Santa’s Got a Brand New Backend

presents 630x360 04 Santa’s Got a Brand New Backend

Hiring Alyc—a strange, bearded, tattooed elf who seemed to speak only in Star Wars references—was a risk, but it paid off. He completely modernized the entire North Pole enterprise, despite about 1700 years of legacy code and hardware. The old Naughty and Nice system—originally handwritten in massive ledgers, then migrated to an expansive warehouse of mainframes built next to the workshop—was a bear to manage. Even though the database made it easier to cross reference the list between multiple tables and organize it for greater delivery efficiency, the reams of paper produced each year were not much better than the enormous ledgers.

Access to the system was tightly controlled by the IT elves who became rapidly overwhelmed with technical support requests as the workshop was swamped with children’s demands for more advanced toys. Frustration over the slow response of the overworked IT elves drove several workshop divisions to seek outside assistance in the form of SaaS applications like ElfForce to manage their load. This fragmented the data for the Naughty and Nice list across multiple, disconnected systems over which IT had no control or visibility. Under the old system, it took all year to generate an accurate list. Under the new system, it could still take as long as nine months. Santa knew there had to be a better way.

Initially, Alyc got the various systems within the North Pole datacenter speaking the same language using the BusinessWorks ESB. This not only made accessing the data on the mainframes easier, it allowed them to apply custom business logic to route the appropriate requests to the correct departments. Adding ActiveMatrix BPM to track toy production only made things move faster.

The real power came when he was able to use Mashery Enterprise to not only integrate the data stored in their SaaS applications, but expose all of their combined data in a secure, consistent way through web service APIs. This completely revolutionized the entire operation. At first, it allowed the IT organization to develop custom internal applications accessible through the browser on the workshop’s internal network to better track incoming requests, assign workloads, and ensure their inventory kept apace with the demand. Once Alyc introduced Spotfire into the mix, Santa and his executive elves were able to get incredibly valuable, real time reporting at just the detail level they needed. The workshop was able to turn out product at an unprecedented rate, and Santa’s route on the big night was optimized so well he was actually able to relax and enjoy his cookies and milk for once.

All that paled in comparison to Alyc’s true masterpiece: The Connected Sleigh. Each reindeer was fitted with biometric sensors that fed back into the sleigh’s onboard computer to maximize total power output without exhausting its nine little environmentally friendly engines. The sleigh connected to the North Pole network securely in real time via the embedded mobile system accessing 3G, 4G, satellite and—where available—open WiFi, allowing for virtually uninterrupted access. A local data cache kept the data flowing when Santa traveled over less populated areas with limited access.

Real time weather information, smart rerouting, detailed maps, and child data are now sent directly to Santa’s touchscreen console served from the cloud through Mashery, giving Santa exactly the information he needs when he needs it. He can also securely share his route in real time with his partners at NORAD and Google Maps so they can more effectively track him and display his progress through the night.

The various North Pole divisions have been able to use the same APIs to create their own custom applications. These days, there’s at least one programmer elf reporting to each division to support their efforts. The IT elves, under Alyc’s leadership, continue to support the enterprise and provide consulting to the other divisions rather than bearing the technical load on their own.

As he gears up for the big night this year, Santa has already begun peppering Alyc with ideas for next year. Streaming cameras on the reindeer! Voice interface for the sleigh! Artificially intelligent snowman assistants! Alyc just smiles and nods, confident that he’s ready to implement whatever technology will make the operation move smoothly.

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