thegateway.org and 10jumps deliver skills for 21st century
The Gateway to 21st Century Skills (www.thegateway.org) is a semantic web enabled digital library that contains thousands of educational resources and as one of the oldest digital libraries on the web, it serves educators in 178 countries. Since 1996, educational activities, lesson plans, online projects, and assessment items have been contributed and vetted by over 700 quality organizations.
Given their rich pedigree, the site serves over 100,000 resources each month to educators worldwide. Since 2005, the Gateway has been managed by JES & Co., a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization. The original site was built on Plone several years ago. In recent years the constraints of the old site proved too great for the quality and quantity of content, and the needs of its increasingly engaged readership. It was becoming difficult and expensive to manage and update in its current configuration.
JES & Co., as an organization with a history of embracing innovation, decided to move the Gateway onto Drupal and looked to 10jumps to make the transition happen. The site had to be reliable with very high up time. Moreover the site would have to be able to handle the millions of hits without batting an eyelid. And most importantly, the faceted search would have to work well with the semantically described records. Based on the requirements, Acquia’s managed cloud seemed like the best approach. It can help a site scale across multiple servers and Acquia provides high-availability with full fail-over support.
“If something does go down, we know that Acquia 24x7 support has our back” - 10jumps
How they did it
There were several hosting options, but very few that met the requirements for the Gateway. And definitely none that made the development-testing-production migration seamless and easy. Usually there are too many manual steps raising the chances of error.
After a few rounds of technology and support evaluation calls, Acquia was retained to provide hosting and site support. A good support package, combined the expertise of Acquia’s support team was a compelling reason to make the move. The technical team at 10jumps was also fairly confident that the move would be a good choice for their customer – the Gateway, freeing them to focus on the site development. With Acquia’s Managed Cloud and the self-service model, code, local files and database can be migrated between development, testing and production systems literally with mouse clicks. With the seamless migration, the development cycle became shorter and with Git in place, collaboration between developers became easier. Moreover caching for anonymous content was provided out of the box and the 10jumps developers did not have to navigate tricky cache settings. Moving the developers to the new platform was the first step and soon the team was on an agile development track, being able to develop and roll out features quickly.
After the new site went live, we were certain that
TheGateway.org would not be effected by traffic spikes, nor would the site be down because of a data center outage. More importantly, the semantically described data could be searched more efficiently because of the integration with Apache’s Solr search that comes from being in the Acquia cloud.
The development life cycle had gone from being clunky and broken to being smooth and agile. The redesigned site makes it simpler for the end users to navigate through large amounts of data and the powerful search is returning better results - improving overall user experience.