AQA (Assessment and Qualifications Alliance) is the United Kingdom's largest examination board handling millions of marks, coursework and completed exam papers by over 1000 employees and 35,000 volunteers. AQA has a leading reputation for promoting education for the public benefit and draws on long experience of setting and marking public exams such as GCSEs, A-levels and other qualifications, as well as offering first class support for teachers and learners and are always at the forefront of development of new qualifications.
AQA is also an independent registered charity, that solely runs examinations and carries out research and development to improve their qualifications and services. With such an important mission and limited resources, it is imperative that AQA use the highest quality tools at the lowest possible cost to maximise their efforts.
The Challenge: Reduce operational costs of administering exams by securely delivering examination materials over the Internet.
When AQA embarked on their Examiner Extranet project, they realized that their existing database would be too costly to scale out to handle the expected loads over the internet. So they investigated an open source based database solution for the obvious lower cost of ownership involved. In addition, the database had to be compatible with their existing database to reduce recoding and ease data sharing and migration. Finally they looked into deploying the whole application through an open source stack to maximise their savings, so the database also had to work well with other open source components.
The Solution: Postgres Plus Advanced Server as a component of an open source application stack.
AQA's solution included: Postgres Plus Advanced Server, JBoss Enterprise Application Platform, JBoss Portal, and Alfresco. They selected Advanced Server because of its compatibility with their existing database, its low cost, its reliable and robust functionality, and that it was supported and endorsed by third party product vendors including Red Hat/JBoss and Alfresco.