Gadz.org Accelerates its Move to Web 2.0

Talend Open Studio for Data Integration allowed Gadz.org to quickly develop a new and enriched version of its alumni website, to ensure the integrity of data between its various systems, while improving data quality.
Like any organization linked to a community-subscribers, members, and customers-our integration needs keep growing. Knowledge sharing and social networking platforms, as well as mailing services, have created a new era of communication. Communities like Talend's participate in this trend which has but one main goal: end-user satisfaction.
Lauren Penou, Vice President of R&D

Computing tools for the Gadzart Community

Founded in 1999, Gadz.org is a non-profit organization that offers and develops IT and Internet tools for the Community of Arts & Métiers - one of the leading Engineering Schools in France dating back to 1780. Its volunteer members supply their expertise to provide online tools to the Arts & Métiers alumni (known as Gadzarts), especially the Students' Association and numerous classes. The key services of Gadz.org are email Imel@vi (an email for life) and the Gadz Intranet, both free for all alumni.

Because Gadz.org is not a part of either the official alumni association or the Students' Association, it has the freedom it needs to explore new technologies. Its board is in direct contact with the associations and communities of other Engineering Schools (e.g., Polytechnique.org, the alumni association of Ecole Polytechnique).

A directory listing over 20,000 alumni

Laurent Penou, Gadz.org's Vice President of R&D, faced the complexity of updating a large directory. "Starting in 1997, as the Internet became more and more prevalent, the number of professional and personal email addresses and the frequency of their updates increased dramatically,"€ reports Laurent Penou. "€œThis led us to create a service called "€˜imelavie" in 1999. Each Gadzart gets an email address, which redirects their messages to a mailbox of their choice that can be easily changed. The same year we also developed Gadz.org, which offers several services to the community, including a directory."

Gadz.org is run by volunteers and operates on a tight budget. From the beginning, it chose to use open source tools. "€œIn 2001 we set up a MySQL database and an email routing system based on Linux,"€ explains Laurent Penou. "The choice was made not only for budgetary reasons, but also because open source is deeply rooted in the Gadzarts community. We used Red Hat in the past-when the license was still free - before switching to Debian. In the same year we implemented a universal authentication system, very close to what would become known as SSO (Single Sign On), and web services to access our directory. At that time we had approximately 1,000 subscribers. Two years later, we had 10,000 and we reached 15,000 in 2004. Today we have over 20,500 subscribers, including 3,500 current students. We think that this number will stabilize between 25,000 and 30,000 in the coming years."€

Over time, the web site has been enriched with new features and services. For example, a CMS (Content Management System) was implemented in order to customize the content viewed based on the user profile. Each class had access to private areas, and public ones shared with other classes. In 2005, the site was enriched with a Wiki which made it easier to administer and update content. The following year, this was applied to the various regional and industry groups as well. In 2007, Gadz.org integrated Google Apps to create private mailboxes.

Talend, support for major technical migrations

"€œEarlier this year, we planned a technical migration to MySQL 5, but we knew we had to keep our MySQL 4.1 server which hosts our newsletter software and is incompatible with version 5,"€ explains Laurent Penou. "€œWe were confronted with a replication problem between these two databases, a task which would have been too complex to perform manually. We looked for a tool that could automate the process, would be easy to use and, of course, be open source. Talend Open Studio for Data Integration perfectly met our needs and, after a non-synchronous replication test, we put the processes in production in less than two hours!"

After this first use of Talend's tool, Gadz.org decided to migrate its web site to PHP 5, which would handle significant data transformation and loading tasks. "€œWe got in touch with the Polytechnique.org association which had gone down a similar route and had published its Plat/al framework under a GPL license. We have a close relationship with this association as we run the same kind of technologies and have similar goals,"€ explains Laurent Penou. "€œWe managed to incorporate Polytechnique's system, but we had to adapt our database schema. This meant we needed to transcode some 20 tables to 30 new tables, merge fields, parse data, merge tables, etc. Of course, after our previous success, we knew that Talend Open Studio for Data Integration would be a tremendous help, and we were able to implement this process in 4 days. It would have taken us at least 90 man-days if we had to do it manually!"

The data migration was a big success - all the data was transcoded to the new databases without any loss or damage. "€œBeyond a successful migration, Talend Open Studio for Data Integration also provided us with data validation processes which we wouldn't have had if we had manually redeveloped our 400 scripts,"€ rejoices Laurent Penou. "€œThe data quality tests are very fast and completely integrated to the tool. At the end of the day, instead of launching a one-year project purely dedicated to a technical migration, we sped up the development of our new web site and have more time to design new features."

The success of these two projects led Gadz.org to think about new concepts. For example, the association is considering replacing its old email routing system with Talend Open Studio for Data Integration to set the specific rules of each mailing list. "€œLike any organization linked to a community-subscribers, members, and customers-our integration needs keep growing. Knowledge sharing and social networking platforms, as well as mailing services, have created a new era of communication. We can't help noticing that these new communication tools have emerged at the same time as the democratized access to open source technologies,"€ concludes Laurent Penou. "€œCommunities like Talend's participate in this trend whose principal goal is end-user satisfaction."