research Gateway Solution
  • University IT looks for a University in a Box Self Service Cloud
  • Enterprises using ServiceNow want to extend the internal Self Service Portals
  • Enterprises are also developing Hybrid Cloud Orchestration Portals
  • Enterprises looking at building AIOps Portal needs monitoring, automation and service management
  • Enabling Virtual Training Labs with User and Workspace onboarding
  • Building an integrated Command Centre requires an Intelligent Monitoring portal
  • Enterprise Intelligent Automation Portal with ServiceNow Connector

We provide pre-build solutions for Self-Service Cloud Portals and a base platform that can be easily extended to add new functionality for customization and integration. A number of large enterprises and universities are leveraging our Self Service Cloud portal solutions using both existing ITSM tools (Servicenow, Jira, Freshservice) and RLCatalyst products.

To learn more about using AWS Cloud or ITSM solutions for Self-Service Cloud portals contact marketing@relevancelab.com



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2020 Blog, AWS Platform, Blog, Featured

As universities deal with the challenging situation in 2020 with remote assets, workforce and students, there is a need to make education frictionless by leveraging cloud based solutions in a pre-packaged model. Working closely with the AWS partnership in trying to make Digital Learning frictionless, Relevance Lab is bringing a unique new concept to the market of University in a Box, that extends a self-contained Cloud Portal with basic applications to power the needs of a university. This new, radical and innovative concept is based on the idea of a school, college and university going from zero (no AWS account) to cloud native in hours. This enables the Cloud “Mission with Speed” with a mature, secure and comprehensive adoption very fast.

A typical university starting on their cloud journey needs a Self-service interactive interface with user logins, tracking and offering the deployed products, provide actions for connectivity after assets are deployed, ability to have lifecycle interactions in UI of Cloud Portal with no need to go to the AWS Console and with a comprehensive view of cost and budgets tracking.

The key building blocks for University In A Box comprise the following

  • University Catalog – Cloud Formation Templates useful to Higher Education packaged as Service Catalog Products
  • Self-Service Cloud Portal for University IT users to order items with security, governance and budget tracking
  • Easy onboarding model to get started with a hosted option or self-managed instances of Cloud Portal

Leverage existing investments in AWS and standard products the foundational pieces includes a Portfolio of useful software and architectures often used by universities.

  • Deploy Control Tower
  • Deploy GuardDuty
  • Deploy Security Hub
  • Deploy VPC + VPN
  • Deploy AD Extension
  • Deploy Web Applications SSO, Shibboleth, Drupal
  • Deploy FSx File Server
  • Deploy S3 Buckets for Backup Software
  • Deploy HIPAA workload
  • Deploy Other solutions as needed, Workspaces, Duo, Appstream, etc
  • WordPress Reference Architecture
  • Drupal Reference Architecture
  • Moodle Reference Architecture
  • Shibboleth Reference Architecture




How to set up and use University in a Box?
The RLCatalyst Cloud Portal solution enables a University with no existing Cloud to deploy a self-service model for internal IT and consume standard applications seamlessly.


Steps for University Specific Setup Time Taken (Approx)
A new University wants to enable core systems on AWS Cloud and the Root account is created 0.5 Hours
Launch Control Tower and Create Core OU & University OU 1.5 Hours
User and Access Management, Account Creation, Budget Enablement 1 Hour
Network Design of the University Landing Zone (Creation + Configuration) 1.5 Hours
Provision of basic assets (Infra & Applications ) from the standard catalog 1 Hour
Enable Security and Governance (Includes VA, PM, Security Hub) 1.5 Hours
User Training and Handover 1 Hours

The following diagram explains the deployment architecture of the solution.



University Users, Roles and Organization planning
Planning for university users, roles and organizations requires mapping to existing departments, IT and non-IT roles and empowering users for self-service without compromising on security or governance. This can vary between organizations but common patterns are encountered as explained below.

  • Common Delegation use cases for University IT
    • Delegate a product from a Lead Architect to Helpdesk, or a less skilled co-worker
    • Delegate a product from Lead Architect or Central IT, to another IT group, DBA team, Networking Team, Analytics Team
    • Delegate a product to another University Department – Academic, Video, etc
    • Delegate a product to a researcher or faculty member


Setup planning considerations on deployment and onboarding


          Hosting Options
        • Option:1 – Dedicated Instance per Customer
        • Option:2 – Hosted Model, Customer brings their AWS account
        • Option:3 – Hosted Model, RL (Relevance Lab) provides a new AWS account
        • Initial Catalog Setup
        • Option:1 – Customer has existing Service Catalog
        • Option:2 – A default Service Catalog items are loaded from a standard library
        • Option:3 – Combination of above
        • Optimizing Setup parameters and Catalog binding for ease of use
        • Option:1 – Customer fills up details based on best practices and templates provided
        • Option:2 – RL sets up the initial configuration based on existing parameters
        • Option:3 – RL as part of new setup, creates an OU, new account and associated parameters
        • Additional Setup considerations
        • DNS mapping for Cloud Portal
        • Authentication – Default Cognito with SAML integration available
        • Mapping users to roles, organizations/projects/budgets


        • Standard Catalog for University in a Box leverages AWS provided standard architecture best practices
          The basic setup leverages AWS Well Architected framework extensively and builds on AWS Reference Architecture as detailed below. Sharing a sample Products Preview List based on AWS Provided University Catalog under Open Source Program.


