Onica Uses AWS to Help Humber College Enable Remote Learning for 30,000 Students

Onica is an APN Premier Consulting Partner

Executive Summary

Onica, a Rackspace Technology Company and an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Public Sector Partner, helps deploy a remote access solution with Canada’s Humber College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning. The streaming solution leverages Amazon AppStream 2.0 and other AWS services to reliably deliver virtual learning applications, enabling 30,000 full-time students to fulfill their learning outcomes during a pandemic.

Canadian University Searches for Reliable Remote Access

Onica, based in Santa Monica, California, with local Canadian offices in Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal, is a technology and consulting company that offers cloud-native solutions to help organizations increase efficiency and enable innovation. An AWS Partner Network (APN) Premier Consulting Partner and AWS Public Sector Partner, Onica helps its customers use AWS business continuity solutions to ensure their workforces stay productive while working remotely.

One of these customers is Canada’s Humber College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, based in Toronto, Ontario. Humber, which has more than 30,000 full-time students, is strategically investing in digital infrastructure to foster innovation and collaboration in the Humber community and enable the best possible future for its students and communities. One of its first initiatives was to enable remote access to academic applications so students would have the flexibility to access course resources regardless of the device used when not on campus.

Humber engaged Onica to learn about AWS remote access capabilities. Humber initially sought a proof of concept (POC) to gain confidence in using cloud technology as the college was considering expansion to multiple campuses. However, directives from public health authorities in response to a global pandemic then led to the abrupt shutdown of all Humber campuses. The college’s only academic application access was via 2,450 on-premises Windows workstations, so it urgently needed an accelerated solution to enable remote access to over 300 academic applications through any device, by any authorized user, in any location as long as they could gain internet access.

Resourcing a Business Continuity Solution in One Day

Humber had worked successfully with Onica on a cloud migration project, and was confident in Onica’s expertise. Conscious of the impact any downtime would have on students, Onica and Humber fast-tracked all internal processes so Onica could resource the project in one day, eliminating weeks of lag. Onica brought in a dedicated local technical team to work alongside five Humber representatives to implement the project. Onica designed, tested, and implemented a production-grade Amazon AppStream 2.0 environment integrated with the Humber on-premises data center. It chose Amazon AppStream 2.0 to deploy Windows-based applications on AWS because it simplifies application distribution.

Onica also takes advantage of an Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) that is maintained across two Availability Zones. It uses Amazon Route 53 for Domain Name System (DNS) resolution, and AWS Network Address Translation (NAT) Gateway gives
the private subnets internet access through the internet gateway. An AWS application load balancer handles internal applications deployed to Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances. The solution also relies on Amazon FSx for Windows File Server for shared file storage, Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for other data storage, and AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) for user and role authentication and authorization. Humber’s on-premises virtual private network (VPN) terminates in an AWS Transit Gateway. An AWS Lambda function switches the Amazon AppStream 2.0 fleets between day and night modes, helping to reduce costs during low-use hours.

Moving Faster with a Clear Purpose

In less than 10 business days, Onica created the application environment that now provides reliable remote application access to all full-time Humber students. This represents a significant acceleration for Amazon AppStream 2.0 projects, where a typical schedule is at least 30 days to the first POC application, with another 15 days required for production release. By the project’s completion, targeted for summer 2020, at least 80 percent of Humber applications will be available remotely through Amazon AppStream 2.0.

Humber has also simplified the deployment of academic applications for end users and may not need to provision Windows desktops in the future, which is a complex and resource-intensive process. With built-in scalability and resilience, the solution can very quickly scale up or down as needed. As a result, Humber is no longer limited to manually provisioning and maintaining
a set number of desktop systems.

Enabling Student Achievement, with Minimal Disruption

One of the greatest benefits of the project is the highly secure availability of academic application resources to students on any device from any location, provided they have quality internet access. Other benefits include improved accessibility and flexibility and the recovery of campus space optimized for other purposes.

The project’s success enables Humber to maintain its business model during a shutdown, while giving students the resources they need. "We are really happy to have brought Onica on as our partner,” says Ryan Burton, Director of Digital Solutions for Humber College. “The team was able not only to produce a solution that fit Humber’s accessibility, scalability, and performance requirements, but also to accomplish the task at an unprecedented speed using Amazon AppStream 2.0. Onica’s efforts and support have helped us provide academic stability to our students during these challenging times, with minimal disruption."


About Humber College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning

Based in Toronto, Ontario, Humber College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning is Canada’s largest college. Humber offers a broad range of advanced academic credentials as well as the latest technology and teaching methodologies across state-of-the-art labs and learning spaces designed to emulate real-world environments
and experiences.

About Onica, a Rackspace Technology Company

Onica is a global technology consulting company at the forefront of cloud computing and an APN Premier Consulting Partner. From migration strategy to operational excellence, cloud-native development, and immersive transformation, Onica is a full spectrum integrator. Onica holds twelve AWS Competencies across Data and Analytics, DevOps, Education, Healthcare, Industrial Software, IoT, Machine Learning, Microsoft Workloads, Migration, Retail, SaaS, and Storage.

Published August 2020