Advantec HR, a leading outsourced HR and payroll services vendor, offers Human Capital Management Solutions that help high performance organizations achieve operational excellence by bolstering the heart of their business, human resources, and administrative services. Advantec provides a strategic approach to manage and streamline workflows with flexible, on-demand integrated and scalable solutions built to grow with your business. Advantec has been ensuring healthy environments for business growth since 1998.
The Challenge: A true multi-tenant environment with the ability to scale up or down
In 2009, Advantec realized that in order to remain competitive, it needed to expand into newer markets and address a broader array of its clients' needs. When management examined the infrastructure of their traditional service platform, they realized that a major overhaul was necessary in order to provide greater flexibility and control costs.
A key requirement for delivering outsourced services to hundreds of client companies is a robust multi-tenant environment with the ability to scale up or down to meet seasonal workloads. Advantec HR built its original offerings on a PeopleSoft based solution that was a strong HR/Payroll platform, but not fundamentally multi-tenant. Advantec successfully developed customizations to adapt PeopleSoft into behaving in a multi-tenant way for its PEO line of business. However architectural limitations prevented the company from providing the full range of desired customer self-service features, and these adaptations proved difficult to maintain, particularly when moving from release to release. In order to provide the desired features, and expand into new lines of business, Advantec needed a new architecture that was multi-tenant, would scale with varying demands, and do so without breaking the bank.
The Solution: SynchSource, EDB, and VMware
Advantec turned to SynchSource, an HR, benefits, and payroll solutions provider, to be its partner in building its new Kardiant HCM Solution. Based on a contemporary web architecture and built from the ground up to be used in the cloud, SynchSource met the requirements of a true multi-tenant solution.
SynchSource uses open source components where possible and recommended a solution built on Linux, Postgres, Tomcat, Apache Web Server, and Jasper Reports. Advantec looked for a vendor that could support Postgres and selected EnterpriseDB® (EDB™) and EDB Postgres™ Advanced Server as the database for Kardiant HCM.
With many years experience using a virtualized environment, Advantec knew virtualization would be key to delivering the flexible and scalable infrastructure required, selecting VMware ESX Server as the product to deploy.
Advantec elected to take an incremental approach to implementing the Kardiant HCM Solution rather than a traditional big bang approach. This would allow tangible results and progress to be demonstrated sooner while allowing its customers to benefit from the new platform as quickly as new functionality was rolled out.
The first module to be built on the new architecture was benefits open-enrollment. Deployed in August 2009 just before the peak open-enrollment season, it was put to the test immediately and delivered the results Advantec was looking for. Despite the handful of challenges that go with deploying any new system, the open-enrollment period went more smoothly than previous years. Response time of the system remained under two seconds even during peak load when over 60,000 transactions were processed per day.
The project team then turned to deploying other modules on the new platform and as they were completed, they turned off the equivalent modules in the old system. This incremental approach did require that they implement a data synchronization process between the new and old systems but that was straightforward to accomplish and was key to enabling this approach.
Advantec is nearly complete with implementing all the modules in the new system and will support their first customer running entirely on Kardiant HCM in early 2011.
Experience with EDB and EDB Postgres
At the beginning of the project, the Advantec staff members were not experts on Postgres or many of the other new technologies being used. This led to a few challenges as they learned how to use and configure Web servers and Web containers as well as tune interactions with the database. The ease of access to and the usability of the tools supplied with EDB Postgres Advanced Server made this transition relatively painless - the staff found it to be one of the easiest databases to come up to speed with.
The EDB Query Optimizer was an especially useful tool as it clearly pointed out inefficient queries and enabled rapid optimizations, improving the performance of the entire system. Some queries that originally took 10's of seconds to minutes using the default query plan were tuned down to fractions of a second using the hints provided by the optimizer. Advantec also enlisted the help of EDB for the EDB Architectural Health Check, which quickly identified where bottlenecks were going to occur and resolved them before they created significant operational issues.
“I am totally confident every time I have to call EDB for support. I know that they are going to help me find a solution for what I need” said Rick Meijer, DBA for Advantec. “The Architectural Health Check that they took us through was a great experience as well”.
Today, Advantec hosts EDB Postgres on a single virtual server which easily supports approximately 30 thousand users and the corresponding 10 to 12 thousand page hits of a typical day. When volume spikes up to 6 times normal at peak times, the database just works.
The application layer does use a pool of virtual servers and by using VMware's virtual server management, Advantec can scale up or scale down as the situation dictates.
Overall, the Advantec staff has been pleasantly surprised by the stability and performance of EDB Postgres Advanced Server. They had used and were familiar with traditional databases and found EDB Postgres to meet or exceed all their expectations and compare very favorably with the competition. When factoring in price, EDB Postgres delivers unmatched price/performance.
“The stability and performance of the Postgres database has been a surprising win for us” said Bradley Rhine, CIO at Advantec. “We all have been pleasantly surprised with the performance at the price from EDB. We have pretty stringent performance requirements. It has to be up 24 by 7, so we didn’t have diminished expectations from Postgres going in. It just works."