At 96 years old, a Kansas community college suddenly changed the way it managed student services by moving its Ellucian Banner enterprise resource planning (ERP), and several other third-party student information management applications from an on campus data center to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI).
Founded in 1927, the Kansas-based community college offers nearly 15,000 students with 100s of educational certificates and degrees in IT, agriculture, business, fine arts, nursing, and education, which can be earned online and at seven different campuses throughout the state of Kansas. In addition to contributing nearly $50 million to the local Kansas economy in recent years, the community college was just designated as a national center of academic excellence in “cyber defense” education by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency.
Despite its small IT staff, aging hardware, and restrictive spending policies, the community college envisioned a modern IT infrastructure that could help control costs, increase business continuity, and adapt quickly to the changing needs of faculty, administrators, and students. After completing a future state migration assessment with Oracle Cloud archtiects, the college partnered with Tharseo IT to help move its Banner ERP, DegreeWorks, and multiple student information systems to OCI. For the implementation, Tharseo IT assembled a “tiger team” of Ellucian Banner subject matter experts, network architects, cloud architects, and Oracle DBAs who helped migrate the system using RackWare.
Tharseo IT also used its proprietary delivery methodology: Discover–>Plan–>Lift–>Configure–>Test–>Clone–>Go-Live, which enabled the team to complete the entire migration of the Ellucian Banner ERP system, plus multiple third-party applications to both “test” and “production” environments within just three months.
Highlights of this deployment include:
- Easier to build, scale, and secure Oracle Enterprise Edition databases, using Oracle Base Database Service
- More business continuity using multiple Fault Domains
- Tighter security using Bastion Hosts, which only admit authorized users to access the college’s OCI tenancy from outside its virtual cloud network (VCN)
- Guaranteed service level agreements (SLAs) and a platform ready for future integration, enhancement, and expansion
Using the Rackware hybrid cloud migration platform, Tharseo IT helped the college “lift and shift” its Ellucian Banner (Banner) application from on-premises to OCI. Developed specifically for higher education, the Banner ERP applications helps automate all sorts of student services, from enrollment and financial aid, to attendance, schedules, and grades.
This deployment includes the following components:
- Self Service Banner (Student)
- Self Service Banner (Admin)
- Envisions for Reporting
- Ellusian Degree Works – Audit and Planning
- Events Publisher
- Recruiter Integration Manager (BRIM)
- Job Submission
- Solution Manager
- AppXtender – Imaging, scanning, and indexing
- Automic – Processing automation
- Aviso – Student retention software
From its on premises data center, the college campus network connects to an OCI virtual cloud network (VCN) through Oracle FastConnect. All of the community college’s students, staff, and faculty must connect through the campus network in order to access the Banner ERP system. Once connected, these users are authenticated through Active Directory and a single sign on (SSO) secure login portal prior to being authorized to access the ERP system.
The following diagram illustrates this reference architecture.
The application subnet hosts the application tier for the Banner ERP components. A database subnet hosts the Oracle Enterprise Edition databases for Degree Works, Automic, Ethos, and Banner. These databases use Oracle Base Database Service, which provides built-in automation for common database lifecycle management tasks, such as updating, backup/recovery, and enabling Oracle Data Guard—all of which can be performed by the community colleg’s IT staff, using the OCI console or REST APIs. A common services subnet is used for services that are shared between the production environment and non-production environment (not shown). Development and testing is performed on separate subnets in the VCN that are not depicted in this diagram either. The production and non-production environment share Ethos and Solution Manger.
While Object Storage is used for storing backups, the community college uses File Storage for storing configuration files. Bastion hosts are deployed to a bastion subnet, which allows access to the VCN.
In terms of future considerations, the community college is looking to:
- Move components into different fault domains to ensure application availability in case of an outage
- Allow users to access the ERP system through an Internet Gateway
- Deploy a Web Application Firewall (WAF), Cloud Guard, Security Zones, and encryption
- Replace Bastion Hosts with Bastion Service, providing an extra layer of security through the configuration of CIDR block allowlists without the overhead of managing multiple jump boxes
- Explore high availability and disaster recovery (DR) options, such as deploying load balancers and spreading the application across availability domains and an active and standby configuration for the databases
- Create a DR plan using Rackware to replicate application data and Data Guard to replicate database data. This will allow the college to activate in an active-passive manner at a secondary region for DR
- Consider native OCI cloud tools, such as Functions, Resource Management, and infrastructure as code (IaC) to automate deployment processes
- Explore Oracle Database Zero Data Loss Autonomous Recovery Service to protect database transactions in real time
- Use OCI Observability and Management to provide full stack visibility into the environment
The following diagram illustrates this reference architecture: