Moving Technical Content Management Systems into the Cloud

Jun 27, 2024 | Technical Content Management

As aviation and aerospace technology evolves exponentially, Flatirons is constantly looking at ways to address the ever-evolving IT ecosystem in the industry. One of those evolution points is creating and distributing to drive understanding and accelerate execution. Implementing and hosting technical content solutions in multiple deployment scenarios (hosted, on-prem, and cloud) has driven the creation of best practices that have evolved Flatirons’ cloud-based solutions moving forward. We summarize these lessons below by organizing them within the context of our past and present experiences.

The Past

Flatirons was there during the initial transition from SGML to XML data. XML is derived from SGML for more flexible publishing and distribution options. We provided a solid user experience through our viewer applications using the associated XSL stylesheet language. The hosting of applications during this time was a more variable exercise since customer IT departments were often under the impression that there was more efficiency in hosting applications in-house. Flatirons delivered installable software to customers, but we also leveraged our hosting capabilities to provide SaaS-based solutions for customers who preferred them.

During this period, we also learned (through our hosting efforts) a lot about hosting technical data. Some lessons included:

  • Hosting for a data size increase rate that is more than linear throughout the year
  • Providing reliable latency times for access by maintenance technicians
  • Maintaining a secure environment that protects against sophisticated bad actors

The Present

With the transition into cloud-based hosting on AWS, we experience the benefits of outsourced infrastructure support directly from Amazon for our technical content management solutions. Previously, as a SaaS provider, we were forced to maintain an equal portion of resourcing for hosting and developing our solutions. Now, we are focused more on redirecting resources to feature development and continuous application hardening. Of course, we still invest resources in managing the cloud environments, but we can significantly refocus our efforts on the power and coverage of the AWS environments.

Some of the robust services that simplify our SaaS solution efforts are:

  • Worldwide hosting regions
  • Readily available horizontal and vertical computing resources
  • Fully realized cloud-based security

Additionally, we get a holistic environment benefit that allows us to react in real-time to unexpected demand or everyday events like bulk data additions. For example, we typically implement technical data for a customer’s existing fleet at the start of a project, which includes estimating standard data growth for that fleet. There have been occasions where, in the middle of an ongoing project, a new fleet or set of reconfigured aircraft comes into service that may add a large (and not entirely anticipated) amount of data.

Previously, our hosting team had to add new servers or hard drives to the rack space. This is no longer true since we can add faster and larger drives with a few mouse clicks. The same general capabilities and ease of execution are available for customer requests like inter-region backups, archiving data, adding provisions for a new set of vendor accounts, etc. AWS handles the infrastructure, Flatirons manages the capabilities, and all the customer has to worry about is covering the cost of the additional allocation. This optimization also allows for integrating on-premise or cloud-based systems within the IT ecosystem of any organization we deploy.

The Future

There is a lot of excitement around leveraging more of the tools available within the cloud to improve the customer experience. Our resources now have more freedom to think about the best possible offering and value we can provide to our clients and their overall customer experience.

A good analogy for the power of the cloud is like building a city out of Lego blocks. Before, building the city meant connecting the blocks for every street, building, and bridge. Building a city with cloud services is now just a matter of selecting between pre-built houses, roads, bridges, and services. Engineers can now focus on HOW you can live in and get around the city instead of just working hard to assemble a city’s basics.

This translates into a development environment where our engineers work hard to leverage generative AI services in AWS to enable intelligent features within our existing applications, like better predictive search and procedural suggestions for technicians. As we become more embedded within the cloud, we look forward to refactoring our application with AI tools to better take advantage of the cloud capabilities—all to provide significant capabilities and value to our customers.

With the Cloud and AI, the Technical Content Management Future is Bright

Flatirons’ journey from traditional on-premises hosting to embracing cloud-based solutions on AWS exemplifies the dynamic evolution of technical content management in the aviation and aerospace industries. By leveraging cloud infrastructure, we have transitioned from a resource-intensive SaaS model to a more agile and scalable approach, allowing us to focus on innovative feature development and enhanced security. Our past experiences have provided invaluable lessons, while the present shift to cloud-based hosting has streamlined operations and improved responsiveness to customer needs.

The future holds exciting prospects as we integrate advanced cloud tools and generative AI (which will be sharing more details in the next blog) to deliver cutting-edge technical content management solutions. This strategic move ensures that Flatirons remains at the forefront of the industry, continuously enhancing the value and user experience we provide to our clients. By embracing the technical content ecosystem evolution to enhance our current strategy, we can keep an eye on the future to ensure that we learn from what was, embrace what is, and be ready for what’s next.

Flatirons Solutions