Elisabeth Stahl on Benchmarking and IT Optimization

The Old College Try

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Today is a very big day for many high school seniors. At midnight tonight, early deadline college applications are due. And yesterday, the web portal used by more than a million students a year to submit these applications started having performance and availability issues and then shut down.

Needless to say, for many of these students Halloween was super scary in a real world sort of way. There’s already so much stress involved in applying to college and something like this impacts students, parents, high school professionals, colleges, and numerous others worldwide. And in my opinion, this didn’t have to happen.

I talk with many organizations about something called Best Execution Venue or Fit for Purpose. The concept is basically that you should choose the best technology for your workload based on local factors like non-functional requirements (such as performance and availability), architecture, skills, security and even politics. The best technology might be a mainframe. It might be an OpenPOWER system. It might be a public cloud. Or some architecture involving all of the above.

In this case, the college application site said that the portal ran into trouble because of “unusually large and intermittent spikes in system activity.” What a surprise. The use of this college application tool has been growing fast over the years and it is surely obvious that there would be a peak at this time. We have peaks in retail before the holidays. We have peaks in sporting events as they go live. And we have peaks in college applications right before the deadline.

It turns out that this site uses a public cloud (AWS). For the purpose of handling these peaks. Maybe this isn’t the best venue for performance and availability at this critical time.

One frustrated student tweeted “Does AMAZON Shut Down Hours Before Christmas? Does it Crash?” Ironically, he probably didn’t realize that he really was talking about Amazon.


The postings on this site solely reflect the personal views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views, positions, strategies or opinions of IBM or IBM management.

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Written by benchmarkingblog

November 1, 2017 at 11:02 am

Posted in Amazon

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