How Northern Illinois University moved to Oracle Cloud during COVID-19

October 28, 2020 | 3 minute read
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Many universities have successfully moved on-premise workloads to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. But what’s it’s like for a large institution to move their critical PeopleSoft application to the cloud, during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Two Northern Illinois University (NIU) IT professionals told their story in a webinar that described their successful migration strategy, despite the shuttered campus.

Although migrating enterprise applications to a cloud platform can be demanding, the implementation was successfully completed with minimal disruption, thanks to the partnership between the university and Oracle Consulting Services.

Located in Dekalb, IL, NIU is a medium-sized public institution with 17,000 students, 2,100 staff, and 1,200 faculty members. NIU is also a full-suite PeopleSoft customer (Campus Solutions 9.2, HCM 9.2., Financials and Supply Chain Management 9.2, and PeopleTools 8.57), but their need to replace their Exadata servers motivated the institution to begin modernizing in 2018.

NIU considered and eliminated a variety of options: refreshing with on-premises hardware or exercising the Oracle’s Cloud@Customer option would still require the institution to rely on aging local infrastructure, while a do it yourself VMWare RAC deployment option was eliminated because of the need for highly-skilled employees to build and support the project. In the end, Oracle Cloud was “the solution that offered the best of all worlds,” said Ruperto Herrera, NIU’s Manager of Database Administration and Architecture. “Choosing Oracle as our cloud vendor and partner made a lot of sense.”

Their decision to move to OCI was motivated by a variety of other factors:

  • Reducing costs: eliminating the need to replace costly hardware every few years. “By choosing Oracle Cloud, we were able to save 13% on infrastructure-related costs over a three-year period,” Herrera says. “we’re very happy [with] that number.”
  • Improving reliability and scalability:  NIU was looking for improved performance, availability, and protection from DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks. “Being able to scale up during times of peak load, such as during student registration periods or finals was a priority for us,” Herrera says. “Bare metal gives us the flexibility to scale up [and down] in a very seamless manner, which we’ve already done a number of times without any issues.”
  • Streamlining IT operations: by moving core administrative systems into the cloud, NIU has freed up a large amount of on-premises resources. Herrera adds that OCI’s cloud automation tools allows NIU’s IT team to simplify processes like maintenance and patching.

NIU partnered with Oracle Consulting Services (OCS) for the implementation, lasted from October 2019 through May 2020. The speed and success of the implementation can be credited to the careful planning and design work undertaken by NIU and OCS, from requirement gathering to building out the architecture (and redesigning, as needed). Herrera credits OCS for putting together realistic design blueprints and cost estimates for running their workloads in the cloud; “we’re still well within those limits today,” he says. In addition, following Oracle Consulting’s lead and expertise in cloud migrations was key. “early on we were too concerned with trying to recreate the architecture we had on-premise, and it took us a little while to let go of that and trust our partner,” Herrera says, “[but] adopting best practices [will put us] a better position to manage our environment in the long run.”

To hear more about the lessons NIU learned during the implementation, their cloud/SaaS plans for the future, and how the university managed the shift to remote operations, click here to access the recording.

And to learn more about how higher education is changing,

William Sanders

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