Making Ministry of Education website cope when exam results are out

In this case study you can read about how through cloud computing, SIVECO Romania’s solution helped the Ministry of Education lower costs and offer new and more reliable services to the public.

The Romanian Ministry of Education wanted an essential website to perform well each July, when high school entrance exam results were posted there. It turned to its long-time technology partner SIVECO Romania, a Bucharest-based software vendor, which recommended moving their web publishing application to Windows Azure during peak periods. As a result, the Ministry gained ample processing power, eliminated downtime, and avoided spending US$100,000 for a comparable on-premises infrastructure.

SIVECO developed ADLIC, a high school admission application, for the Romanian Ministry of Education, which is used to publish high school entry test scores annually. Every year, approximately 200,000 Romanian eighth-graders submit their high school choices. Automatic assignments are made based on student preferences and school capacities, and the results are posted on the ADLIC website each July.

However, when up to 200,000 students and their parents rushed to the site to check their assignment, the site had difficulty responding, and anxious candidates had to revisit the site repeatedly, sometimes over a period of days, before they could see their results. The ministry did not have sufficient hardware infrastructure to properly support peak traffic loads.

“It is extremely important to the ministry that this site functions properly and stays available during the assignment period; it is the fastest way of transmitting the results to waiting students and is proof of ministry’s capacity to completely automate the distribution process,” says Florin Anton, Advanced eLearning Department Manager at SIVECO Romania. “Also, the ministry had experienced denial-of-service and other malicious attacks on the site, which meant that our staff had to monitor the servers around the clock to safeguard them.” Adding to the server workload, the exam results site used static webpages, which required tremendous computing power. SIVECO wanted to convert the ADLIC website to use dynamic webpages but a dynamic architecture would require more powerful and expensive servers, for which the ministry had no budget. Even using static pages, the ministry had to pay for powerful servers used just one or two months a year.

When SIVECO learned about Windows Azure in October 2010, it immediately saw it as a way to solve the ADLIC website challenges. Windows Azure provides on-demand compute, storage, networking, and content delivery capabilities through Microsoft data centers.

With the virtually unlimited computing power made available by using Windows Azure, SIVECO was able to upgrade the site from a static to a dynamic architecture, whilst only paying for the resources that it used. This enabled the ministry to offer new capabilities, such as a better search interface and richer data presentation, leading to a better user experience.

Cost-Effective Performance Scalability

“Windows Azure costs a fraction of what it would cost to create a comparable infrastructure in-house—it was at least 10 times less expensive,” says Bogdan Popoviciu, IT Director at the Romanian Ministry of Education. Anton estimates that the ministry would have had to spend US$100,000 on servers, software, and management resources to create a comparable infrastructure on premise. 

Improved Reliability and Availability

During the first summer that the ADLIC website was run on Windows Azure, the ministry experienced zero downtime for the first time. This gave staff a good peace of mind, as they did not have to watch ADLIC servers around the clock for a month to defend against denial-of-service attacks. “This reduced our costs by approximately $10,000,” Anton says. In addition, its improved reliability helped maintain the ministry’s reputation with the public. “With the site running on Windows Azure, we earn the public’s confidence.”

Cloud computing in Romania- Ministry of Education & SIVECO from Microsoft Europe.

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