June 27, 2011 By Brian Heaton
When students return to their studies in August at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Sheldon B. Lubar School of Business, their choices on what classes to take won’t be the only thing up in the air. Much of their coursework resources will be too, as the school’s data center is moving to cloud-based technology.
The school’s Center for Technology Innovation (CTI) is in the midst of migrating the business school’s SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) software system to the cloud, along with those SAP systems of approximately 110 other universities that it hosts virtually.
As William “Dave” Haseman, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and director of the CTI explained, while the students may have been off for a few months, there’s no summer break in store for those working at the CTI.
“We’re in transition right now, and I’m hoping by this Friday to be 50 percent through [the] transition,” Haseman said Monday, June 27. “My target is Aug. 1. The plan is to have everyone move from the old system to the new one by then.”
The CTI is a SAP University Competence Center, which is a service provider that hosts and supports a wide range of different SAP systems for educational purposes. After the move to the cloud is complete, the CTI’s operations will be run on IBM infrastructure and software.
Haseman said the decision to move to the cloud was based on a simple need to update technology. He explained that the last time the CTI updated its data center equipment, cloud computing didn’t exist. But by replacing its outdated hardware and pushing operations to the cloud, the delivery time of setting up a SAP client has been cut from 24 hours to three.
The CTI expects to host approximately 30 SAP instances next year, with each instance supporting 50 to 100 clients, according to Haseman. Those “clients” are fictional businesses created by students each semester.
“When I talk about 30 [instances], not only am I giving my students here access to SAP, but giving support to 110 universities,” Haseman said. “My number this year is 40,000 students in a 12-month period. ... We expect next year to support 1,500 clients.”
Cloud Crashes Not a Big Concern
While some big-name companies such as Amazon dealt with cloud crashes in the past few months, Haseman was confident that the CTI was ahead of the game when it comes to backup procedures.
In the new cloud system, Haseman said users will likely never know there’s an outage, whereas in the past, there might be two to three hours of downtime.
“With this new technology, we’re able to make a complete copy of a system in about 20 seconds and that [also] goes to a tape backup,” Haseman said. “We don’t even tell our customers that we’re down. If they happen to be on a system, they might have to wait 20 seconds for a response. That allows us to make backup copies a lot faster, and we can do it more often and bring back systems if in fact we lost one.”
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