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American Psychological Association Relies on Red Hat Solutions to Re-launch Website with Unified Architecture
September 9, 2011
Customer: American Psychological Association (APA)
“With Red Hat Enterprise Linux and JBoss Enterprise Middleware, we are able to experience the benefits of open source combined with the support and uptime that we require.” – Beverly Jamison, senior director of IT, architecture, and publishing solutions, American Psychological Association
JBoss® Enterprise Middleware, including JBoss Enterprise Portal Platform, JBoss Enterprise Application Platform (including JBoss Seam Framework, JBoss Cache, Red Hat Enterprise MRG Messaging, JBoss Clustering), Red Hat Enterprise Linux®
Re-launched flagship website, www.apa.org; Achieved a unified, secure, and scalable platform allowing the organization’s more than 165,000 members to share information with peers; Deployed a cost-effective, open source architecture that leveraged existing applications and removed requirements to purchase new ones
Based in Washington, D.C., the American Psychological Association (APA) is a scientific and professional organization that represents psychology in the United States. With more than 165,000 members, APA is the largest association of psychologists worldwide, and operates under the mission of advancing the creation, communication, and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives. In addition to being a membership organization for academics, practitioners, and psychology students, the APA publishes books and academic journals and fills an important public service role of educating the general public. “Our academic publishing area includes about 70 peer-reviewed journals, 60 books a year, and the PsycINFO database, which is like the National Library of Medicine’s Medline for psychology, and contains three million records,” explained Beverly Jamison, senior director of IT, architecture, and publishing solutions at the American Psychological Association. “In addition to the database, we provide a platform that distributes information to our members and the public and to university libraries that distribute our academic publishing products. Academic publishing is a key part of our business, delivering approximately 70 percent of our annual revenue, so availability is critical.”
While the APA’s flagship website, APA.org, is one of the primary means of communication and knowledge distribution within the APA community, an internal audit revealed that APA’s web presence was not achieving its full potential. Previously, the web presence consisted of a series of non-cohesive web properties. The properties were built on a homegrown content management and e-commerce system that was more than 10 years old and integrated many diverse legacy technologies.
As the APA grew, its disparate legacy web architecture was limiting the organization’s ability to quickly and efficiently add new features. With more than 1.5 million total hits per day and 500,000 unique user views per month, the APA wanted to improve the user experience it was providing to its members and visitors via APA.org. The APA wanted more intuitive features, better support for the organization’s activities, enhanced availability of psychological information for the public and its members, and improved e-commerce capabilities. The relaunched APA.org also required improved search, identity, and authorization, as well as content management capabilities and a more personalized experience for MyAPA, the organization’s web-based member portal.
A long-time open source proponent, the APA has been using a variety of open source solutions since the earliest days of the Internet.
“As an association, we need to be economical with our IT budget and provide the best services that we can, so Linux and Apache are easy starting places for us,” said Jamison. “However, as our practices matured, we could no longer have unsupported software; our uptime requirements were too high and our software development was too complex. We chose Red Hat Enterprise Linux for its robustness and high levels of support that ensured our requirements were met after putting the full weight of our UNIX systems on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Today, we’re running all of our systems on HP hardware using Red Hat Enterprise Linux.”
After using Red Hat Enterprise Linux for a few years, the APA embarked on a project to integrate its disparate systems and web architecture.
“Like many organizations, the approach to integration was handled three different ways--by the public website, the association, and the academic publishing unit ,” said Jamison. “When it came time to integrate the member services, the academic communication services, and e-commerce, we needed to address the challenge of integrating siloed pieces of software with legacy systems. The only solution that enabled us to keep the legacy systems while decreasing dependence on the deprecation, was to create synchronization. We needed a robust, web-facing system with e-commerce and registration functionality, as well as a member-access only section.”
“Our web project demanded a service-oriented architecture (SOA) and as our needs became more complex, JBoss Enterprise Middleware from Red Hat was selected as the ideal solution to ensure the new website’s availability and functionality,” added Abroo Shah, APA’s director of applications. “With that, the service layer and the use of Java became essential.”
Before selecting JBoss Enterprise Middleware, the APA embarked on a broad competitive evaluation in conjunction with its website redesign project. As part of that project, the APA evaluated identity management and e-commerce solutions, and the tools they would use for the integration. The APA needed a new solution to support high availability of applications and platforms--one that was also flexible in its support of web services, especially for planned future integrations with external systems and additional internal systems. The APA also needed to make key application services, including identity management and e-commerce, available as web services.
“We evaluated solutions across the board–from large commercial vendors to smaller integration tools--keeping in mind that the nature of the application stack and web services support were essential for day-to-day operations.” said Jamison. “JBoss Enterprise Middleware not only met our support requirements and constraints, but was also able to manage the workload while guaranteeing service levels. An added bonus? It was the most economical option.”
“JBoss Enterprise Middleware gives us a number of advantages compared to competing technologies in the market,” said Shah. “The first is robustness, and the second is making our systems versatile. With JBoss Enterprise Middleware, our architecture is now expandable.”
