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Focusing on the Future through the Public Cloud in the Educational Sector

Anil Nadiminti, Senior IT Architect, ETS
Anil Nadiminti, Senior IT Architect, ETS

Anil Nadiminti, Senior IT Architect, ETS

Powered by the digital transformation shaping the education industry, our understanding of how people learn evolves every day—as does our ability to address that vast range of complex needs. The pace of this evolution presents its challenges, demanding unprecedented flexibility and responsiveness on the part of educational institutions.

At ETS, we develop, administer and score some of the world’s most widely used assessments, including the GRE® and TOEFL®tests, in addition to conducting extensive research and developing and deploying innovative learning solutions. The delivery of assessments on a global scale requires hundreds of software applications and significant computing power for their continued development, deployment, and support. To tackle these challenges, ETS has embraced the use of the public cloud via Amazon Web Services® (AWS).

We are migrating our IT infrastructure and applications out of traditional data centers, modernizing our current applications to leverage new cloud services, and developing brand new cloud-native applications. The ability to quickly create both infrastructure and functioning applications is revolutionizing our ability to respond to the market and meet business demands. Due to the commoditization of infrastructure and computing that the public cloud offers, we can now spend more time focusing on innovation, which is the key to the future of ETS.

The cloud has several keys benefits that are empowering our business:

Global Reach: By capitalizing on AWS regions around the globe and associated availability zones, test delivery can be geographically proximate for more efficient service to test candidates across the world.

Agility: With access to an abroad ecosystem of cloud-based services from AWS, combined with the usage of DevOps tools to support continuous development and deployments, we can now build lightweight, functioning software faster than ever before. In addition to standard computing and storage services, we use “Managed Services” and “Serverless Services” to minimize the resources traditionally required to support the infrastructure on which applications run. This enables technology teams to spend their time developing and deploying feature-rich software using modern DevOps frameworks to more effectively support agile development. We are now able to deliver applications in days or weeks, as opposed to months or years. Furthermore, once deployed, the care and maintenance of the applications is minimal.

  By capitalizing on AWS regions around the globe and associated availability zones, test delivery can be geographically proximate for more efficient service to test candidates across the world  

Elasticity and Efficiency: The nature of educational assessment is one of ebbs and flows. During assessment windows, demand can spike enormously, and we must scale up quickly. Cloud computing allows for autoscaling — spinning up computing power on demand and spinning down when not required. Coupled with reduced upfront costs thanks to the minimal investment needed for hardware and infrastructure, this elasticity leads to an optimal intersection of service and cost savings.

Moving to the cloud, necessitated organizational changes and a different operational model. We established a cross-functional Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) consisting of IT leaders and subject-matter experts to manage this transition. The CCoE provides governance, oversight, decision making, education, operational alignment, standards, and best practices to aid organizational maturation in the public cloud space. To encourage wider adoption of the cloud at ETS, the CCoE has sponsored and mentored staff seeking AWS certifications, as well as guided the introduction of internal “hackathons,” in which staff across the organization can brainstorm and develop new cloud-native applications. The migration to the cloud requires continual adaptability and growth, ultimately empowering us to deliver better value for our business and learners worldwide.

ETS, GRE, and TOEFL are registered trademarks of Educational Testing Service (ETS).

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