Case study

Cognizant and FlashGrid Keep Traffic Flowing Smoothly Under Virginia’s Elizabeth River

Migrating Oracle RAC to AWS increases digital tolling system performance by 90% and cuts DR costs by 70%.

When you drive between Norfolk, the third largest city in Virginia, and its less-populous neighbor Portsmouth, your route takes you through toll tunnels operated by Elizabeth River Crossings (ERC). And you’re certainly not alone, you’re sharing the ride with more than 100,000 motorists each day. Fortunately, you never have to slow down for toll booths – instead, you simply drive at highway speeds while a digital tolling system automatically collects your fare.

Bringing this modern marvel to life required the efforts of industry giants including IT technology firm Cognizant and Amazon Web Services (AWS) as well as regulatory oversight from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). However, there’s more to the story. FlashGrid, a Silicon Valley-based developer of database infrastructure software, played an important role by providing software and support for a critical database at the heart of the digital tolling system.

Limitations of Legacy Data Center

About a decade ago, ERC transitioned from manual toll booths to all-electronic tolling – but there was a problem. The company’s legacy on-premises infrastructure struggled to keep up with growing traffic levels and massive data sets. Issues ranging from missed license plate readings to billing delays of up to six months caused inconvenience for motorists, consternation for VDOT regulators, and lost revenue for ERC.

To address these problems, ERC tapped Cognizant to spearhead an ambitious, end-to-end digital transformation project. Drawing on years of experience in transportation and logistics, Cognizant designed a digital tolling system that relies on artificial intelligence and advanced database technology to offer a reliable, scalable solution for electronic tolling.

No Time for Downtime

The project planned to eliminate ERC’s data center by moving the entire infrastructure to Amazon Web Services (AWS), including the existing Oracle RAC database – 10 terabytes of real-time transactions and historical information that form the heart of the tolling system. The proposed implementation had to meet strict availability requirements to operate at peak performance around the clock and throughout the year, with no downtime, scheduled or unscheduled.

Cognizant evaluated various options, according to Rajendra Trehan, Senior Cloud Architect for Cognizant. “ERC had a substantial investment in staff training with the Oracle database, so we looked at alternative ways to run Oracle RAC in the public cloud,” he says. “Moving just the Oracle RAC database to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and the rest to AWS seemed too complicated.” Then Trehan learned about FlashGrid Cluster and reached out for information. After an impressive demo and several deep technical dives with FlashGrid’s engineers, Cognizant selected FlashGrid to lead the Oracle RAC migration.

“FlashGrid’s support impressed us. We could literally speak with a knowledgeable FlashGrid engineer around the clock.”

Rajendra Trehan, Senior Cloud Architect, Cognizant

Playing Beat the Clock

Cognizant and FlashGrid faced considerable time pressure from day one. “We had to complete the entire migration in six months, because ERC’s co-location lease was ending,” Trehan explains. “There was no Plan B.”

Fortunately, FlashGrid had been in this situation before. FlashGrid engineers worked closely with Cognizant’s technical team to get them up to speed quickly so that they could do the implementation within the tight time frame. “FlashGrid’s support impressed us,” Trehan says. “We could literally speak with a knowledgeable FlashGrid engineer around the clock.” With FlashGrid’s help, Cognizant easily met the deadline – much to the relief of ERC’s management.

Reducing DR Costs with Infrastructure as Code

One of the aspects of FlashGrid Cluster that initially caught Trehan’s eye was using infrastructure as code (IaC) to launch instances. The flexibility and power of IaC matched up well with his background as an application coder and fit their disaster recovery (DR) strategy perfectly. “To reduce DR operating costs, we designed a pilot light approach with just three instances always running,” Trehan says. “In case of an emergency, ERC’s engineers can use pre-designed IaC scripts to quickly and accurately spin up additional instances.” During system testing, Cognizant and FlashGrid engineers showed ERC’s technical team how this approach met their recovery time and recovery point objectives as well as their cost targets. “In actual operation, ERC estimates that they save up to 70% on DR operating costs,” says Trehan.

Faster Reports and Better Performance

In the past, VDOT regulators had problems accessing timely information through database queries to evaluate system performance. The FlashGrid Cluster solution has turned that situation completely around. “Now VDOT can get reports in minutes, not hours,” Trehan explains. “And they like what they see – on average, Oracle RAC performance on AWS has increased by 90%.” Best of all, the project’s availability goals have been met as well – the ERC system has experienced no significant downtime in three years of operation.

“The working relationship with FlashGrid has been phenomenal. FlashGrid engineers helped with the entire Oracle RAC implementation, not just their own software.”

Rajendra Trehan, Senior Cloud Architect, Cognizant

Why FlashGrid?

Cognizant is extremely pleased with both the process and the results. “The working relationship with FlashGrid has been phenomenal,” Trehan says. “FlashGrid engineers helped with the entire Oracle RAC implementation, not just their own software.” Since the ERC implementation, he has included FlashGrid Cluster in several other proposals that involved running Oracle RAC on AWS. The ERC digital tolling system demonstrates conclusively that FlashGrid Cluster offers a tested, proven, AWS-recommended solution for high availability deployments of Oracle RAC on AWS.

Cognizant and FlashGrid Keep Traffic Flowing Smoothly Under Virginia’s Elizabeth River

Cognizant is an American multinational information technology services and consulting company. It is headquartered in Teaneck, New Jersey, United States. Cognizant is part of the NASDAQ-100 and trades under CTSH.

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