By Steven Litz, Technical Lead
In 2019, Flatirons, a MarkLogic partner, was asked to join a mission-critical project headed by a large system-integration vendor. The project is run by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) agency that’s part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The project’s purpose is to import private health insurance plans for each state, ensure the plans are compliant, and provide interfaces with other CMS components and government entities.
Downtime, Performance, and Security Demanded a Better Solution
This insurance provisioning project is based on the MarkLogic database. MarkLogic is a high-performance, non-SQL database. It’s extremely useful for storing and searching structured documents which, in turn, are stored internally in XML or JSON formats.
CMS selected MarkLogic several years ago to address the issues they were experiencing on their existing Oracle-based platform; the Oracle-based project software was being overwhelmed by the number of users accessing the system.
As the Oracle-based solution became more widely selected as a mechanism for acquiring health insurance, customers experienced unplanned downtimes and slow performance. There were also multiple hacking attempts on the software, and the security provided by Oracle was not sufficient to prevent data penetration.
MarkLogic: Meets High-volume Use and Protects Personal Data
MarkLogic can handle large volumes of data, while maintaining high performance, and is highly scalable. The re-architected solution vastly improved the ability of the system to handle the increasing number of users accessing the system and the volume of data being added. It also provides the security required to handle protected health information, or PHI.
My Contribution to the Project
I’m a MarkLogic Certified Developer with deep experience doing XML database application development and system integration of large enterprise systems. I was responsible for working on the database provisioning layer of the solution.
My primary responsibility for the project was to write MarkLogic XQuery (a query language optimized for searching hierarchical data sets expressed in either JSON or XML) in support of development enhancements and production fixes to either load data into the database or search the database. I also wrote XQueries required for new REST interfaces to other CMS systems and to generate custom CSV reports using the MarkLogic CORB utility. CORB provides petabyte-level scale for ingesting huge numbers of records.
My contributions included writing the database layer sections of the design and deployment documentation. I also conducted extensive testing and refactoring of the XQuery I wrote to ensure the highest quality and performance possible.
A Rigorous Process and MarkLogic Technology Support Success
Each piece of project work was always preceded by formal design meetings with subject matter experts, Java data layer development, UI development, testing, security, and deployment teams. The new release of the project was implemented on time and passed extensive unit, component, system, performance, and security testing.
All of this was made possible due to MarkLogic’s ability to provide a high-performing, scalable, and robust platform, as well as the ability of the primary contractor to bring together a large number of the appropriate and certified technical experts that could effectively work together across a variety of teams.
I’m pleased to be part of the Flatirons team whose mission is to help organizations use their data to improve people’s lives and our communities. As a software developer, it’s rewarding to see the software being used by tens of millions of people in a way that advances our society’s goal of providing world-class, affordable health care to our country’s families.