Provision of infrastructure as a service for the smooth running of the 2021 Census

The census is definitely one of the logistically and technologically very demanding projects. The creation of the infrastructure was a great challenge that enriched our experience and that of the customer.

Realization 2020 - 2021

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Customer profile

The 2021 Census of Population, Houses and Dwellings could be considered the extraordinary event of the decade, both from a logistical and technological point of view. The whole process is legally managed, coordinated and secured by the Czech Statistical Office in cooperation with the Czech Post, which as an important partner provided mainly fieldwork. It involved approximately 10,000 census commissioners who distributed the census forms. In spite of the difficult situation with the pandemic, the Czech Post Office managed to provide approximately 800,000 paper forms. However, the vast majority of people opted to submit the form electronically, which brought with it major challenges not only for other technology partners. And also challenges in the infrastructure of the whole project.

The project was very demanding, both in terms of the scope of the project itself and the strict implementation schedule, which was partly dictated by law. On behalf of the client, I can say that we evaluate the cooperation on the project as a success and we are glad that we had a quality partner such as AUTOCONT and the entire Aricoma Group in this challenging project. 

Ing. Martin Šimral

SUPPORT FOR THE DEVELOPMENT AND OPERATION OF UICTG, CZECH POST

Baseline and project objectives

When people say infrastructure, many people think of roads in cities, buildings and so on. In the IT world, this terminology is used similarly. We're not concerned with how cars go where, but with how to make the whole project run smoothly, using many complex processes.

We knew from the beginning that the Census of Population and Housing is a two- to three-year event. But the clean infrastructure that was designed for the project would only be used for 5 months. In this case, it did not make sense for someone to purchase an expensive IT solution that would remain unused for a few months. So the customer used our services, namely "turnkey cloud infrastructure."

Benefits

  • System management of the entire project
  • Information system security
  • Unified configuration
  • Operational phase preparation in just 6 months
  • Infrastructure as a service with no CAPEX cost for a two-year project where no further use of the system and application was planned
  • Flexible scaling of performance up and down
  • Meeting the security requirements of the project, thanks to a Tier III data centre in the Czech Republic
  • Resilient DC that could withstand a tornado without failure
  • System management of the entire project

Solution

We knew from the beginning that this was a big project. And that it really kept us busy. Over the course of more than two years, the project employed both ServiceDesk staff who handled all the requirements, networkers who were responsible for the virtual data center, and dozens of other experts from various industries. We were also aware of the uniqueness of the project. Even before the actual solution, clear deadlines were set for when the activities had to take place. There was a clear date when the commissioners would hit the streets, when the app would be launched and when the whole event would run. So there was no time for mistakes and everything had to be completed within a clear timeframe. And we managed to do that despite the unpleasantly evolving situation with the global pandemic. But now to the individual phases of the project.

Once we signed the contract in early 2020, the Preparatory Phase of the project began and we got straight to work. Within six months we had to prepare everything for the implementation of the so-called Trial Census in the Operational Phase of the project. In the autumn of 2020, the Trial Census was carried out, during which we all tried out a smaller version of what we would be expecting during the so-called Live Census.

Based on the information from this trial, we have been fine-tuning everything from the infrastructure setup, to the applications themselves, to the enumeration processes until spring 2021. Once again, the added value of the cloud effect became apparent, as we were able to very easily build another environment so that two types of system testing could be done at the same time. We were all ready for the Census Commissioners to hit the streets during the Live Count. Over the next few days, people began to be counted and the first imperfections began to appear. Fortunately, it was nothing we couldn't fix. In fact, as soon as thousands of people started to be counted, the app stopped behaving as it should. However, our database specialists managed to deal with the situation. They were able to increase the performance of the application by a factor of 200 and the census was able to continue running smoothly. Right up to the very end, from the distribution and collection of the census forms, to the digitization of the forms, to the quality disposal, which was very crucial for the proper completion of the project. It was in the last phase of the project that the cloud effect had a significant positive effect, i.e. drawing on the computing power and storage that was needed for the project phase. In fact, the need for computing power dropped significantly in this phase.

So how would we summarise our work on the project in terms of infrastructure creation? Very simply in a few points. We built the application development environment, the testing environment and also the live deployment environment. Furthermore, we were part of the post project phase, where the commissioners did not write data into the application, but we stored the data for subsequent processing by the Czech Statistical Office. And in the final stage, we deleted the data on protocol, in accordance with the current cyber law legislation.

We believe we managed the project from an infrastructure perspective. As well as providing technical resources for the census commissioners. 

Used technologies

  • LogDock Advanced
  • VDC Connect Plus
  • Connectivity
  • IPsec VPN
  • Virtual server VMware
  • DBaaS PostgreSQL
  • Storage
  • Backup
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