G oGuardian® is a technology management solution that simplifies device rollout, protects students online, and encourages open communication between educators and students. For students and educators using 1:1 devices in their schools, GoGuardian provides granular control over content filtering and detailed analytics that help improve learning and engagement. Founded as a theft recovery solution in 2014, GoGuardian is now an industry leader in digital learning and student online safety, serving 2 million students in thousands of school districts across 5 continents.
GoGuardian bridges the divide between students and educators, helping teachers guide students toward resources, block out harmful or distracting content, and get real-time insights that can allow them to identify and intervene in serious matters such as cyberbullying, self-harm, or substance abuse.
For GoGuardian, data is key to delivering better learning for students. Their applications analyze classroom data traffic to prevent dangerous content from reaching student computers – and in some cases, allow schools to intervene before students can use the information they were searching for to harm themselves or others. They also provide detailed analytics to teachers, administrators, and school IT so they can identify and act on improvement areas. We process billions of datapoints about how students use the Internet, and need to do so in an efficient and queryable way.
At the outset of this challenge, GoGuardian sat down with CorpInfo, a national AWS Premier Consulting Partner, to pick their brains on potential solutions to scale to millions of students. AWS gives GoGuardian the toolset for collecting, manipulating and analyzing data to make it useful for their company and customers. Internally, GoGuardian collects metrics and data that provide feedback into the organization in useful ways – everything from usage stats, informing decisions to scale existing infrastructure or need to build out new services, and keeping their architecture humming along smoothly, among others. Externally, AWS gives them the tools to consistently and effectively surface the data that their customers require and expect. As the company has grown and the volume of data they college has increased–along with the expectations and requirements of the products that use it–AWS have been able to scale alongside, keeping data maximally accessible and useful.
Why Amazon Web Services
AWS is the backbone of GoGuardian’s data streaming, processing and storage for all production data. The reasons GoGuardian uses AWS and the products they utilize have evolved as the company has grown – but a few very important aspects of the service have supported them throughout their tenancy. AWS and its cloudy-ness is ultimately convenient, and the ease of setting up that infrastructure is the real “why” behind their AWS use. When the company began a two-person operation, they were still able to afford the backend architecture to get off the ground because of how accessible AWS is. Physical servers and data centers would’ve been time/cost-prohibitive, overburdening a small team that likely wouldn’t have been able to set up a multi-regionally available database. With AWS, many of GoGuardian’s important concerns (about scalability, availability, setup, maintenance, etc.) are minimized or ameliorated, freeing up developers to focus on their core competency: writing software that delivers value to schools.
GoGuardian uses nearly every icon in the AWS Console, most notably Kinesis, RDS Aurora (MySQL), EC2 Container Registry, Elasticsearch, EMR, and S3. They also use ELB, Route 53, ElasticCache (Redis), Redshift, SNS, CloudWatch, Elasticsearch, DynamoDB, and VPC.
For GoGuardian, data is key to delivering better learning for students. Their applications analyze classroom data traffic to prevent dangerous content from reaching student computers – and in some cases, allow schools to intervene before students can harm themselves or others. They also provide analytics to teachers, administrators, and school IT so they can identify and act on learning or safety concerns.
AWS lets GoGuardian focus on their core practice of building better software. Amazon offers a wide variety of durable services wrapped with a uniform API, which is accessible via plentiful SDKs. This means they get fast, short-cycle iterations of isolated environments – leading to more test cases, more bugs found and fixed, and a better product for our customers.
The availability, ease, and convenience of AWS’s cloud-based infrastructure is the primary benefit AWS provides. The core value-adds AWS provides GoGuardian can be broken down into:
Focus: AWS removes all the heavy lifting of dealing directly with physical computers.
Convenience: they don’t have to build scalable systems like Kinesis or ELB, which have already been built and battle tested in advance.
Growth potential: GoGuardian is able to scale 100x without worrying about expanding server capacity. Can you imagine 100x-ing a physical server farm?
Speed: Developers can spin up a 100 VMs in 30s.
In addition to the benefits above (convenience, metrics, availability, etc.), the benefits of using AWS include things like its variety of services (when a new product or services is being fleshed out/prototyped, often its new requirements are met or handled in some way by an existing AWS service), cost-effectiveness (the tools provided by AWS for managing/limiting costs are extremely useful and revealing), regionality (serving multiple regions of the US and/or the world effectively is often handled directly for customers, so they don’t have to worry about expanding).
GoGuardian is hopeful that their initial success with DynamoDB experiments will be put into production soon, and are excited to see the future of Kafka, Druid, Hashicorp Consul and Vault as services.
GoGuardian strongly favors Open Source software, and think that AWS is great at Data and Infrastructure services. They’re looking forward to the growth potential new AWS services that are on the horizon will continue to provide.
GoGuardian’s CTO Advait Shinde speaks about their success with Amazon Aurora at AWS in San Francisco.