Always-Available, Secure Building Access
For nearly 40 years, Paxton has helped businesses manage the security of their buildings with easy-to-install access control products, door entries, and video management solutions. As designers and manufacturers of security solutions, Paxton’s products are installed in over 30,000 buildings yearly across an extensive range of industries, including education, healthcare, retail, leisure, commercial, and the public sector.
Paxton started as a company designing and manufacturing access control solutions to track and control when someone enters a building. Today, the company and their product offerings have become more advanced and IoT protocols allow for complex data movement, centralized control of devices across multiple sites, and centralized data management. As a result, Paxton has been able to use these modern technologies to greatly expand the products they offer and provide world-class services to their customers.
As Paxton expanded their product offerings, they had two technical requirements that would help them meet business priorities. First, reliable data movement to ensure all services are available to customers 100 percent of the time. Second, a fully-managed data messaging solution that would free up their engineers from managing backend systems to focus on building new features and improving the customer user experience.
Paxton Builds a Data Foundation for Growth
As Paxton expanded their product portfolio, they worked to identify the right IoT data foundation that could support the new offering. They needed to move IoT data (including video) reliably and scalably to support a geographically dispersed system of buildings, each with multiple points of access. They required a central system to move and monitor this data, and found themselves looking for both a protocol to standardize on and a partner for IoT data messaging.
In their search, Paxton came across the leading open-standard messaging protocol, MQTT. They were attracted to the publish/subscribe nature of the protocol due to its versatility and discovered that from a technical standpoint, building a data foundation on MQTT would give them the ability to separate and decouple devices and guarantee message delivery. With MQTT, Paxton could separate the concerns of all devices in the field, plus connect any new, remote controllers with ease. As a result, Paxton chose to standardize all backend communications on MQTT.
Standardizing on MQTT gave us a plan for progression to allow for the seamless addition of multiple buildings across geographic regions. All of our data communication requirements, plus every scaling and technology limitation in our system, was answered using MQTT.
Paxton started with the open source MQTT broker to develop a proof of concept and handle IoT messaging internally. The open source broker allowed them to test their architecture successfully, but it lacked speed and was limited in which MQTT versions it implemented. Most importantly, there was no option for professional support and it wasn’t built to support enterprise projects with cloud deployments and tens of thousands of concurrent connections.
As we expanded our use case, we found ourselves needing an enterprise-level solution rather than an open source tool for two reasons,” says Walling. “First, due to the large number of connections and messages we were anticipating from the product rollout. Second, we don’t have a whole dedicated engineering team to run the broker and needed a good operations partner and ultimately a fully-managed solution.
Engineers at Paxton were already familiar with HiveMQ because they used their learning materials and tutorials to code their first system. They felt HiveMQ had the best resources and most expertise in MQTT so when it was time to upgrade to an enterprise-grade solution - they knew where to go and once they examined the features available, the choice was easy.
Building an Enterprise-Grade Deployment in the Cloud
Paxton chose HiveMQ for their superior support and enterprise-level capabilities to offer seamless service for building access control: scalability thanks to a linear architecture, enterprise-level security, and reliability and high availability thanks to a clustered design. Paxton needed more than the standard TLS security features, so they utilized the HiveMQ Enterprise Security Extension.
Paxton started with an on-premise version of the HiveMQ MQTT platform and the build was successful but as Walling mentioned, they quickly realized using in-house software engineers to build and monitor backend infrastructure was resource-demanding. Ensuring 24/7 data availability steals time from development teams who need to focus on enhancing their products and building new solutions.
As a result, Paxton decided to migrate to HiveMQ Cloud, a fully-managed deployment that would streamline monitoring and making sure the system runs as planned, freeing Paxton engineers up for other projects.
We needed to ensure 24/7 seamless service for our customers, which proved to be challenging for our DevOps team because they needed to spend more time on the service itself. While we had the talent, there were other valuable things those engineers could be doing with their time.
Moving from on-premise to cloud services can be risky for any IoT project. That’s why Walling and his team of engineers were meticulous in their planning and relied on the trusted advice from HiveMQ’s knowledgeable engineering team. Since MQTT is HiveMQ’s core business, Paxton found that they were working with the experts and industry leaders, and getting answers to questions was easy.
HiveMQ offered the services and support we needed to be able to call when we identified an issue or had a question, get several experts working on it rapidly, and then move on to the next value-adding activity.
Improving Availability and the Customer Experience
The migration was seamless, with zero downtime, and thus far the system has been up 100% of the time which allows Paxton to put their best foot forward. It took the company roughly four months to migrate from using HiveMQ on-premise to HiveMQ Cloud, with one month of crossover and close monitoring on the backend to ensure a seamless transition for customers.
It’s hard to quantify the value of having constant uptime for our customers,” says Walling. “They expect it, and we need to deliver it to grow our business. Working with HiveMQ to make that happen has been invaluable.
With HiveMQ Cloud, per Walling, Paxton can connect more hardware to a larger central source and have more message throughput. They can scale up, scale out and handle more connections extremely efficiently as the company continues its global expansion.
Paxton calculated the direct and indirect costs of building and maintaining their MQTT setup internally, and it would cost more in wages to monitor and control their clusters in-house than it did to invest in the fully-managed HiveMQ Cloud offering. The choice laid the right foundation to free up those engineering resources to instead spend their time on revenue-producing projects.
A Future-Proof Foundation
HiveMQ Cloud functionality gave Paxton a future-proof foundation to host any geographical location with ease, centralized management and control. The deployment incorporated extra security requirements, and the infrastructure in place can handle any amount of future growth in connections and messages. The idea is Paxton will not need to change their architecture even when they add new use cases, new products, or more customers across the globe.
Paxton is naturally expanding their business model from manufacturing access control solutions to developing video intercom products, smart door handles, and cameras. Using cloud technologies allows them to broaden their offerings to HaaS (Hardware as a Service) - a subscription-based monetization model. With their new backend, their access control systems will be able to provide more information for data-driven decision making, like smart environments and building management. Paxton sees a future where they can expand beyond access control.
We found HiveMQ to be true partners with us, their expertise and the willingness of engineers to give us advice was the thing that we loved the most. Once we saw what HiveMQ delivered, selecting them as our MQTT partner was an easy choice. It is very good to have the right people to help us grow our business.