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Pearson Manages Digital Learning in the Cloud with RightScale
The ChallengesPearsons curriculum and courseware have an excellent reputation among educators and students. The company has strong development and operational teams supporting the product. Its sales organization knows that as soon as prospects can get their hands on the product, they want it.
So what prompted Pearson to put their product in the cloud and manage it there?
Better test environments for developers To test their code, Pearson developers used physical and virtual machines, specifying flavors and versions of the operating system, web server, database, SuccessMaker and other needed applications. Whether they sent a request via e-mail to the Operations team or built the test environment themselves, it still took a day or two to gain access to a test machine. Besides the long delay, there was no guarantee that the test instance would match the production environment that live customers were using. Pearson looked to the cloud for speedier, more reliable alternatives.
Smoother deployment model for customers Pearsons long-standing model had been to install SuccessMaker in the data center of the school or district. But with school budgets tight and IT staff already stretched thin, the normally straightforward process of getting the software onto a server had become a big obstacle. Pearson explored the option of hosting SuccessMaker in its own data center. But since the current architecture would require them to buy, deploy and manage a separate server for each customer, it became impractical. This option required too many resources and large capital expenditure.
Faster on-boarding for customers Pearson has always gone to great lengths to ensure that their program will run as promised, but the on-boarding process took a matter of weeks because of the need to install and run software in each schools data center. Even demonstrations and pilots took a long time to prepare, slowing down the sales process.
Pearson Digital Learning is a division of Pearson, a global, publicly owned publishing company that also owns The Financial Times Group and Penguin books.
Its SuccessMaker product offers a digital learning curriculum used by hundreds of school districts and millions of elementary and middle school students throughout the U.S.
Originally developed for implementation in school data centers, SuccessMaster is now available as a SaaS product over the Web managed with the RightScale platform.
Pearson developers now enjoy: nearly immediate access to an
unlimited number of pre-configuredtest servers
100% consistency between productionand test instances
a self-service approach to creatingcloud deployments
Pearson salespeople now enjoy: a shorter sales cycle the ability to offer demonstrations,
pilots and even full customer onboarding with much less turnaround time
Pearson customers now enjoy: much shorter implementation time easy Web access to SuccessMaker
Within weeks of announcing availability, Pearson had experienced a surge in demonstrations, pilot programs and new
OverviewIf you could simplify new product development, give all of your developers test instances almost immediately, shorten your sales cycle and manage the entire process in the cloud from a single platform, wouldnt you?
Pearson Digital Learning did. And they even got their sales team cheering.
I was attracted to RightScale because of ServerTemplates
and the ability to operationally define our deployments. RightScales orientation to this whole world was right on the money for us.
Andy WestDirector of Architecture, Pearson Digital Learning
1 (866) 720 0208 136 West Canon Perdido Street Santa Barbara, CA 93101 USA
2011 RightScale, Inc. All rights reserved. RightScale is a registered trademark of RightScale, Inc. All other products and services may be trademarks or servicemarks of their respective owners.
The RightScale SolutionI looked at these needs and thought, We have to put all of this in the cloud, says Andy West, Director of Architecture at Pearson Digital Learning. But thats really the easy part. You feel good about lighting up an instance and getting something running in AWS (Amazon Web Services) in ten minutes, but when you start to think about the number of people youre going to need to maintain operational control and manage dozens or hundreds of instances, the reality sets in. Id had my eye on RightScale, and it mapped to my idea of how we should do things.
Big Improvements for Developers...West tapped a handful of his top engineers to move SuccessMaker to the cloud, using the RightScale Cloud Management Platform to build, store and manage ServerTemplates for their deployment definitions. Everyone on the team now has direct access to servers and storage in the cloud as if they were hosting the resources themselves. In fact, they now have more flexibility with their deployment models in RightScale than in the companys own data center, simply because of how quickly and easily they can spin up as many test instances as they need, without physical hardware limitations or scheduling requirements.
With a mouse click in the RightScale dashboard, Pearson developers can create multiple server environments in the cloud from ServerTemplates by cloning production deployments for testing. RightScale also allows them to make modifications at the deployment level to create separate testing environments that may be needed.
Its entirely based on ServerTemplates now, continues West. At the push of a button, we can launch any of our pre-configured servers and test any build of our software. Its so powerful and efficient, and were seeing huge savings in the amount of time it takes our developers to get their hands on a pre-configured server and test on it. Our ability to test software before a pilot is critical, so using RightScales management methodology has saved a lot of time. Because its a self-service model, nobody has to wait any more: you define what you want, you click a few buttons, and RightScale launches what is needed.
All SuccessMaker developers can spin up their own instances, and test their code in a deployed environment, which they need to do quite often. Using ServerTemplates has also led to a dramatic difference in testing. The 100% consistency between test and production systems assures developers that they are seeing the same thing real-world users will see and gives them more confidence in the accuracy of their results.
...and a Much Shorter Sales CyclePearson announced the availability of SuccessMaker at a sales conference and within a matter of weeks, the sales team had a significant number of new customers either purchasing licenses or starting pilot programs. Without the bottlenecks of having to get into the schools data center and troubleshoot the implementation with school districts small IT staffs, Pearson can get its digital learning content in front of much larger audiences much faster. They can also be sure that everybody sees the same version of the product at any given time.
The ability to spin up a pilot and get an entire school on a test quickly has really shortened our sales cycle, West concludes. These are schools with 30 to 70 workstations in a lab, where teachers cycle students in and out all day long. We can handle over a dozen of these cases at a time now, and were going to see that number grow because RightScale makes it so easy for us to manage it outside of the customers data center.
When we announced at the conference that our new cloud-based product would allow us to on-board a customer in less than a week, our salespeople were ecstatic. They applauded! Using RightScale to manage our deployments we were able to confidently deliver on this message.
RightScale is the leader in cloud computing management. Founded in 2006, the company offers a fully automated cloud management platform that enables organizations to easily deploy and manage business critical applications across multiple clouds with complete control and portability. The RightScale Cloud Management Platform is delivered as software as a service (SaaS) and is available in a range of editions. To date, thousands of deployments and more than two million servers have been launched on the RightScale platform for leading organizations such as PBS, Harvard University, Zynga, and Sling Media. To learn more about RightScale, please go to www.RightScale.com.