AWS Public Sector Blog

Migrating to the Cloud: Tips from Portland Public Schools

When upgrading a school district’s infrastructure, the administration thinks about the physical buildings as well as the IT. In 2018, Portland Public Schools began tackling both. The district is visibly renovating many of its high schools, but behind the scenes, they also migrated to the cloud, increasing both performance and capacity for their users.

Travis Paakki, Sr. Director of Technology, Portland Public Schools, started around the time the district’s sizeable enterprise resource planning (ERP) install was nearing its end of life. The IT team was faced with a choice – either refresh its on-premises hardware or look at something different.

When considering their options, Travis introduced the idea of migrating their PeopleSoft platform to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud. In the end, the district decided to move away from what they had done in the past. The ultimate deciding factor? “We could either spend $500,000 on new hardware or try out AWS at a fraction of that spend,” said Travis.

Immediate savings, risk reduction, and speed of migration

A former cloud skeptic himself, Travis convened the team to talk through what this migration would look like, taking into account cost, capacity, performance, and risk. The team sat down and examined the AWS portfolio to learn about the available tools that could help the district in the long-term.

“One of the things AWS enables is the ability to enter into a project with increased confidence. We do not have to worry and invest efforts and resources in back-up plans,” said Travis. “AWS removes a lot of that risk that people would normally incur.”

In the buildup to the migration, the team was able to get the system synched and tested, running all of their existing on-premises hardware in parallel. So they were confident when the time came to finally pull the trigger and move their PeopleSoft platform to Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) and Amazon Elastic Block Storage (Amazon EBS).

Working with Highstreet IT, an AWS Partner Network (APN) partner, the full migration took just four months –  from idea to implementation. See the case study here. “By using AWS, we were able to back up, transmit, and cut over, which allowed us to shave off months of time,” said Travis.

Opening up for the door for more opportunities

“Now our annual cost is a third of what it would have been to replace. And we now have increased capacity and disaster recovery – things we didn’t have access to with an on-premises data center,” said Travis.

The team is excited to experiment and they are now solving problems from archival storage to call centers to messaging. They are getting out of managing a data center one workload at a time.

AWS Public Sector Blog Team

AWS Public Sector Blog Team

The Amazon Web Services (AWS) Public Sector Blog team writes for the government, education, and nonprofit sector around the globe. Learn more about AWS for the public sector by visiting our website (, or following us on Twitter (@AWS_gov, @AWS_edu, and @AWS_Nonprofits).