With the help of AWS Partner Cumulus and AWS Professional Services, College of the Sequoias migrated its Ellucian Banner enterprise resource planning system to the AWS Cloud. College of the Sequoias is a public two-year college and a member of the California Community Colleges system. By taking advantage of an architecture based on AWS Control Tower and a containerized deployment based on Amazon Elastic Container Service, the college now has a faster, high-performing system that provides easy self-hosting.
Looking to Improve ERP Performance
With its main campus nestled in the foothills of the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountain range, College of the Sequoias (COS) has been serving students in central California since 1926. The college has undergone a number of expansions over its history, and it now enrolls over 10,000 full-time equivalent students and employs 1,300 faculty and staff. For over 20 years, COS has depended on Ellucian Banner, the enterprise resource planning (ERP) program, to handle its many vital workflows, including human resources, college finances, student information, and financial aid. However, the on-premises data center on which Banner was running had its limitations, and the old hardware could not keep up with the college’s growing demands. The data center was nearing its end of life, and COS had to decide whether to update and invest in all new servers or move Banner to the cloud.
“It seemed logical to me to make the move to AWS and adopt a system that was much easier to manage—one that didn’t require an investment in hardware every five years.”
- Glen Profeta, Chief Technology Officer, College of the Sequoias
The college chose to migrate its ERP system to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud with help from a partner that specializes in higher education—Cumulus Technology Services. “It seemed logical to me to make the move to AWS and adopt a system that was much easier to manage—one that didn’t require an investment in hardware every five years,” says Glen Profeta, Chief Technology Officer at College of the Sequoias. Additionally, because Banner handled so many essential workflows, the college wanted to keep the old system in production while testing Banner in the new environment. This was much easier to do with AWS.
A Perfect Partner in Cumulus
This wasn’t the first time COS had migrated to AWS with assistance from Cumulus, a member of the AWS Public Sector Partner Program and an AWS Partner offering consulting services. Cumulus provided COS with the knowledge transfer and training needed to successfully migrate Ellucian Degree Works to AWS. The move immediately improved the performance and availability of its academic planning and degree progress tool. Cumulus proved to be the perfect partner for COS. The company’s founders previously worked in higher education and had migrated their institution’s ERP system to AWS. They know first-hand the challenges of maintaining an academic ERP system on premises and the requirements of migrating such a system to AWS. Cumulus was the clear choice when COS wanted to migrate its Banner ERP system to AWS.
Planning Sessions with AWS Professional Services
At the start of the migration project, Cumulus collaborated with AWS Professional Services to design the architecture that would support Banner and the peripheral applications that depended on it. Because Banner supports numerous processes, accounts, and applications, AWS Professional Services implemented AWS Control Tower, developing a compliant multi-account AWS environment, or landing zone, using best practices. It also deployed AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) to all the security components.
Reliability with a Containerized Framework
Once the AWS environment was established, Cumulus performed the actual migration. It used Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS) to develop a container framework and migrate many of the applications to Docker containers, which helped improve system performance and increase scalability and reliability. Cumulus also improved the system’s application tier. The on-premises environment combined the database tier and the application tier, making the system difficult to maintain and limiting performance. Cumulus split them into separate Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances, which improved system flexibility and made it easier to manage. Cumulus implemented the entire infrastructure in code using the AWS Cloud Development Kit (AWS CDK) to define the cloud application and AWS CloudFormation to provision the resources in a safe, repeatable manner. As part of the project, it also migrated PortalGuard, the Banner ERP system’s identity management solution that provides single sign-on authentication.
Set Up for a Successful Migration
While the migration project was not without its challenges, consistent support from COS leadership kept the project moving forward and contributed to its success. One of those challenges was staff turnover. “IT shops at community colleges are extremely thin, and frequently one person has the essential skill set,” says Profeta. “When a person leaves, that skill set is lost, along with valuable institutional knowledge.” However, COS leadership provided the COS IT team with the support and resources they needed to devote themselves to the migration process, empowering them to work side-by-side with Cumulus.
A Self-Hosted, Easily Maintained System
Cumulus trained the COS IT team on how to maintain the system after migration. Now, a database administrator (DBA) at COS performs system maintenance, relying on Cumulus for added support when needed. Because Banner sits on a solid infrastructure on the AWS Cloud, the system is much more reliable, making it efficient to manage. The DBA and the rest of the COS IT team now have the time to perform new tasks and attend to other priorities, which was not the case when the Banner ERP resided on premises.
Looking Forward: Additional Migrations to AWS
With the AWS framework now in place and a strong understanding of the cloud environment, the COS IT team has started migrating other applications to AWS, and they plan to migrate more. “The team has the confidence and ability to innovate rapidly in a way that was not feasible when we were on premises,” says Profeta. “We’re excited to discover what else is possible with AWS.”
About College of the Sequoias
College of the Sequoias is a public two-year community college based in Visalia, California, with campuses in Tulare and Hanford. Established in 1926, it now enrolls over 10,000 students across its three campuses and employs close to 1,300 staff and faculty.
Based in Ventura, California, Cumulus Technology Services has been providing IT consulting services since 2007. Today it focuses on helping institutions of higher education successfully migrate their applications to the AWS Cloud. The company specializes in Ellucian products.
Published August 2021