Arlington National Cemetery's successful migration of GIS services to the cloud lead to cost savings, improved performance, and enhanced visitor experiences. From identifying the right-fit solutions, to navigating safety and security requirements, the project overcame numerous challenges. Read more about how the team transitioned from aging on-premise infrastructure to the cloud, and the benefits that resulted.
Arlington National Cemetery's mission is to lay the Nation's veterans and their family members to rest, memorialize fallen soldiers, and serve as a living tribute to America’s history. Over 400,000 graves are located on the grounds that span nearly 640 acres. The site also houses facilities, memorials, and infrastructure such as roads and walking paths. The web-based management application (Army Cemeteries Mapper) help staff manage cemetery operations, events and ceremonies, and data about the site's features, and through a web and mobile application (Army Cemeteries Explorer), visitors to the cemetery can more easily navigate the expansive grounds and access historical information during their visit.
Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) recognized that its server infrastructure for these GIS-based services was aging. ANC relied on Army Analytics Group (AAG) for on-premise hosting of its architecture. As usage had grown exponentially, particularly on high-use days and peak use times, server resources became throttled, which lead to unresponsive applications and a poor visitor experience.
The ANC Explorer Grave Finder application displaying results from a query.
ANC identified that migrating these services from on-premise to the cloud was the clear solution to address these challenges. Not only would cloud infrastructure easily scale in the future as the cemetery’s operations grow, but it would also allow ANC to reduce its dependence on limited physical assets to keep their processes running. The cloud would have the capacity to handle significant traffic surges during peak events and periods, as well as reduce and optimize overall hosting expenses.
Arlington National Cemetery aimed to maximize their investment of time, money, and resources, and minimize impact to user experience during their cloud migration. To effectively manage these challenges, ANC turned to Axim Geospatial as a trusted partner and experienced cloud services and solutions provider. The collaboration between ANC and Axim Geospatial aimed to ensure a seamless transition to the cloud.
How Arlington National Cemetery & Axim Geospatial Overcame Challenges During the Cloud Migration Process
The team began with a review of the requirements for the project and for compliance with federal government guidelines around cloud systems and identified a path forward. Axim leveraged a scripted infrastructure deployment capability in Amazon Web Services (AWS) called CloudFormation, allowing ANC to meet necessary compliance requirements. Additionally, CloudFormation also eases the deployment of updates and recoveries during an outage.
The ANC Mapper Daily Schedule panel shows activities throughout the cemetery for a given day.
The next challenge the team faced was how to leverage available cloud technologies to further enhance application performance and increase resiliency. This was a multifaceted effort of employing CloudFront and improving the Content Management System – the application that allows authorized ANC Mapper users to update content seen in ANC Explorer, all while continuing to support existing operations.
Addressing the issue of slow loading times proved to be a simple fix. The team recognized the issue and implemented a solution: moving photos over to cloud storage (S3) from the slow, on-premises storage subsystem. With that solution in place, the app loads quickly and behaves as expected. These benefits are visible in reports and analytics from Splunk, the monitoring software the team uses.
The ANC Mapper Executive Dashboard developed with responsive design for easy mobile viewing.
The final challenge was to put the ANC Mapper and ANC Explorer applications and notional cloud infrastructure through the DoD Risk Management Framework (RMF) process. This can be a long, meticulous process requiring multiple approval phases before final acceptance. The Axim team was the first AAG (Army Analytics Group) tenant to successfully complete this process and successfully migrate production operations to the cloud.
The Final Results: Fewer Headaches, Lower Costs, & Improved Visitor Experience
Today, Arlington National Cemetery continues to help the public learn more about those who gave their lives for their country and honor our nation's history through improved visitor experiences. These improvements, as well as operational benefits, have a direct connection of moving their infrastructure to the cloud.
ANC's recently refactored iOS and Android apps provide visitors with a more modern, streamlined experience. But the impact of the cloud went beyond improved user experience. At the end of 2021, Arlington National Cemetery had:
- Significant savings of over $100k a year alone on licensing from migrating to Postgres.
- Increased app availability, performance, and security thanks to ANC Mapper & ANC Explorer cloud migration, as well as a platform for expanding capabilities into the future.
- Ended their application’s on-premise presence and associated limitations.
- Enhanced support for their mission by leveraging more modern web technology in the New Mapper WebMapViewer, ArcGIS Server, and Cloud infrastructure implementation.
How much time, money, and resources could a cloud migration save your organization? If you are contemplating making the switch, contact Axim Geospatial today. Together, we will identify the challenges standing in your way and the best solutions to resolve them—so you can leverage the cloud to its full potential.
The ANC Explorer iOS application home screen.