Excelsoft Technologies is an eLearning company that specializes in developing online tools for educational institutions and publishers. The company develops software platforms and applications for online courses, tests, assessments, and other education-related tools for its target market. Its products are used by high schools, colleges, universities, test preparation companies, and educational publishers who are putting their content and services online. Based in India, Excelsoft employs 800-plus people in locations throughout India, the United Kingdom, and Singapore.

Excelsoft has been using Amazon Web Services (AWS) for more than 1.5 years – incorporating AWS’s cloud architecture into its eLearning product architecture, SARAS and interactive books products, and other solutions. Currently, Excelsoft uses AWS for 85 percent of its computing requirements. The remaining computing needs are handled through co-located servers, the infrastructure used prior to moving to AWS technology.

The AWS solution comprises a variety of products: Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is used for computing requirements and database storage; Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) stores static files; Elastic Load Balancing to manage end user load; Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS) along with Amazon Elastic MapReduce (Amazon EMR) is used to processes large quantities of data and help in indexing and search. Figure 1 below illustrates the configuration.

excel-soft-technologies-arch-diagram

Figure 1: Excelsoft Technologies Architecture Diagram

The decision to use AWS was based on many factors, with the anticipated goal of increasing processing efficiency and cost effectiveness. Subbakrishna MV, Head of the Competency Center, cites the company’s key reasons for selecting AWS:

  • Upfront capital investment is not required because costs involved are operational, resulting in significant cost savings.
  • The pay-as-you go philosophy is cost-efficient because payment is based on computing capacity used.
  • The dynamic scalability automatically adjusts to accommodate changes in usage.
  • Elastic Load Balancing distributes incoming application traffic for peak processing efficiency.

Excelsoft has had success with AWS. According to Subbakrishna MV, the company has measurably increased its bottom line since switching to AWS and has experienced other benefits including the folliwng:

  • Cost Savings: As a result of the AWS technology, Excelsoft has drastically reduced its operating costs. With AWS, the cost to deliver one online assessment is about 10 times lower than the cost associated with using the physical hardware (co-located servers).
  • Development Hours Saved: Because deployment is efficiently managed with AMI creation and bundling, AWS has enabled Excelsoft to reduce the total developer time required for deployment and associated tasks to about 20 percent of its team's focus. This is a marked reduction from the 70 percent required to perform the same tasks on the physical hardware.
  • Reduced Time to Market: Amazon's solutions allow the company to deploy its products to customers very quickly. Now, it takes only a day or two to provide product service to a new customer, where deployment previously took at least a month using physical hardware.
  • Site Traffic Management: Excelsoft estimates that the cloud infrastructure receives approximately 200,000 visitors per month using applications on AWS. The applications include taking tests and assessments, uploading content, browsing courses, etc. Despite the number of visitors, computing capacity is handled well.

Mr. Subhash M, Head e-Learning at TIME, one of Excel-Soft's customers, adds, "We are one of the biggest management entrance training institutes in India conducting about a million tests every year. After evaluating several online assessment engines, we zeroed in on Excelsofts's SARAS due to configurability of the application and reputation of the organization. Initially we installed the application on a dedicated server. We faced problems due to huge variability in our load -- the number of test takers on weekends is almost 10 times that on week days.

"Having dedicated servers to meet the peak load was becoming expensive. On the recommendation of Excelsoft, we moved to the AWS Cloud. This provided us the flexibility to scale up/down the hardware infrastructure depending on the expected load. This took care of the variability in load without having to spend on dedicated servers for peak load.

"Excelsoft also took the responsibility to manage the cloud infrastructure for us. They have done a very good job of managing the cloud infrastructure for us and helped us in achieving good service levels.

"We have conducted more than 300,000 tests on SARAS using Amazon's cloud computing facilities in the last five months. All in all, we are very happy with the AWS Cloud as well as Excelsoft's services in managing cloud computing for us."

Subbakrishna MV summarizes Excelsoft's experience: “Our customers’ business expects a high level of scalability and availability. This was a continuous challenge to fulfill for us when using physical servers. AWS enabled us to achieve higher levels of scalability and availability. Our relationship with AWS is a win-win situation for Excelsoft, its customers, and AWS.”

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