The APA turned to Red Hat to recommend a partner to work with them on the launch of the new APA.org, ultimately selecting Vizuri, a Red Hat Advanced Business Partner and Preferred JBoss Certified Systems Integrator. Vizuri was selected to design the solutions architecture, encompassing the integration of the content management, control access, and the custom-developed APA applications.
“The relationship with Vizuri worked out extremely well,” said Jamison. “Vizuri sent us two consultants who were engaged with us full-time when we were in a very intense mode, and they served us in a number of capacities. They acted as a true partner, participating in our architectural design, integrating those pieces, handling our deployment, and training our in-house technical team.”
Working closely with the APA, Vizuri built a solution using JBoss Enterprise Middleware that better leveraged the APA’s existing legacy solutions, reducing costs and avoiding unnecessary technical headaches. “When we came on board, the technical challenges were significant,” said Joe Dickman, senior vice president at Vizuri. “We needed to have what’s called an ‘active-active sync,’ so it was critical that the APA was able to utilize messaging to keep the systems in sync and to ensure that there was integrity between both systems.”
The new solution was based on two primary JBoss Enterprise Middleware platforms: JBoss Enterprise Portal Platform, and JBoss Enterprise Application Platform, which includes JBoss Seam Framework, Clustering, Red Hat Enterprise MRG Messaging, and support for the popular RichFaces framework.
With this solution in place, the APA leveraged Red Hat Enterprise MRG Messaging to help synchronize and better leverage legacy assets, JBoss Clustering to ensure high availability, and JBoss Seam Framework to integrate the identity management system with the rest of the APA.org web ecosystem, creating a seamlessly unified user environment.
“Red Hat Enterprise MRG Messaging was probably the most critical to the synchronization piece,” said Jamison. “JBoss Clustering was important for our ability to be robust, avoid downtime deployments, sustain failures in certain portions of the system, and be able to have a clean restart.”
“We needed the identity management component to interface with our legacy systems, which required a queuing mechanism to enable messaging back and forth,” said Shah. “For this, Java Messaging Queue, as part of JBoss Enterprise Middleware, was critical.”
JBoss Enterprise Portal Platform has also emerged as the core foundation for APA’s complex Digital Rights Management solution. “JBoss Enterprise Portal Platform provided us with an integration platform that was able to integrate at the glass,” said Dickman “There were also new JBoss Seam Framework applications that were utilized by e-commerce and the publishing systems, while at the same time we were able to integrate legacy applications.”
“JBoss Enterprise Portal Platform supports every authentication that comes through our high-traffic PsycNET site,” said Jamison. “It also supports the e-commerce, all the way through the completion of the transaction when we assign digital assets to user profiles.”
When the new APA.org launched using JBoss Enterprise Middleware solutions, the APA achieved its initial goals of creating an engaging web experience, full of rich features and functionality. Among the biggest benefits that the APA has experienced with its overhauled website is an enhanced web presence.
“Single sign-on provides a number of benefits to our membership by allowing quicker and more nimble navigation between different sections of the website,” said Jamison. “As our members move between our public website to the members-only section for information on upcoming conferences or APA governance, they can now sign in on any of those systems and be recognized as they move from one system to another.”
“Open source provides us choice,” said Dickman. “The complex nature of the Digital Rights Management at APA could not have been completed as easily had we used closed source, proprietary software.” The organization’s members also benefit from the ability to use APA’s applications and platforms without having to experience downtime.
“The most meaningful result was the decrease in downtime,” said Jamison. “Previously, we could not sustain some of the single points of failure. However, with JBoss Enterprise Middleware, the robustness has increased greatly. High availability allows us to recover from downtime of other components and to introduce no-downtime deployments and patches, which are critical to the business. We are now long past the days where we said we needed a four-hour window to get a particular deployment out.”
“What Red Hat provides to my customers is sustainability,” said Dickman. “They are assured that the support costs they purchase are valuable investments, allowing them to direct savings into the assets they are doing for their businesses.” As the APA integrates more internal and external services and applications via web services, they are considering moving to an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) approach to manage rules via JBoss Enterprise SOA Platform.
“As the organization evolves, our SOA will likewise grow, and we’re envisioning applications that will use this architecture,” said Shah. “As other applications move into our architecture, which is built on JBoss Enterprise Middleware, we’ll expand our use of JBoss in order to deliver more services."
“We’re also exploring using Red Hat Enterprise MRG Messaging for our disaster recovery, which is an option that I hadn’t visualized when we first started working with the Java Messaging Queue,” said Shah. "In that sense, Java has demonstrated itself to be highly versatile and flexible, and an environment that we can use for a variety of applications.”
“As technology grows, our members, the academic community, and the public have increasing expectations for how and when information will be available to them,” said Jamison. “It’s critical for us to maintain agility and embrace new technologies and opportunities. We have found that with Red Hat Enterprise Linux and JBoss Enterprise Middleware, we get to experience the many benefits of open source, combined with the levels of support and uptime that we require.”