Mak Grills: Well-Architected Review Improves Scalability & Reliability of IoT Solution

Several years ago, Effectual worked with BBQ manufacturer MAK Grills on a product ideation project for a new web app giving owners remote operational control of their grills. Prior to our engagement, the company’s outsourced development process had stalled and they needed help salvaging the project. After reviewing their existing code, we were able to address their wishlist and launch the app on an aggressive timeline.

While the app ran successfully for the first few years, the company began to experience performance issues as its customer base expanded. MAK Grills President Bob Tucker re-engaged Effectual for a Well-Architected Framework Review to evaluate their solution, which was crashing daily and shutting down all of their grills.

For the review, Tucker had the following objectives:

  • Stabilize the production environment
  • Ensure scalability
  • Build an affordable solution using their existing Microsoft technology stack (.NET, SQL Server, IIS)

In our Well-Architected Review, we discovered that the company had recently hired someone to rewrite their firmware. During the rollout, the firmware had 10,000 BBQs sending messages to the MAK Grills website every 5 seconds. This increase in traffic was causing their server to crash at least once a day. They had tried to fix the issue but it was still unresolved. With owners who expected their mobile service to be available 24/7, it was clear the company had a serious customer service problem on their hands.

Actions & Recommendations from the Well-Architected Review

  • Analyzed the MAK Grills Microsoft server (.NET technology stack with a SQL Server on the backend) to identify what was crashing.
  • Refactored the architecture based on new performance requirements using Amazon RDS for SQL Server, Jenkins build server, and Amazon Auto-Scaling Group.
  • Moved all logs from the IIS server to Amazon CloudWatch logs, rotating logs out every other day. This allows MAK to review logs for problems without additional costs and will not crash their server.
  • Leveraged Amazon CodeCommit for their CICD pipeline.
  • Utilized AWS Elastic Beanstalk with a blue/green deployment method to eliminate downtime.
  • Consulted with their firmware developer to provide guidance on IoT best practices.
  • Coordinated all of the company’s outsourced engineering teams to ensure they are on the same page in terms of cost objectives and best practices for scalability and reliability.

Our team also recommended that MAK Grills capture their market metrics to understand the business value of their offering. We installed Google Analytics to evaluate customer behavior and created a company dashboard for greater visibility into user data. In addition, we suggested they evaluate switching their business model to monthly subscription pricing (versus charging a $300 upfront cost for the app at time of purchase).

Based on user feedback and customer data, the MAK Grills sales team is now testing a monthly subscription pricing model with new customers. Effectual’s remediation has stabilized a production environment that can scale automatically, and the company can focus on new product innovation to keep its customers engaged and happy.

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