AWS Public Sector Blog

Digital transformation in higher education: Three benefits of ERP migration to the cloud

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems handle everything from accounting to marketing, finances to inventory, human resources to customer relations, and more. Colleges and universities commit significant infrastructure and personnel resources to run and manage these vital applications. But shifts in technology adoption, reduced availability of skilled labor, and increased economic pressures push colleges and universities to assess the return on their material ERP system investments.

One way higher education institutions realize additional return on their scarce resources is by using cloud technologies. After Arizona State University (ASU) moved to Amazon Web Services (AWS), the university was able to effectively allocate resources to benefit its students and solve operational problems that would otherwise require additional investment. Check out three benefits higher education institutions can recognize by moving ERP systems to the cloud:

High availability

When disaster strikes—be it a data breach, power outage, or hurricane—service outages and data loss can be a devastating result. Good application design in AWS can mitigate these recovery risks through the highly resilient and scalable architecture of AWS. With an active AWS architecture design, if there is a problem with one system, failover automatically shifts to a server in another Availability Zone (AZ) with no interruption in service. And thanks to constant backup processes on AWS, there is little to no data loss. With mass virtual learning spurred by the pandemic, this kind of fallback system helps administrations to have access to important data, no matter where they are working.

Before ASU moved to AWS, its IT team had to run regular disaster recovery (DR) tests—a time-consuming process that included manual failovers. The university partnered with Sierra-Cedar, an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner, to design and re-platform its systems on AWS by migrating from a five node Oracle RAC cluster to Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS). Today, the ASU team no longer needs to hold DR drills, because there is nothing to practice for.


During student enrollment periods, ERP systems at colleges and universities need to scale rapidly with the ability to expand six-to-eight times the normal usage. Instead of scaling up on individual servers, AWS scales out by adding more server capacity to meet demand. Institutions no longer need to acquire the physical infrastructure required to handle peak stress only several weeks of the year. With AWS, they can rely on the flexibility of the cloud—saving time and money. ASU saw scalability as a huge plus for its institution during its student enrollment periods, which increase the demand on infrastructure eight-fold.

Operational efficiencies

To realize cost savings, moving an ERP solution to AWS must be designed with the cloud in mind. Why? If an institution simply moves its existing system as-is onto a new platform (commonly referred to as “lift and shift”), it will often replicate the same issues it had prior to moving to the cloud. While the move can be viewed as a win (as there will likely be gains in efficiency and costs), the same pain points existing before the migration will still be present.

When moving ERP systems to the cloud, higher education institutions should re-platform. This approach explores the original application, breaks the application down into different components, and re-architects it to a cloud-optimized application that takes advantage of a pay-only-for-what-you-consume model. This option uses value-added cloud services and the following well-architected design concepts.

Infrastructure-as-code: Allows you to “plug-and-play,” easily adding on new solutions in the future.

  • Versioning: Revert to any previously defined infrastructure version.
  • Change control: Multiple approvals with no single actor and no console access.
  • Infrastructure deployment: Automated deployment, configuration, and decommission of infrastructure.
  • Drift detection: Detects if the actual AWS deployment matches the expected configuration.
  • Automated remediation: Automatically remediate issues—often with no visibility to the customer.

When ASU partnered with Sierra-Cedar, it took the re-platform approach of moving PeopleSoft to AWS. Following its migration and the automation of general tasks such as backup, patching, and monitoring, ASU experienced reduced administrative overhead and improved performance—52 percent of batch jobs on Amazon RDS now run significantly better than pre-migration, with a further 40 percent performing slightly better or the same. These improvements occurred without any performance tuning.

Bottom line: ASU has enjoyed material operational benefits moving to AWS and experienced cost savings of around 25 percent.

To learn more about finding value in moving PeopleSoft on AWS, watch our webinar here.

Check out more webinars like this in the IMAGINE: The New World of Education webinar series, and learn more about AWS in higher education.

Tim Gehrig

Tim Gehrig

Tim Gehrig, executive vice president of cloud and managed services at Sierra-Cedar, is responsible for Sierra-Cedar’s managed services and cloud technology consulting businesses, including AWS, Salesforce, Oracle, MuleSoft, and Splunk. Tim has more than 20 years of business technology experience. Tim has an executive MBA from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, is certified with AWS, and has been a speaker at numerous industry and technology events.