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Learning to scale jungle gyms ... and databases

As far back as 1969, KinderCare Learning Centers’ founders saw the need to create quality child care programs, especially in light of the escalating number of women working outside the home. The company consulted with early childhood education specialists and other experts in nutrition, physical fitness and health to devise a program to serve those parents and their children. KinderCare opened its first learning center 30 years ago in Montgomery, AL, and any doubts about whether such a service was needed should be assuaged by the simple fact that the organization now includes 1,161 centers in 39 states and employs 28,000 people.

As KinderCare expanded, it decided in 1997 to relocate its offices from Alabama to Portland, OR. That physical move prompted the company to review its IT infrastructure to ensure its capacity to meet its growth. The company was pleased with its solution from Hewlett-Packard (HP), but wanted to increase the maximum number of users the system could process.

“We needed the ability to allow more concurrent users. All of our centers need to complete the same processing at roughly the same time, indicating that the more concurrent users we could handle, the less frustration and resource competition they would face,” says Rob Rakowski, KinderCare’s manager of Host Systems Administration.

With the old Center Support System, KinderCare had two back-end databases--one that was live for the centers to access and the other was for corporate users to query and run reports on. To update, the company had to run an archive on the live database and then restore the copy for corporate use. “This was a full five- or six-hour process,” says Rakowski.

Through upgrades to the HP system, as well as to the Informix databases, the data replication process has been cut to 12 minutes. “It’s a bit of an understatement to say that there’s been a significant reduction in both time and effort,” says Rakowski.

Today the Center Support Administration can support over 750 concurrent users (compared with 300 to 350 in 1997). Because processes are much more efficient now, concurrent users can connect, exchange data and disconnect more quickly.”

The new system, Rakowski says, “has allowed us to save time, money and given us the flexibility to succeed. As a result, we can do what we do best--teaching and caring for children.”

KinderCare Learning Centers care for infants, toddlers, pre-schoolers, as well as kindergartners and school-age children.

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