UCAS turns to Windows Azure and partner IPL on ‘A’ Level results day

For many in England, Wales and Northern Ireland yesterday was one of the most important of their lives. Some 380,000 university applicants were anxiously waiting on their ‘A’ level results to determine whether they had secured places at their chosen university or college. Since 1994, UCAS has handled the university admissions process and yesterday was handling a massive 180 logins per second. This represents a huge challenge with the hopes and dreams of hundreds of thousands of students resting on the reliability of IT that needed to scale to cope with a massive peak in activity.

To do this, UCAS, worked with Microsoft partner IPL with a Cloud-based solution running on Microsoft Windows Azure to power the infrastructure that runs the university admissions system. The system known as ‘Track’ and running on Azure provides UCAS with the ability to deal with the massive peak demand it experienced and is now actively helping students find university places via the UCAS clearing system.

Steve Jeffree, UCAS Chief Operating Officer, said: “UCAS’ job is to provide a robust service for universities and colleges across the country, especially during this key time. The higher education sector will benefit from the move to cloud computing for many years to come.”

Paul Jobbins, CEO at IPL, added: “UCAS needed a truly extraordinary solution to a completely one-off requirement. We had to provide a robust IT platform that could withstand a torrent of online access in one 24-hour period – and potentially within as little as one or two hours of that 24-hour period. Practically speaking, this was likely to be over half a million applicants wanting online access through browsers and mobile devices. Windows Azure combined with the solution that IPL designed is a classic application of cloud-based technology, taking advantage of its inherent capability to scale massively when required, while remaining highly cost-effective and secure.”

Michael Newberry, Windows Azure lead, Microsoft UK concludes: “The Cloud and Windows Azure comes into its own when infinite scale such as this is needed. We are pleased to have played our part to ensure the process ran smoothly and students are matched to universities and courses.”