Opportunity. Partnership. Support. At Humber College, we bring it all to more than 86,000 learners, in-person and online. As a global leader in polytechnic education, Humber provides in-depth theoretical learning, hands-on, work-integrated experiences and applied research opportunities to students at three main Toronto locations and beyond. Extensive industry connections, experienced faculty and a comprehensive range of credentials, including honours undergraduate degrees, Ontario graduate certificates, diplomas, apprenticeships, and certificates prepare career-ready global citizens for success in the future world of work.
"We knew what we wanted to do, but we weren't quite sure how to go about doing it. So, the team was very anxious to talk to experts who could help address the concerns and turn some of the challenges into solutions that led to positive results.”
The obstacles they faced
In order to manage and moderate student, faculty and administrative data, transactions and activities, the Humber College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning utilizes an ERP system used by thousands of students and staff daily and featuring multiple integrated servers and applications. This system is essential for the college's day-to-day operations and serves as its central source for both information and financial data.
However, over time the infrastructure the system utilized had become outdated. “We encountered numerous lifecycle renewal issues as our student and financial information system was running on hardware nearing its end of life,” said Ryan Burton, Director of Digital Solutions, Humber College. “We wanted to be more agile, secure, we wanted to be able to scale, and we were looking to get our costs more under control.”
The operational challenges were evident as the system struggled to scale during peak enrollment periods that occurred three times a year. This inability to meet the increased demand raised concerns about the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the infrastructure.
Humber ITS and administrative leaders decided to migrate to a cloud environment to take advantage of scalability, performance and cost benefits. The team began the process of planning a new cloud-based infrastructure that would reduce costs and keep up with usage demands. In addition to improving the system, the team knew it wanted to eventually upgrade databases and automate deployment of infrastructure and applications.
“My advice: Choose the right partner, get executive commitment, and invest in your team for ultimate success.”
How we helped
Working with Amazon Web Services (AWS) Premier Consulting Partner, was the right way forward for Humber College as they prepared to move to the next phase and implement an AWS solution. After researching potential migration partners, the Humber team decided that Onica by Rackspace Technology was the best fit.
“We chose Onica because we felt they would be a strong partner, someone who was invested in our project and committed to seeing it through,” said Burton. “We had worked together in the past and knew they could provide the solution and methodology we desired. Onica was also recommended by AWS, which meant a lot to us, too.”
According to Burton, the ERP solution is a complex ecosystem that requires coordinated movements. "I made several critical decisions about the underlying database to enable progress and to prevent end-of-life issues," said Burton. "With faith in our partners, we took the necessary steps. Although we expected challenges, we stayed positive and worked through them. We successfully completed the project with remarkable ease."
What we achieved together
The Onica team brought the project greater visibility, helping to uncover many unknowns that had previously remained hidden.
"We proposed a pipeline-driven migration instead of a traditional lift-and-shift approach, and automated the infrastructure and backend services," said Alex Kogan, Practice Manager, Architecture & Engineering, Rackspace Technology. "We worked closely with their team to share responsibility for the code and provide training.”
The Onica team used its open-source Runway tool to enable deployment of the services required for the solution. “Runway is essentially a lightweight wrapper,” said Kogan. “What it allows you to do is simplify your CI/CD pipelines by wrapping in a very easy-to-understand and easy-to-configure wrapper, your infrastructure defined as code.”
Together with the Humber ITS team, Onica helped to deliver scalability, monitoring, alerting and greater visibility into workload performance.
“The Onica by Rackspace Technology team worked with us shoulder-to-shoulder on campus," said Burton. "We brought in the Onica team and really made it part of the Humber family. We gained valuable insights on solutions, methodologies and tools to help manage code and monitor. Onica ultimately helped us with a mindset shift too, to become a service broker for a dynamic organization and no longer just stacking assets.”
“With automation, Humber College can now scale according to demand while still saving on cost,” said Kogan. “They were able to transform a traditionally siloed approach to a specialized DevOps team, with all skills enabled to work on the code with automation for their applications.”
Supporting Humber College’s growth for years to come
Humber was able to scale its applications and reduce costs. The IT team has successfully leveraged the cloud to move workloads away from the data center model while hosting new solutions.
Burton said the team sought a solution to develop its cloud-first strategy, knowing the data center model was approaching its end.
"This initiative was the foundation for the team to begin leveraging cloud elsewhere," he said. "With our cloud-first approach, we were able to spin up a solution within days instead of the weeks or months it would have taken with traditional hardware procurement. It’s a game-changer for the business."
The project has brought greater agility to Humber College, allowing it to quickly add to its capabilities while focusing on outcomes and eliminating performance constraints. “This was part of modernizing the delivery of IT services to support an organization that really is moving in a million directions at the same time and needing a different type of support than what we were able to provide three or four years ago,” said Burton. “We now have a cloud-first strategy that quickly allows us to be better partners for the business.”
The future looks bright, as Burton noted that the school is planning next to transition more workloads to the cloud and launch an advanced data analytics initiative.
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