The regionally accredited, not-for-profit institution partners with Nuvalence to overhaul, modernize, and vastly improve their students’ digital experiences through SIS to cloud initiative without disrupting existing constituents.
- Digital Platform Strategy & Development
- Technology & Infrastructure Assessment
- Cloud Migration
- AWS Cloud Expertise
- Highly Resilient & Fault-Tolerant Systems
- Business Practice Implementation
- Operational Efficiency
Providing Educational Opportunities
Excelsior University is an accredited, not-for-profit distance learning institution founded in 1971 focused on providing educational opportunities to adult learners. Over the past 50 years, the institution has prepared over 187,000 students in a variety of fields, helping them advance their careers. Excelsior’s focus on student diversity has resulted in an impressive demographic, including 51% in the military or having served in the military and 40% self-identifying as a minority.
Although its technology foundation has afforded them a competitive advantage over the years, the institution has embarked on a multi-year initiative to modernize its student systems using Amazon Web Services in order to take advantage of cloud-native capabilities. Among the key qualities, the institution is looking to improve scale flexibility, disaster recovery dynamics, and better business continuity.
Client Challenge: Overhaul and Modernize the Student Experience
The Excelsior team’s goals were to modernize and overhaul the student experience made up of 3 distinct applications. These applications run the bulk of Excelsior’s business by centralizing both student and staff workflows covering course registration, the application process, transcript transfer, billing, and invoicing. It’s the “heart and soul” of the university’s operations so the team needed to modernize the stack without disrupting the flow of the existing constituents.
As part of the migration process, the team was looking to re-platform their existing Oracle Database to AWS Relational Database Service (RDS) to decrease the operational burden on the staff and provide better SLAs to students and staff.
As is common with many similar systems, the on-premise database contained hundreds of cloud anti-patterns that would not have functioned in a fully managed cloud environment such as RDS. As an example, the database had a reliance on the local filesystem for temporary file creations, while depending on manual processes that were increasing the cost to support it, so this migration presented several complexities that Excelsior needed to resolve.
“Migrating our core systems to AWS allows the university to save costs, create a strong foundation for the future and provide an even more reliable experience for our students. Nuvalence was a great partner to work with; they helped us execute on our vision and bring modern software practices to our team.”
— Deputy CIO Enterprise Systems, Excelsior University
Why Nuvalence? Specialty in Platform Strategy & Development
Nuvalence specializes in digital platform development and employs “platform strategy” to solve complex engineering problems by leveraging cloud technologies. This was exactly what Excelsior needed to respond to their students’ needs and solve the challenges they were facing in the most efficient, cost-effective, and scalable way possible.
What makes “platform strategy” the best path forward? “Platform strategy” corresponds to solving complex engineering problems by developing generalizable solutions that can be applied to a high percentage of use cases. In the case of Excelsior, this manifested itself in the two paths possible: either solve each blocker individually or generalize the solution into patterns that could be turned into templates and applied across the board.
As shown in this case study, shifting to a platform strategy for problem-solving saved Excelsior a significant amount of resources and provided a scalable, cost-effective solution to accelerate their adoption of AWS.
Excelsior University partners with Nuvalence to overhaul, modernize, and vastly improve their students’ digital experiences
The Nuvalence team produced a set of templates that solved the various cloud anti-patterns by leveraging technologies like ECS for batch processing, Lambdas for short-lived data jobs, and S3 for the storage of reports. These workflows were triggered either by stored procedures, Jenkins jobs, or schedulers, automating processing and lowering the overall burden for support.
The Excelsior team had already made the decision to leverage Amazon Web Services as the hosting platform for their ecosystem of applications. The reasoning was twofold: (a) improve the business continuity capabilities of their main student application and (b) provide an innovative platform for the development of new internal and external applications.
Zooming in on the database migration to AWS RDS, Excelsior University estimated 6 calendar months of effort to migrate and modernize the core Oracle PL/SQL database. Nuvalence leveraged “platform engineering” techniques to improve the outcome, reviewing over 750,000 lines of Oracle PL/SQL code to produce a library of reusable “blueprints,” one for each anti-pattern type. These blueprints codified discrete architecture remediations that leveraged AWS’ serverless technologies to solve these anti-patterns in a modern, scalable and cost-effective approach.
- Reduce remediation effort from 807 instances across 55 packages to 9 blueprint usages
- Reduce remediation time & effort by 67%, from 6 months to 2 months achieving a 200% improvement on efficiency
- Save approximately $100,000 in hard dollar costs
- Decreasing ongoing maintenance and support through the use of RDS by $200,000 per year
- Decommissioning existing infrastructure with savings estimated to be $150,000 over the next three years
- Reducing the cost of file storage by effectively using S3 and lifecycle policies rather than traditional file servers and databases
- Implementing more resilient and cost-effective business continuity practices to provide better uptime for students