Preparing for the Surge

The Department of Education (DOED) experiences annual spikes in demand for its Web-based student loan consolidation application, which normally handles about 1,000 applications a day. On July 1 of each year, interest rates change, causing volume to increase in the days preceding the rate change to as many as 60,000 per day - often overwhelming capacity and delaying processing.

With an impending two percent rate increase, DOED wanted to avert a potential problem. Elemental Solutions was tasked with rapidly developing and implementing a plan to handle the expected surge in usage. We quickly set up new instances of the application, added Web and application servers and designed a load-balancing scheme that allowed more hardware and resources to be used - in fact, increasing the amount of CPU and resources available for the application by a factor of nine in just a few days.

In the days leading up to and following the rate change, the application performed normally - even as demand surged. As a result, the Department's consumers were able to save significant amounts of money by consolidating their loans before the change in rates. Our solution was also a relief for the Department's customer service staff, who experienced far fewer calls from dissatisfied borrowers than they would have. Best of all, the Department now has an effective, repeatable solution that they can implement each year.

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