Founded in 1996, New Zealand’s Classic Group (Classic) has gone from strength to strength. Starting as a residential home builder, Classic has grown to become an integrated group of companies specialising in property development, commercial construction, health & safety, retirement living, property investment, finance management, and IT & Software development. Operating in nine regions around New Zealand, Classic is home to one of the country’s largest residential builders, Classic Builders, and property developers, Classic Developments.

The Group’s recipe to success is straightforward—identify the client’s needs and ensure these are met at every step of the project’s delivery. Within Classic Builders, this starts before a plot of land has been selected and runs all the way through to handing over the keys to a new home, and beyond.

Classic appoints dedicated building consultants and construction managers to support the client with ideas and expertise, while managing every element of the project. According to Tim Turner, development manager at Classic Tech—the Group’s software development and service delivery company—Classic’s success and growth over the years can be attributed to the delivery of a quality product and the referrals that come from satisfied clients, which is also testament to the team’s expertise and hard work.

Catalysing the Journey to the Cloud

To deliver on this quality of service, the company relied on two key functions of its internally developed mission-critical on-premises application—Residential Build Cost Estimation and Residential Build Project Management. Together, the two cover everything from design planning, materials and cost estimation, and project management of the company’s projects.

These worked well for over 15 years, up until 2020, when the company noticed a decline in the application’s performance due to the market’s increasing demand for new home builds and the subsequent growth the business experienced as a result.

Due to a consistent increase in the volume of projects moving through the application, the team experienced performance issues with estimation calculations, impacting their ability to track each job and deliver projects on a timely basis. These lapses in performance impacted operational delivery timings and threatened the company’s quality of service. It was also impacting Classic’s ability to quickly generate accurate reporting of costs and financial projections.

The situation was complicated by the fact that the application was originally developed by someone who had moved on, therefore, Turner and his team did not have the knowledge and insight needed to troubleshoot the back-end system and address the challenges.

“The catalyst for us to embark on this IT infrastructure redesign project was when our Quantity Surveyor Team started experiencing performance issues that prevented over 200 business users from using the tools altogether. It was a challenging time because no one in the team fully understood the inner workings of the application and we needed to urgently address the situation to continue operating,” says Turner.

“Thankfully, my team and I were already in discussions with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to explore the opportunity of taking applications from our on-premises infrastructure to the cloud and had already undertaken a number of readiness activities to prepare the application for migration to a Cloud environment”, says Turner. “Over 15 years, we had completed 6,000 homes for Kiwis, using this application, and we were not going to let the technical limitations of our existing IT infrastructure prevent us from continuing to build dreams and create futures for more New Zealanders.”

Nailing the Solution

Prior to the system outages, AWS had introduced Turner to AC3, an AWS Consulting Partner. AC3 validated the team’s understanding of the situation and identified two key areas in Classic’s infrastructure that could impact its operations in the long run.

Firstly, its on-premises architecture was unable to support continuous integration and continuous delivery of its increasing workloads, preventing the team from releasing code in continuous cycles to enhance the performance of the building application. Secondly, the amount of storage required by the application with every new project was nearing its physical limits.

Having done the architecture diagnosis with AC3, Classic accelerated its plans to migrate the application to the cloud. The two companies conducted multiple proofs of concept and rigorous daily testing. The goal was to develop a well-architected infrastructure that would enable Classic to continue delivering the high standard of quality and care for each of its projects in the long run. The migration was completed in three stages.In the first stage, Classic containerised its infrastructure using Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS), a secure, reliable, scalable, and fully managed container orchestration service. This allowed it to easily package the entire application and move it to the cloud without making code changes.

In stage two, AC3 facilitated a database migration to Amazon Aurora, a MySQL-compatible database that runs up to five times faster than standard MySQL databases. Since Classic’s application was already using a MySQL database, the migration was relatively simple with little or no change in the application itself. Furthermore, the robustness of the database service minimises any loading times, allowing Classic’s teams to become more efficient with access to real-time application data.

In the final stage, Classic transferred up to 6TB of data to Amazon Simple Storage (Amazon S3), letting it scale its storage alongside its business growth.

Post migration, the company saw immediate improvements to the performance of the application. In fact, users were instantly pleased with the time savings being experienced—processes such as calculating specific time and materials for a build, which used to take up to six minutes long, can now be completed in under a minute. Overall, Classic has been able to accelerate the speed of getting information through estimations by 60 percent.

Furthermore, the company no longer worries about managing its backend system. Amazon ECS is a fully managed service and Amazon Aurora can automatically grow the company’s database storage, as needed, allowing the team to focus on its core vision of building dream homes. With AWS, Turner’s team can also easily release code, troubleshoot, scale, and make further improvements to its applications in the long run.

Having the Right Partner

Turner adds, “AC3—combined with AWS services—was instrumental to getting our operations up and running quickly. From being constrained by on-premises infrastructure, we now have a finer degree of control over the infrastructure supporting the application, and we are able to provide our business users with high performing and reliable applications. Even better, we completed the migration in under four weeks, a task which would have typically taken two to three months.”

“We take a collaborative approach to address customers’ needs. Together with Classic, we formed one team that was involved at every stage of the migration process. This minimized setbacks, facilitated a smoother transition, and created a well-architected framework that met Classic’s requirements,” says Mark Maughan, business development manager at AC3.

Classic looks forward to continuing its partnership with AC3, to scale existing and develop future applications on AWS for performance optimisation.

This story was also featured on the AWS website, Case Studies. To learn how AC3 can help your business, check out AWS Migration with AC3.