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How NIU Migrated to Oracle Cloud Despite Pandemic-Related Disruptions

The cloud migration was one of the largest and most important IT initiatives the university had ever undertaken. Here’s what it was like to manage it in the middle of COVID-19.

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Northern Illinois University (NIU) is a public research university located just outside of Chicago. For years, NIU relied on on-premises Oracle infrastructure to run multiple PeopleSoft applications. Recently, the university began looking to migrate to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) to reduce costs, improve reliability, boost scalability, and streamline IT operations. It would be one of the biggest IT initiatives NIU had ever undertaken.

NIU’s IT leadership spoke about their successful migration story during a recent webinar.

“Primarily, we wanted to reduce our operating costs and eliminate hardware refresh cycles,” says Ruperto Herrera, manager of Database Services at NIU. “OCI was the most cost effective and the most logical choice based on our needs. Looking at our IT landscape and the economies of scale we could gain, we figured OCI could save us 13 percent on infrastructure costs alone over the next three years.”

Cloud migration would also enable the university to reduce its reliance on aging infrastructure and improve its disaster recovery and business continuity capabilities. The university had two local data centers about six miles apart, but recognized that leveraging cloud could better protect it in the event a natural disaster affected both data center locations.

NIU launched its initiative to migrate PeopleSoft Campus Solutions 9.2, Human Capital Management 9.2, Financials and Supply Chain Management 9.2 and PeopleTools 3.57 to OCI in mid-October 2019. By December, NIU began shifting workloads to OCI.

“Oracle was good at listening to our needs and concerns and walking us through all the steps we needed to take to connect our datacenter to the cloud,” says Herrera.

In January 2020, NIU’s first PeopleSoft environment was built and delivered, and by March the university was ready to kick testing into high gear. That’s when the COVID-19 pandemic sent most university employees home and threatened to derail the project. But given the importance of the project, and the support of the Oracle team, NIU’s IT group decided to move forward with the migration despite the shuttered campus data center and pandemic concerns.

“Trying to do all this from home certainly made it more complex,” says Nick Choban, director of IT services at NIU. “But we were committed to meeting the timeline. It was truly a team effort. Oracle as a partner was great because they stuck with it and kept moving the project forward despite the disruptions going on in the outside world.”

Moving Forward Despite the Odds

Teamwork and agility meant the pandemic didn’t dramatically impact the university’s timeline. In May, NIU went live with its new human capital application and two weeks later it went live with Campus Solutions.

“We were very happy we could stick to our original timeline, which was about seven months total. Our previous hardware refresh took about three years,” says Herrera.

Already, the university is benefitting from better scalability during high demand times and more streamlined IT operations overall. And while NIU still has some infrastructure on-premises, moving its ERP applications to the cloud freed up significant space and helped simplify that infrastructure as well. NIU’s maintenance and patching capabilities are also greatly improved and moving to OCI improved the university’s overall availability and disaster recovery capabilities.

“Choosing the right vendor made a big difference in the success of this project,” says Choban. “Oracle tools are helping us ensure everything is patched and kept up to date. And having a single vendor to support our infrastructure made everything easier on our end.”

You can listen to the full webinar here.