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AWS Well-Architected Review: Serverless Architecture-AWS Step Functions

A Story of Owning Change

About Boostability

Boostability, established in 2009, was founded on a simple business model: to create affordable and effective SEO for the small business marketplace. Today, Boostability serves thousands of small businesses, helping them elevate their digital presence and succeed online. Boostability primarily works with partners that offer their white-labeled SEO, social media and website build services to their SMB clients. The company serves more than 26,000 active clients and has over 400 employees based in two offices on the Silicon Slopes of Utah and satellite locations in Amsterdam and Berlin. It has been ranked in the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in America for four straight years.

Boostability Logo

Through the AWS Well-Architected Review, 1Strategy was able [to] assist us at Boostability to fine-tune the implementation of this mission-critical project. The Review plus 1Strategy’s additional coaching mean that we will have a reliable, performant, cost-effective service when it soon goes into production.

Mason Meyer, Lead Developer, Boostability

The Challenge

In the world of SEO (search engine optimization)—the activity that increases or improves websites’ search engine rankings—content is necessary and valuable. Each day, small businesses around the world will optimize their online SEO presence by reaching out to Boostability’s WritersDomain, looking for valuable content.

WritersDomain is an application created by Boostability that distributes writing tasks to a team of independent writers located around the world—creating quality content for their clients across diverse industries in English, French, Spanish and German. These writing tasks include blogs, copy for websites, social media posts and more.

Boostability’s challenge was to move this mission-critical application to a serverless stack, with the goal of developing this as a model for migrating other services to an AWS serverless framework.

Why Amazon Web Services

Boostability is not new to benefiting from Amazon Web Services (AWS), having relied on their services, including Amazon RDS, Amazon CloudFormation and Amazon Lambda, nearly since the establishment of their company. Though familiar with these and other AWS services, Boostability turned to 1Strategy, an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner, for their in-depth knowledge of AWS to conduct a serverless-focused AWS Well-Architected Review. Boostability needed to ensure that they were, in fact, well-architected and using AWS best practices to their full potential.

“Previously, we conducted a few experiments using AWS Step Functions and AWS Lambda on a serverless stack, resulting in a $20,000-per-month savings. However, we hadn’t deployed an application entirely on a serverless framework. But after working with 1Strategy, we determined that moving to AWS on a serverless framework was the right move,” said Mason Meyer, lead developer at Boostability.

The Benefits

The Well-Architected Review, conducted by 1Strategy, uncovered several opportunities for improvement, including the benefits of deploying an AWS serverless framework architecture using AWS Step Functions for WritersDomain.

1Strategy provided best practices and explained that with AWS Step Functions the company will be able to coordinate the multistep assignments this application requires. Doing so will also allow Boostability to run the entire process in a serverless and cost-effective way. This will permit them to scale with the flexibility to update or make a change for a particular client without writing code or modifying the entire application.

Boostability’s WritersDomain architecture is composed of two main pieces:

  1. Store Domain: An order is placed by the customer, multiple types of content are managed, etc.
  2. Fulfillment Domain: A writer is assigned to the order, content is reviewed, payment is made to the writer, etc.

By using AWS Step Functions, Boostability will be able to better coordinate the multistep process required by the Fulfillment Domain workflow. Previously, orchestrating both AWS Lambda functions and manual workflow steps (such as human writers completing the order) was challenging; with AWS Step Functions, these tasks can be managed in one workflow. Now Boostability will be able to manage all these tasks seamlessly: assigning a writer to complete a task; reviewing, editing and checking for plagiarism; receiving client approval; and paying the writer.

Boostability’s Serverless Application Using AWS Step Functions

Diagram depicting the flow of custom queues using a parallel task:

Boostability diagram

This serverless architecture on AWS will also serve as a blueprint for future products and features. Boostability plans to create additional task systems that are scalable and flexible and where their customers can order a wide range of digital marketing solutions in a variety of price points and service-level agreements (SLAs).

Additionally, 1Strategy’s Well-Architected Review identified three areas of focus to better adhere to Well-Architected principles: monitoring, tagging, and performance optimizing.

1. Monitoring

In strengthening Boostability’s serverless architecture in AWS, 1Strategy provided guidance and best practices for monitoring AWS Lambda and API Gateway utilizing Amazon CloudWatch. With CloudWatch, Boostability will be able to monitor Lambda executions and API Gateway metrics, set alarms, and automatically react to changes. As needed, Boostability will be able to connect CloudWatch alarms to their Slack channel(s) via Lambda.

2. Tagging

1Strategy directed Boostability to establish an effective tagging plan. Creating a tagging strategy for Boostability’s AWS resources will allow better cost-monitoring and an easier way for the company to manage, search for and filter their AWS resources. A tag is basically an identifying label (in the form of a key-value pair) that is applied to an AWS resource.

3. Performance Optimizing

Boostability can optimize performance for their serverless framework by enabling Amazon API Gateway caching. Caching the output of API calls will help to reduce latency and alleviate the load on the backend by returning faster results and deliver a more performant API.

“Through the AWS Well-Architected Review, 1Strategy was able [to] assist us at Boostability to fine-tune the implementation of this mission-critical project,” Meyer said. “The Review plus 1Strategy’s additional coaching mean that we will have a reliable, performant, cost-effective service when it soon goes into production.”

Satisfied with the successful results of the WritersDomain model, Boostability will soon be migrating more types of services and tasks to AWS, taking advantage of the gains they will receive from AWS Step Functions and a serverless architecture.

“Using AWS Serverless Framework along with Step Functions and Lambda are key factors at Boostability as they reduce our IT operational costs and allow us the flexibility to focus on our application and not on our infrastructure,” Meyer said.

The work described in this engagement was originally completed by 1Strategy, a TEKsystems Global Services company acquired in 2019. As of June 2023, 1Strategy has fully integrated with TEKsystems Global Services to continue to deliver AWS expertise to customers. Learn more about our AWS solutions.

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