Embracing Elastic to process COVID-19 stimulus checks

How a European country embraced Elastic to process COVID-19 stimulus checks

This European government was riddled with monolithic platforms residing on old, physical data centers that could not scale to meet the needs of a growing, modernized population. What was required was a digital revolution of sorts.

For example, ahead of tax deadlines, many taxpayers couldn’t log on to the website for the government’s taxing agency. Year after year, the system would buckle, and taxpayers would get angry that they couldn’t process tax forms in time to meet the filing deadline.

“What was required was a revolution in the way that the government built digital services,” says the taxing agency’s product owner for telemetry.

Becoming more citizen-friendly

To turn things around, the government embarked on a digital transformation campaign. And to make sure that critical applications were always up and running, the tax agency embraced the Elastic Platform for observability.

“With Elastic, we’re helping our internal users observe services and therefore operate them through providing tools for logging, for metrics, and for alerting,” the product owner says.

Keeping the tax platform live for the public is a big undertaking. There are 130 services sitting on the tax platform that serve tens of millions of individual and business taxpayers. This agency is responsible for processing 2.3 billion transactions a year, as well as for taking in billions of dollars of taxes annually.

Because so much was at stake, the agency chose the Elastic Stack, which has dramatically improved the customer experience.

“So we're talking about high throughput, and quite high stakes, if the services go down for too long.”

Pivot to counter COVID-19

Then the global COVID-19 pandemic hit. Instead of bringing in tax money, the agency was directed to distribute it to supplant incomes lost to the virus.

“Instead of taking money in…, we would be giving money out, turning us from probably one of the least popular government departments to hopefully a marginally less disliked one,” the product owner quipped.

A key challenge facing the agency was that it was given one month to roll out the program. Under normal circumstances, building a new type of service such as this would take nine months.

By partnering with Elastic, the agency met the tight deadline and helped tens of thousands of people get COVID-19 funding. The agency met the needs of those impacted from the pandemic building dozens of releases and undertaking hundreds of performance tests. And thanks to the flexibility of the Elastic Stack, the agency seamlessly increased the number of data nodes in both staging and production.

“Where Elastic comes back into the story is that performance testing revealed that we were overwhelming the logging pipeline in staging, which was leading to a delay in logs being ingested, which in turn delayed alerts,” the product owner says.

Overall, the project was a success.

“We actually got good media coverage, which you don't often get if you work in the public sector. So that's always a nice surprise,” the product owner says. “But most importantly, we got really high satisfaction ratings from those end users, from those people who really needed that money at that time.”