          University Catalog Portfolio Portfolio of useful software and architectures often used by colleges and universities.
          WordPress Product with Reference Architecture This Quick Start deploys WordPress. WordPress is a web publishing platform for building blogs and websites. It can be customized via a wide selection of themes, extensions, and plugins. The Quick Start includes AWS Cloud Formation templates and a guide that provides step-by-step instructions to help you get the most out of your deployment. This reference architecture provides a set of YAML templates for deploying WordPress on AWS using Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC), Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Auto Scaling, Elastic Load Balancing (Application Load Balancer), Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), Amazon ElastiCache, Amazon Elastic File System (Amazon EFS), Amazon CloudFront, Amazon Route 53, Amazon Certificate Manager (Amazon ACM) with AWS Cloud Formation.
          Scale Out Computing Product Amazon Web Services (AWS) enables data scientists and engineers to manage their scale-out workloads such as high-performance computing (HPC) and deep learning training, without having extensive cloud experience. The Scale-Out Computing on AWS solution helps customers more easily deploy and operate a multiuser environment for computationally intensive workflows such as Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE). The solution features a large selection of compute resources, a fast network backbone, unlimited storage, and budget and cost management directly integrated within AWS. This solution also deploys a user interface (UI) with cloud workstations, file management, and automation tools that enable you to create your own queues, scheduler resources, Amazon Machine Images (AMIs), and management functions for user and group permissions. This solution is designed to be a production ready reference implementation you can use as a starting point for deploying an AWS environment to run scale-out workloads, enabling users to focus on running simulations designed to solve complex computational problems. For example, with the unlimited storage capacity provided by Amazon Elastic File System (Amazon EFS), users won’t run out of space for project input and output files. Additionally, you can integrate your existing LDAP directory with Amazon Cognito to enable users to seamlessly authenticate and run jobs on AWS.
          Drupal Reference Architecture Drupal is an open-source, content management platform written in the PHP server-side scripting language. Drupal provides a backend framework for many enterprise websites. Deploying Drupal on AWS makes it easy to use AWS services to further enhance the performance and extend functionality of your content management framework. This reference architecture provides a set of YAML templates for deploying Drupal on AWS using Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC), Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Auto Scaling, Elastic Load Balancing (Application Load Balancer), Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), Amazon ElastiCache, Amazon Elastic File System (Amazon EFS), Amazon CloudFront, Amazon Route 53, Amazon Certificate Manager (Amazon ACM) with AWS Cloud Formation.
          Moodle Reference Architecture Moodle is a learning platform designed to provide educators, administrators and learners with a single robust, secure and integrated system to create personalised learning environments. This repository consists of a set of nested templates which deploy a highly available, elastic, and scalable Moodle environment on AWS. Moodle is a learning platform designed to provide educators, administrators and learners with a single robust, secure and integrated system to create personalized learning environments. This reference architecture provides a set of YAML templates for deploying Moodle on AWS using Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC), Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Auto Scaling, Elastic Load Balancing (Application Load Balancer), Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), Amazon ElastiCache, Amazon Elastic File System (Amazon EFS), Amazon CloudFront, Amazon Route 53, Amazon Certificate Manager (Amazon ACM) with AWS Cloud Formation. This architecture may be overkill for many Moodle deployments, however the templates can be run individually and/or modified to deploy a subset of the architecture that fits your needs.
          Shibboleth Reference Architecture with EC2 This Shibboleth IdP reference architecture will deploy a fully functional, scalable, and containerized Shibboleth IdP. This reference architecture includes rotation of IdP sealer keys, utilizing AWS Secrets Manager and AWS Lambda. In addition, the certificates that are part of the IdP as well as some of the LDAP settings (including the username/password) are stored in AWS Secrets Manager. This project is intended to be a starting point for getting the Shibboleth IdP up and running quickly and easily on AWS and provide the foundation to build a production ready deployment around. Be aware that if you do delete the stack, it will delete your CodeCommit repository so your customizations will be lost. Therefore, if you intend to use this for production, it would be a good idea to make a copy of the repo and host it in your own account and take precautions to safeguard your changes.
          REDCap on AWS Cloud Formation This repository contains AWS Cloud Formation templates to automatically deploy a REDCap environment that adheres to AWS architectural best practices. In order to use this automation, you must supply your own copy of the REDCap source files. These are available for qualified entities at projectredcap.org. Once you have downloaded your source files then you can follow the below instructions for deployment. In their own words – REDCap is a secure web application for building and managing online surveys and databases. While REDCap can be used to collect virtually any type of data,including 21 CFR Part 11, FISMA, and HIPAA-compliant environments, it is specifically geared to support online or offline data capture for research studies and operations.


          Summary
          University in a Box is a powerful example of a specific business problem solved with leverage of Cloud integrated with existing customer specific use cases and easy deployment options to save time, money and achieve quick maturity.

          For Universities, colleges and schools trying to use AWS Cloud infrastructure, applications and self-service models the solution can bring significant cost, effort and compliance benefits to help them focus on “Driving Effective Learning” than worrying about enabling cloud infrastructure, basic day to day applications and delegation of tasks to achieve scale. With a combination of pre-built solution and a managed services model to handhold customers with a full lifecycle of development, enhancement and support services, Relevance Lab can be your trusted partner for digital learning enablement.

          For demo video, please click here.

          To learn more about this solution or participate in using the same for your internal needs feel free to contact marketing@relevancelab.com



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