The Common Application

Executive summary

The Common Application (CommonApp) is an undergraduate college admission application system that applicants use to apply to any of 750+ member colleges and universities across the globe.  Increased complexity of the application process and outdated functionality prompted the organization to initiate an Application Modernization effort.  Developing a simple, intuitive, reliable and secure system that supports a holistic admission process was the core mission of the effort.

 

Enquizit played a vital role in the design, development and deployment of The CommonApp Refresh project.  We understood the promises, challenges, and associated benefits of Cloud Computing earlier than our competitors. Our team started envisioning the system in 2008 and embarked on the project in 2010 when Cloud Computing models were still emerging. Enquizit leveraged the robust and elastic cloud based solution components with a key focus on minimizing risks.

Business Challenge / Problem Detail

Increased complexity of the application process, non-scalable infrastructure and outdated functionality prompted the organization to initiate an Application Modernization effort.

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Output / Our Solution

Enquizit developed and implemented The CommonApp Refresh project, which was a complete rewrite of the then current Common Application System. Enquizit replaced a legacy system with The CommonApp Refresh Project in late 2012. We understood the promises, challenges, and associated benefits of Cloud Computing earlier than our competitors. Our team started envisioning the system in 2008 and embarked on the project in 2010 when Cloud Computing models were still emerging. Enquizit leveraged the robust and elastic cloud based solution components with a key focus on minimizing risks.

 

Our team conceived a true Application Modernization project to deliver an application with mission critical performance at scale, with elasticity, flexibility, security and a better TCO. A comprehensive development approach and agile process, along with validated tools and technologies, were selected to ensure quality deliverables. With a trusted development approach that uses: rewrite, reuse, migrate, or replace we developed a solution that met CommonApp’s requirements.

 

CommonApp was implemented as a cloud native solution with no data center or non-cloud components. Amazon Web Services (AWS) was chosen as the primary cloud service provider for enhanced “out-of-the-box” functionality minimizing customization efforts. With minimal customization efforts, Common App is monitored and managed for availability and performance.

 

Cloud was a natural fit given the extremely seasonal nature of the application, and AWS was the most stable and mature choice available. Common Application was rewritten with familiarity to start and innovation to continue in mind.

Enquizit Role

Enquizit worked directly with the management team and recommended a business transformation. Enquizit advised the CommonApp team through multiple stages of development and played a major role in modernizing the application by moving it from ColdFusion to a Microsoft Platform, then on to the cloud as a Cloud Native application.

Cloud System Architecture design

End-to-end Application Modernization (Design, implement, deploy and support)

Evaluation, identification and recommendation of innovative platforms and technologies to assist in modern application development

Development of user friendly and ADA compliant websites

Development of REST based services for internal use and both SOAP and REST based services for third party use

Identity Management solutions based on LDAP

QA and development of automated functional, regression and performance tests and test methodologies

Automated scripting for server set up, configuration, deployment and management

System development based on Agile principles using SCRUM methodology to enable constant customer collaboration and feedback

Tooling (Tools and Technologies)

AWS EC2, ELB, EBS, S3, Glacier, Cloudwatch, RDS, DynamoDB, SNS, SQS, Aurora

AWS, .NET, JQuery, MVC3, HTML5, SOAP, REST, LDAP, Shibboleth

Rightscale, Sumologic, CopperEgg

Expected Challenges

Cultural shift from traditional project management to Agile framework posed challenges

Cloud services was new and did raise security concerns amongst students and universities

Limited availability of C3 instances when launched, much of it coincided with CA launch and caused trimming the arrays.

ELBs taking tens of minutes to hours under extreme load to distribute traffic evenly across AZs.

EBS IO Throughput before P-IOPS was a major concern for Database performance.

Scaling Limitation of RDS

Client:

The Common Application

The Common Application, informally known as the Common App, is an undergraduate college admission application that applicants may use to apply to any of 693 member colleges and universities in 48 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in Canada, China, and many European countries.

Industry:

Education
Problem Statement

Increased complexity of the application process, non-scalable infrastructure and outdated functionality prompted the organization to initiate an Application Modernization effort.

Goals and Benefits

A modernized, easy to extend, maintain and scale application codebase and infrastructure. Continuously secure and easily auditable. Improve end user response while reducing underutilization. Improving user experience all around the globe.

Provided a simple, intuitive, reliable and secure system for the students, teachers, decision makers and all users of the system.

Support a holistic admission process that incorporates all aspects of the admission.

Develop a highly secure system to safe guard sensitive student information

Migrate to a modern technology stack to improve maintenance as well as technical resource availability

Get out of the traditional data-center management activities and focus on their core business

Improve Scalability, DR, Business Continuity, SLA and time to market

Preserve capital by switching from CAPEX to OPEX model and pay only for what they use

Automate infrastructure and code deployment

Improve security, reliability and monitoring using standardized tools and process

Core Partners:

Amazon Web Services (AWS)

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