Georgian Ministry of Education and Science modernizes data infrastructure

Major upgrades in Education Management Information System significantly improve database stability and user experience for teachers, parents and pupils in Georgia

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, schools and universities around the world faced an unexpected and unplanned crisis that demanded rapid adaptability. Many education systems struggled to adapt their lessons and teaching resources to constantly changing circumstances and implement distance learning on very short notice. The Ministry of Education and Science in Georgia was no exception, and urgent action was required.

In response to the changes driven by the pandemic, the Ministry of Education and Science in Georgia faced a very pressing need to upgrade its Education Management Information System (EMIS). Within a short time frame, the organization had to adapt its legacy systems to the new reality of distance learning. It turned to a preferred IT partner to find a solution.

Merab Gogolauri, Software Development & Cloud Infrastructure Director at IBM Business Partner Orient Logic, explains: “EMIS had a core system in place that included several Azure applications integrated into an eSchool app, which included an electronic journal as an LMS [learning management system] application. The existing systems that were in place before 2020 were monolithic and tightly coupled. Data integration between systems took place via database synchronization procedures every night, and all systems had to be stopped until synchronization procedures had been completed. Periodically, at least once or twice a month, there was a sync error and the IT team had to work overnight to fix it to prevent system outage or data corruption.”

The system had struggled to cope with peak loads even before distance learning was implemented. Georgia has a highly centralized education system, with all public schools falling under the Ministry of Education. The software used for assignments, grades, schedules and so on had 600,000 users, with about 15,000 to 20,000 users logged in simultaneously on any given day.

David Tatishvili, Deputy Head of EMIS at the Georgian Ministry of Education and Science, says: “In Georgia, first-grade registration causes a major annual surge. There is one day a year when the whole country tries to register their first graders at the same time. Capacity had to be planned for the maximum number of simultaneous users, up to 100,000 at once. That meant that we had a work-heavy application requiring huge infrastructure just to accommodate that one day.”

An additional challenge was the negative user feedback from parents if the system went down. “It was impossible to introduce rapid changes without breaking something,” Tatishvili notes. “That would lead to angry users storming EMIS communication and social media channels throughout Georgia.”

It was increasingly clear that new solutions were needed. Gogolauri explains: “EMIS was already using IBM QRadar CM technology, which is still important in terms of overall security and architecture. At the start of Covid, it became apparent that the previous software was not designed for remote learning. We had to rapidly change and adapt it as the Ministry switched to distance learning through Microsoft Teams. I realized that agile software development and agile infrastructure would help the Ministry of Education and Science and EMIS, reducing problems and resolving their integration concerns.”

99% reduction

 

Reduced system outage by 99%

Dramatic Improvement

 

Teacher and parent feedback improved dramatically

Four years ago, I realized that agile software development and agile infrastructure would help the Ministry of Education and science and EMIS, reducing problems and resolving their integration concerns. Merab Gogolauri Software Development & Cloud Infrastructure Director IBM Business Partner Orient Logic LLC
Agile infrastructure based on microservices

To alleviate the situation, Orient Logic worked with the EMIS IT department to redesign the Ministry of Education’s IT landscape based on Red Hat® OpenShift® Kubernetes infrastructure and Agile Integration (link resides outside of ibm.com) tools. The aim was to move toward a new system based on microservices, which would be more modern and more agile, and could be rapidly developed and expanded.

“Everything now runs on OpenShift,” Gogolauri explains, “which operates as a central data integration hub for all applications. This cloud-native technology runs on the Ministry’s own cloud environment. Red Hat integration tools have also been deployed for data exchange, API management and security for integration with external entities. These tools are based on leading open-source projects and provide unmatched capabilities to integrate any systems EMIS might require in future.”

System performance monitoring is also less labor-intensive since implementing IBM® Instana® for observability and application performance monitoring capabilities. “We recently deployed IBM Instana and are very happy with the results and improved visibility,” Gogolauri says. “Now we can see what is causing problems in real time. In case of any deviation from the service level metrics that have been set for applications, Instana sends detailed notifications to the relevant people, who can instantly view the root cause of the problem and immediately start remediation procedures. It is already assisting us in troubleshooting, and significantly improves time to resolution by accelerating identification of the problem. Overall, these tools made it possible for the Ministry to implement any changes rapidly, without breaking the system, even with new software updates.”

“Bugs no longer break the system,” Tatishvili confirms. “Synchronization was very bad before, but now it works flawlessly. It has been almost 11 months since we deployed the Red Hat integration instead of using the legacy data synchronization procedures, and we have not had major problems even once since then.”

Although Georgia has returned to offline learning in a classroom setting, Gogolauri is confident that distance learning could easily be accommodated again: “Teams capability is still present and could be redeployed if necessary. The system is more robust now; if something breaks, the problem is very local and can be rolled back. Some systems are integrated directly through APIs. EMIS used to have a lot of manual deployment, but now it’s all automatic.”

We recently deployed IBM Instana and are very happy with the results and improved visibility. Now we can see what is causing problems in real time. It significantly improves time to resolution by accelerating identification of the problem. Merab Gogolauri Software Development & Cloud Infrastructure Director IBM Business Partner Orient Logic LLC
Very satisfied teachers and parents

The modernizations and improvements are much appreciated by IT staff and partners, who no longer have to work nights on quick fixes. The rollback feature has been particularly welcome. “We provided EMIS with a future-ready, technically superior solution,” Gogolauri says. “Now any change to any system is quick, easy, and even one system fails, it does not impact other systems at all. If there are problems with the updated version of an application, EMIS can restore the previous stable version with one click.”

Software updates are also significantly more efficient now. Gogolauri explains: “It used to take several hours to manually deploy new versions. As a result, it was not practical to deliver software updates in small increments. Instead, large chunks of software updates were deployed once every few months. After implementing CI/CD and GitOps, the software development process is streamlined: we write it, OpenShift deploys it, and no engineering assistance is needed. New software is deployed several times a day in small increments, accelerating software development projects.”

From the perspective of the Ministry of Education and Science, the new situation also represents an improvement, and EMIS has not been shy about recommending rollout in other parts of the Georgian government. “EMIS has been telling people how happy they are with the results,” Tatishvili says. “Informal user feedback from teachers and parents has also been very positive.”

Gogolauri adds: “We are proud and happy that we helped our customer. Synchronization was our headache too, but we also helped them to be a lot more successful. All these changes led to a significant increase in user satisfaction, as there are no application outages anymore, and new functionality is added to applications on a daily basis. The next step is for EMIS to revise its old core systems, rewriting everything into microservices and implementing new features and software. We have achieved ongoing development.”

Georgian Ministry of Education and Science logo
About the Georgian Ministry of Education and Science

The Georgian Ministry of Education and Science (link resides outside of ibm.com) aims to establish a modern and innovative educational environment in close cooperation with civil society, providing lifelong learning and equal access to quality education, in order to prepare each individual for future life, promote employment, personal and professional development. In 2012 the Education Management Information System (EMIS) was founded. By developing advanced information and communication technologies and an electronic education management system, EMIS aims to further support the education sector.

Orient Logic logo
About Orient Logic LLC

IBM Business Partner Orient Logic (link resides outside of ibm.com), a leading IT company, has been operating in the Georgian market since 1995, assisting enterprise customers in the public and private sectors with transformative technologies and software development. The company specializes in security, cloud management and digital business automation and is a Red Hat Premier Partner with specializations in cloud infrastructure and middleware.

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Produced in the United States of America. May 2023.

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