It used to all be elves, books and lists. Now it’s all SQL, SANs and clusters. Quill and ink generated lists, collated by hand have been replaced by a web application front end to an enterprise database back end. The upgrade was inevitable. With the steady growth in our client base the master list was going to become unmanageable for the organization within the next five years.

The delay in updating the master list had begun to cause problems. Several cunning children had posted to sites on the Internet that they had found it was possible to refuse to eat brussels sprouts, peas or broccoli for a two week period prior to delivery and still retain the nice, rather than naughty status. Not any more! The lag is gone. The master list can be updated in real time. Within moments of an operative learning that a client had refused to go to bed on time, yanked a sibling’s pig tails or done something that made the cat hide on top of the wardrobe for three weeks, a call can be placed to the elven call center and the child’s status on the master list is updated. Having an up to date list means that inventory is optimized and complaints from parents who told their children “if you don’t eat your greens, Santa won’t visit this year” have been minimized.

Santa’s route, which used to be planned manually, is now dynamically updated to deal with inclement weather and children that were secretly staying up late with cell phone cameras ready to post photos to their blogs. The sleigh has been outfitted with GPS, VPN connection over satellite to the data center and a ruggedized tablet PC that can survive a drop down a 25 foot chimney shaft. The browser based application on the Tablet PC and on the sleigh’s console is refreshed once every sixty seconds, ensuring that each child’s status is accurate.

Keeping the datacenter, known locally as the Santaplex, at the north poll, rather than on the rack at a hosting company not only ensures security, but reduces greenhouse gas emissions as there is a limited necessity for air conditioning. A large store of hot spares is located on site as the closest hardware provider requires 72 hours to deliver replacements. After an incident in 2005, senior management is loath to allow the sleigh to be used to obtain replacement parts. The last time it was used, several elves, who were meant to be picking up a new RAID-10 array, returned with a shopping cart full of energy drink and potato crisps.

The only bump in the implementation was having to add a cigarette lighter outlet to the sleigh, so that the Tablet PC could be recharged in flight. The last thing that anyone wants is the list becoming unavailable because the computer has gone into hibernation whilst the boss is over Alice Springs! Finally, it isn’t just the master list that has been updated. Everything at the Santaplex has moved into the digital age, from payroll to inventory. Even the menu at the cafeteria can be checked by hungry elves using their workstations on the Santaplex intranet. All in all, the migration away from traditional record keeping methods to a modern database driven IT infrastructure has been successful.

Have a safe and happy holiday season and we’ll see you next year!