eScholar LLC is the leading brand in education data technology. Based in White Plains, NY, and founded in 1997, the company supports 13 state and federal education agencies nationwide encompassing more than 4,800 school districts and approximately 20 million students.
The company collects and organizes data on students from pre-kindergarten through postsecondary education. The company’s flagship product, eScholar Complete Data Warehouse® solution (CDW), integrates data on students from pre-kindergarten to postsecondary education from multiple sources to generate a longitudinal history for each student. This information is then used to provide valuable insights into student achievement and educational program and teaching effectiveness.
The Challenge: Laying the Right Foundation
eScholar CDW supports multiple databases, from traditional database providers to other open source alternatives, depending on local agency preference. That gave Software Architect Michael Gargano an opportunity to work with almost all of the major databases available. So when the company decided to develop and launch a new product and gave Gargano wide berth in choosing the platform, he chose PostgreSQL and EnterpriseDB. “Because we were starting from scratch, we wanted to make sure we had the right foundation in place, so we chose Postgres and EnterpriseDB,” Gargano said.
The company’s newest offering, eScholar myTrack™, advances the goals of the eScholar CDW product by drawing additional insights from the data and enabling collaborative teams – from administrators, teachers, and staff to the students and parents – to monitor progress and create a more personalized educational experience. Design began in July 2010 and development on the product began in early 2011. eScholar myTrack went live in North Carolina in January 2012 and was recently chosen for statewide deployment in New York
The Solution: Open Source Software and a Corporate Partner
eScholar is using the community version of PostgreSQL but tapped EnterpriseDB from the beginning to provide support, training and expertise through EnterpriseDB’s Embedded ISV (independent software vendor) program. Gargano, who joined eScholar in 2008, had worked with Postgres in the past and was impressed at the time. He kept abreast of the community’s advances in Postgres and was encouraged to see enterprise-class features added in recent years and the emergence of EnterpriseDB as an integral element of the community.
“I’ve had some exposure to other open source databases and I got to be very familiar with MySQL and Oracle but I really missed what Postgres could do. I was impressed by the robustness of Postgres and it’s maturing constantly,” Gargano said. “Every version has a lot of the features you associate with really expensive databases but at a much lower cost. And with EnterpriseDB on our team, we got enterprise-class support without the big enterprise-class price tag.”
Gargano was pleased Postgres supports transactional processing and had more robust security features than many open source databases. He was also impressed that it pulled significant amounts of data from the underlying data structure in ways that seemed very well thought out. EnterpriseDB’s product pipeline also shows additional new features that will make the database even stronger, Gargano said.
“I didn’t even get pricing from the bigger, more traditional databases when I began planning eScholar myTrack. I knew the cost would be hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars,” Gargano said. “Plus, we needed to scale quickly and I had to weigh the cost of adding an unknown amount of hardware with the cost of the software licenses. We’re prepping for millions of users and will be throwing money at the infrastructure. With Postgres, I don’t need to throttle my growth because like I would if I have to pay for additional database software licenses.”
PostgreSQL at eScholar Today
Getting the underlying database infrastructure up and running was a relatively simple process and working with EnterpriseDB and having them on call made developing and launching the new eScholar myTrack product even easier. Bringing in a new database for the development of a new product could have been a stressful and scary proposition, but the strength of Postgres and the support of EnterpriseDB made the project “super easy,” as Gargano puts it.