A federal agency required a web-accessible multimedia database containing photos and text for millions of individuals, including links to facial recognition software. The previous contractor had spent 50 weeks on the project, and Croix Connect was contacted exactly two weeks before the project was due for a very public launch. Key challenges to be overcome included:
- High Risk:Developing a complete application in 14 days from partial pseudocode, no test plans, and shifting requirements;
- High Scale:Scaling effectively from hundreds queries per second at launch to thousands of queries per second in full production;
- High Security:The system was accessible to the public via the Internet and contained personal data;
- Full Availability:Once activated, the system could not ever be out of service, for any reason.
After reviewing the current state of the project, a team of developers was assembled to rapidly deliver this project. Software, database, network, and hardware specialists convened in a collaborative work environment to maximize productivity. The final system included four main components:
- High performance web access tools
- Software reliability facilities
- Reliable, scalable database system
- Secure operating environment
High performance web access tools. Leveraging open source tools, a web-based system was created to allow database access for thousands of simultaneous users. Components were created for end-users, administrators, quality control agents, and reporting tools. Due to the large number of users, high performance was critical. Once the web system was established, the entire solution, including the operating system and database, were tuned. As a result of this tuning, total system performance was increased by more than 100%.
Software reliability facilities. Due to the full availability requirement, Croix Connect developed a suite of regression and load testing tools that validated any change to the web site’s software did not introduce new bugs. This substantially increased the level of confidence that the system was available and operating correctly.
Reliable, scalable database system. To support the high database demands, an Oracle RAC cluster with SAN storage was established. After tuning, the database achieved a “cache hit rate” of more than 99%, resulting in performance approximately equivalent to a solid-state database at a fraction of the cost.
Secure operating environment. A multi-layer security strategy was used to secure the application, including network, operating system, application and database components. The solution utilized a Cisco PIX and IDS solution to ensure that network attacks were prevented.
The multimedia database went live on schedule, and immediately began servicing thousands of users. Within two months, the system grew to include tens of millions of records with text and photographic data. The application was upgraded repeatedly to add new functions without a single minute of downtime.