Creating cloud-native APIs for a Edtech consultancy

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Return2Play are a Sports Medicine Consultancy based in the UK. They match medical expertise with innovative technology solutions to make receiving gold-standard care for injuries accessible to everyone. Their clients are schools, clubs and universities.

Their online platform records injuries, tracks recovery and documents compliance for grassroots sports teams, ensuring injuries are managed safely while easing the administrative burden for teachers and coaches. Cloudhelix has been working with Return2Play and managing their infrastructure since 2018. We sat down with Head of Client Services at Return2Play, Harry Black, to learn more about R2P and why they work with Cloudhelix.

Cloudhelix are involved with pretty much everything technical at Return2Play. This includes AWS management for the Return2Play Injury Management System, which is the primary service we offer to clients. They take care of our database management, all background maintenance in AWS and also help us with ad-hoc client requests.

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Harry Black - Head of Client Services

While Return2Play were happy with the public cloud management provided by Cloudhelix, they came to us with a challenge. As a growing technology company, application functionality and integration with other platforms is key to customer growth and retention. “It’s a theme at the moment in Edtech. About ten years ago, there was a big push for one system that did everything. Today, the sector’s realised that, actually, they’re better off having multiple, specialist systems so long as they have an API between and will talk to each other”.

SOCS, a Co-Curricular and Sports communication system used by nearly 1,000 schools in the UK independent sector, was one tool the Return2Play team were keen to integrate with. “An integration between R2P and SOCS would mean that someone marked as injured in our Injury Management System would be flagged up in SOCS. This would mean a Teacher selecting a team would be unable to select injured individuals, improving all-round care of a student and reducing admin.

The approach

Following a short discovery phase undertaken by Cloudhelix, along with some discussion with the SOCS team, Cloudhelix decided the best approach was to:

  • Create a secure API service using resources on AWS, where the existing Return2Play databases are hosted.
  • Leverage a greenfield cloud-native microservice, completely separate from the existing R2P system. This is in-line with Return2Play’s long-term strategy to migrate to a modular microservice architecture, removing legacy technical debt.
  • Pass authenticated HTTPS requests to the API onto an AWS Lambda function performing a query against a MySQL database, returning a JSON response to SOCS.

This approach was agreed upon by R2P, SOCS and Cloudhelix and the work was carried out over a short sprint.

Historically, creating an API service would involve developers rather than cloud architects, however, using our cloud-native approach and deep knowledge of the public cloud, a relatively low-touch microservice solution using AWS was delivered.

Today, the various moving parts required for an API can be created using native AWS tools. Utilising the AWS API Gateway, Identity and Access Management (IAM) Authentication, Lambda and Secrets Manager, Cloudhelix were able to deliver the API as a one-off DevOps project. AWS Cloudwatch is also used to provide monitoring and alerting of the API. If errors are recorded by the Lambda functions, a ticket is created and sent to Cloudhelix for further investigation.

This agile deployment strategy helps Return2Play in a number of ways. Primarily, by utilising native AWS tools, the Cloudhelix team reduced the amount of code required for an API project, allowing us to deliver the entire API over a short sprint. The project provides Return2Play with a repeatable and relatively low-touch means of delivering further integration requirements without developing their platform, which they plan to rebuild.

The integration Cloudhelix built provides us with a massive competitive advantage. SOCS are now a distribution channel for us. They’re talking about us and we’re listed on their online marketplace. There’s a lot of trust by association and SOCS work with the market that we target so, for us, the integration is a key reason as to why schools should sign up with us.

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Harry Black - Head of Client Services

The outcome

The small API project shows the growth in our partnership with Return2Play. Less than a year into managing their environment and, through getting to know their business and aims, we have been able to deliver real value into their business with an integration which boosts R2P’s competitive advantage and helps them gain new customers.

On what it’s like to work with Cloudhelix, Harry said “The major thing that makes Cloudhelix different is their awareness of what young, small companies are going through. Every startup spends a lot of time finding its way and every time they get closer to figuring out their offering, everything behind the scenes has to change. Cloudhelix understands this and have been happy to tailor their services to fit our needs. The team are always willing to look at the additional expertise, advice and consultancy they can offer. That’s a real advantage to us.”