AWS Government, Education, & Nonprofits Blog

Villanova University Scales Website After Their Buzzer Beater Win in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship

Congratulations to the Villanova Wildcats for their heart-stopping win in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament! Victories like that impact not just the team, but the entire institution: the students, fans, alumni, and staff. Behind the scenes, schools must ramp everything from security to IT as they work to support their team for the big game.

Whether it is a major sporting event or the start of a new semester, the university website should be reliable and scalable. While owning servers and hosting a website on campus is an option, that strategy can make peak usage periods challenging since institutions must purchase excess hardware that is unused most of the year.

In 2012, Villanova chose another path.  They moved their Adobe Experience Manager website to the cloud on AWS with help from AWS Managed Services Partner ICF Olson.  While they owned onsite servers starting in 2009, they discovered the most difficult piece of running a website was staffing. “We would train staff in the new technologies, but it was difficult to retain the website operations because their technology skills were so in demand,” said Gabe Monteleone, Assistant Vice President, University Applications and Information Systems at Villanova University. “That triggered the decision to look to Amazon Web Services and the cloud.”

This was Villanova’s first foray into the cloud and the team “hasn’t looked back.” Based on Amazon CloudWatch metrics, Villanova.edu scaled from less than 1,000 website requests on the day of the NCAA Championship game to over 225,000 requests after Villanova won the tournament.

The decision to move to the cloud included a review of the costs of onsite hosting plus staff.  In this case, Villanova saves money, sees improved overall performance, and sees a benefit for their employees. “Performance and uptime have improved and we haven’t had any noticeable downtime since 2012,” continued Monteleone. “It is easy for us to maintain the site and still do development on the platform.  Our team focuses on high-value projects that include coding and working with end users, rather than maintenance.”

Monteleone recommends that IT teams consider the full picture when planning to move their website to the cloud.  For example, budgeting changes when a university moves to a utility model.  Schools can quickly spin up more compute power around big events (rather than purchase hardware), but they need to plan for those spikes in the budgeting cycle.

As for the future, the applications team sees future opportunities for cloud services.  But for today, they are happy with the win.


 

Interested in learning more about launching your university’s website in the cloud? Hear more about Villanova’s experience from Gabe Monteleone at Ellucian Live in Denver.  He will join AWS on a panel discussion called Cloud Adoption in Higher Education on April 18 at 4:45PM.   Or, for more information, visit: aws.amazon.com/websites.