offers flexible online exam delivery with IBM S/390 and Linux.
|"You can tell from the speed,
security and reliability of TestManager that the underlying technology
is very advanced."
-Dennis McGarry, Vice President of Manufacturing and Technical Programs, Document Management Industries Association
to 90% reduction in the costs of test administration;
easy, cost-efficient test creation in 1 hour;
affordable solution for any size organization
S/390® Parallel Enterprise Server(tm)
Tests are a fact of life,
and while the Internet doesn't make them any easier, Web-based test delivery
can make taking tests more convenient. The technology exists to enable candidates
to take any kind of test--for professional certification, job advancement
or a college course--whenever they want, even at home.
But with online testing comes a potential pitfall. Imagine you're taking
an important test online. You've studied for hours, you've been able to
answer each question so far and you're almost finished. Suddenly, you lose
your online connection. When you reconnect, there's no record of your completed
test answers, and you have to start over again. With many online testing
software products, that's what happens when the Internet connection is lost,
the PC crashes or the browser freezes up. What's worse, your test software
may force you to start over again with a different test.
TestManager is the remedy for this problem. Created by ACTS Corporation
of Kingsland, Texas, TestManager is a Web-based exam solution delivered
anywhere from an IBM S/390 Parallel Enterprise Server running the Linux
operating system. TestManager offers reliability and scalability for hundreds
of thousands of test-takers. And even if an Internet connection is lost,
the power goes off or a PC fails, users can continue where they left off
when the system comes back up.
"The Linux-based architecture of TestManager enables us to configure
it very easily. When we ported our product to the S/390 server, we
did not have to change a single line of code, because Linux worked
on both systems."
-Bill Carico, President and CEO, ACTS Corporation
Solving the scalability
ACTS President and CEO Bill Carico created TestManager when, as an IT
consultant for IBM, he was asked by the IBM S/390 server sales training
group to put one of its tests on the Web. Around the same time, at a gathering
of technologists from universities, attendees told him about their difficulties
in finding an online testing service that wouldn't lose all or part of
completed questions whenever a technology component hiccuped.
"I was shocked," says Carico. "I couldn't believe no one
had found a way around this problem." He did some thinking and developed
TestManager on Intel servers running Linux to answer the need for a robust
testing application that could return to where it left off when the connection
was lost. Realizing that this could be a marketable product, Carico began
searching for a scalable, reliable server platform for large applications
such as statewide testing programs. A longtime user of the S/390 server
in ACTS' IT consulting practice, Carico got the platform he was looking
for when IBM announced the availability of Linux on the S/390 server.
"We wanted workload scalability through server replication,"
says Carico. "We also wanted a cost-efficient solution that would
give us an environment for production, development and testing."
To meet all of those needs, ACTS partnered with Leonia, New Jersey-based
Infocrossing, a leading application infrastructure provider. Infocrossing
offers hosting services using SuSE Linux on the S/390 server. The S/390
supports thousands of server images, which provide reliable and affordable
platforms for large markets.
Says Carico, "Linux is proven for Web serving, and when we offer
TestManager on Linux there are no operating system license fees, which
helps make TestManager affordable. Linux also supports solution scalability.
And when we added the S/390 server we ended up with the most industrial-strength
platform on the market."
Test creation in
under an hour
Instructors can create tests choosing from numerous question-and-answer
formats and options for behavioral controls, security measures and remediation
(comments and suggestions) capabilities. Test authors appreciate these
flexible test creation features as well as the 80 percent to 90 percent
savings of the time and cost associated with writing, packaging, delivering
and administering tests. One of those administrators is Dennis McGarry,
vice president of manufacturing and technical programs, for the Document
Management Industries Association (DMIA) in Alexandria, Virginia. The
DMIA administers a test to certify about 100 professionals per year in
the production and distribution skills involved in the business printing
According to McGarry, "Ease of use is built into this application.
I can publish any kind of question-and-answer document in one of four
languages within an hour, control access to my site and assign candidate
log-ins and password information--all without having to depend on an IT
The biggest issue for the DMIA was finding testing software that would
be affordable for a small number of candidates, yet technically sophisticated
enough to be able to survive glitches at the users' end without losing
data. "It's remarkable that an application like TestManager is available
for a small user group like ours," says McGarry. "It's rock
solid. You can't make it fail. You can tell from the speed, security and
reliability of TestManager that the underlying technology is very advanced."
Since adopting TestManager, McGarry has eliminated the cost of proctoring
annual examinations, saving thousands of dollars per year.
The ACTS Web-based testing solution is server-based, taking advantage
of the scalability of the S/390 to deliver fast response times under heavy
usage conditions. "Even on a 28Kbps connection, people are amazed
at the performance," says Carico.
IBM VM (Virtual Machine) enables the S/390 server to run multiple guest
images, creating virtual servers. New images of TestManager can be created
in a matter of seconds for customers who need to grow rapidly and want
the reliability of the S/390. Says Tom Laudati, senior vice president,
technical services, at Infocrossing, "With the S/390 server, downtime
is approximately five minutes per year, so we're looking at a piece of
hardware that is extremely reliable."
Says Carico, "The Linux-based architecture of TestManager enables
us to configure it very easily. When we ported our product to the S/390
server, we did not have to change a single line of code, because Linux
worked on both systems." To create a robust, open-standards server-side
and HTML. Because of the portability of this code base, TestManager runs
on any Microsoft® Windows® 2000 or UNIX® server.
With TestManager, ACTS can serve customers in private industry, government
or academia with user bases ranging into the hundreds of thousands. The
solution can be marketed to individual students preparing questionnaires
and to school districts and statewide school testing initiatives. "The
ability to produce a reliable Web-based testing solution for every size
group, from single individuals to the students of an entire state, is
what I call scalability," says Carico, "and we get that with
IBM S/390 for Linux."
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