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CCK Selects Red Hat to Enhance User Experience And Migrate to Online Portal System
March 7, 2012
Students use the CCK online portals to get orientation and registration materials. An overwhelming increase in traffic resulted in tremendous performance issues.
“We have used open source software for more than three years now and are highly satisfied with its quality and efficiency,” ALI LABYEDH TECHNICAL DIRECTOR, CCK
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Founded in 1997, the Centre de Calcul Khawarizmi (CCK) has overseen the development and implementation of the University National Network and Search as well as other Internet services for higher education and scientific research sectors in Tunisia. CCK has been one of the pioneers in the conception and the implementation of network architectures and innovative applications in the region. Tunisia was the first African country to enable students who had passed the Baccalaureate examinations to receive an online university orientation. Since 2007, the Ministry of Higher Education, through its Internet provider (CCK), has provided a platform for university orientation via the web (www.orientation.tn). CCK also allows students who have passed the Baccalaureate to choose their branches and university or higher college (www.inscription.tn) through another online portal. These portals have made it possible for students to receive confirmation of their admission in four days, compared to a previous wait of more than two weeks.
Increase in site traffic calls for a new, reliable system
For the first four years after the introduction of the revolutionary online orientation and registration portals, the technical team at CCK had used Domain Name System (DNS) servers and router firewalls to balance the system load. The previous infrastructure was based on a nonsupported Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscription using Fedora and CentOS.
The tremendous popularity of these portals resulted in an increase in site traffic, which resulted in noticeable degradation of performance, especially as the number of simultaneous connections increased. In 2010, there were several instances of portal downtime because the servers could not handle sudden spikes in site traffic, which often happened after an announcement of Baccalaureate examination results.
Convenience, ease of use, and reliability were identified as the key parameters for CCK to achieve success. Because the number of students accessing the portal was estimated to grow to over 80,000, the Ministry of Higher Education was eager to improve the performance of the platform and had considered the use of four hardware-based load-balancing devices (HLDs). But the lowest bid for such a solution proved to be prohibitively high in cost.
“It was clear from the onset that the Ministry of Higher Education had very high expectations regarding the performance and availability of the student portals,” said Mr. Ali Labaidh, technical director, CCK. “Given the nature of the project, it was imperative that the solution implemented would be highly reliable and scalable to support the expected increases in web traffic.”
A transition to 100 percent open source software
Established Linux expertise and long-term usage of open source solutions—especially Red Hat products—prompted CCK’s technical team to suggest the use of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Red Hat Cluster Suite software solutions instead of the costly hardware-based loadbalancing alternatives. Based on this recommendation, the Ministry of Higher Education adopted a 100 percent open source software-based solution, which has offered much higher stability and higher availability compared to the proposed hardware solutions—at a fraction of the cost.
Working closely with the Red Hat team, the project implemented an infrastructure of 11 Red Hat Enterprise Linux systems accompanied by Oracle Database and Oracle Application Server platforms. Red Hat Cluster Suite, with Piranha configuration, was set up to simulate and load balance 80,000 simultaneous web connections.
Delivery engagement and knowledge transfer for the project was carried out diligently by LinSoft, a Red Hat Certified Training Partner, and the transition process was smooth and timely.
“The professionalism and the expertise of the LinSoft team, along with excellent training, completely eliminated the anxieties generally associated with a systems overhaul,” said Mr. Ali Labyedh. “The solution did not require a huge capital expenditure and has still managed to surpass all our performance criteria. The feedback from the portal users has been overwhelmingly positive. The system has been up and running for four months now and there has not been a single instance of down-time or any reported performance issues.”
Red Hat solutions aid in cost savings and increased performance
Aside from the ease of integration with the existing hosted application, the transition to open source has proved to be highly beneficial to the Ministry of Higher Education. The system has demonstrated high stability and reliability in spite of a significant increase in network traffic. Students can now access the online orientation and university registration platforms without experiencing any performance or availability issues.
The Ministry expects the number of student using the portals to increase well beyond the estimated 80,000 mark and the scalability of the Red Hat solution will ensure the smooth operation of the platforms even under high load conditions. The Ministry of Higher Education has also realized significant cost benefits, such as a reduced TCO and savings of more than $300,000, when compared to proprietary hardware- based solutions.
“We have used open source software for more than three years now and are highly satisfied with its quality and efficiency,” said Mr. Ali Labyedh. “Red Hat was the clear vendor choice for the portal upgrades and our complete confidence in its ability to deliver top-class solutions–it was easy for us to convince the Ministry to partner with them. We have been proponents of Linux for years and consider Red Hat to be a strategic partner in our business development.”