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SafeAssign AWS Migration and Performance Improvement Update

Blog Post created by tb32012 on Jul 3, 2018

For the better part of 12 months, the Blackboard SafeAssign Team had been designing the infrastructure and implementation plan for moving the SafeAssign service out of the Blackboard Managed Hosting facilities and into the cloud-based Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure.  The benefits of an AWS-based deployment include increased flexibility in hardware allocation, the ability to be more responsive to changing submission volume, and the potential for more rapid innovation across the SafeAssign technology stack.

 

On April 3rd, 2018 the SafeAssign migration to AWS was completed (link to BtBb announcement) and all new user submissions and requests would be processed in the SafeAssign environment deployed within AWS going forward.  The timing of this transition was important as many schools were starting to enter an end-of-year "Finals" period in which we typically observe a greater amount of student assessment (and by extension SafeAssign usage) than other periods of the academic and calendar year.

 

We typically track two metrics as representative of the client experience with respect to performance:

  • Paper Load represents the number of documents in the queue waiting to be processed
  • Paper Turnaround Time represents the average amount of time a user waits to receive a SafeAssign Originality Report back from the service

 

These two metrics are highly correlated and help us to understand the performance of the service at any given time.  In previous years and while hosted within Blackboard Managed Hosting facilities, SafeAssign often struggled to maintain acceptable performance for all clients during the critical Finals period:


SafeAssign Paper Load Apr to June 2017.png

Paper Load April 1 to June 1, 2017

 

SafeAssign Paper Turnaround Time Apr to June 2017.png

Paper Turnaround Time April 1 to June 1, 2017

 

As you can see from the graphs above, during the 2017 Spring Finals period SafeAssign struggled to keep paper turnaround times under 12 hours for a period of almost three weeks and paper turnaround times reached almost 45 hours average at their peak; this means that some students and instructors were waiting nearly two days to get Originality Reports and results from SafeAssign, which is clearly not the experience we want to provide for our clients.

 

We are pleased to report that after the move to AWS, the SafeAssign service performed significantly better during this high-volume Finals period than in previous years.  Here are the graphs of the same Paper Load and Paper Turnaround Time metrics from the 2018 Spring Finals period:

 

SafeAssign Paper Load Apr to June 2018.png

Paper Load April 1 to June 1, 2018

 

SafeAssign Paper Turnaround Time Apr to June 2018.png

Paper Turnaround Time April 1 to June 1, 2018

 

Comparing the graphs from 2017 to 2018, the improved performance of the service is clear: while there were still small spikes of load, the average paper turnaround time was just over nine minutes!  This represents a significant positive change in user experience and perception of the performance of the service.  We received no reports of delays from clients during this period, and we're proud to announce this information to all users of the SafeAssign service!

 

As we progress through 2018, we will continue to make performance improvements to SafeAssign that should continue to reduce these metrics over time.  In addition to this, we're working on a new responsive and accessible Originality Report user interface that will be enabled by the AWS infrastructure.  We'll be providing more details about this new interface at BbWorld 2018 this year, so look for more information coming soon!

 

We would like to thank our students, teachers, and administrators for continuing to rely on SafeAssign for originality and plagiarism reporting, and we look forward to continuing to improve the service in the months to come.

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