Published on 30-Apr-2010
"We anticipate that the initial payback from implementing Optim will be that we have successfully stopped that vicious cycle of running out and purchasing high-performance hardware, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars." - Andy Clark, Technical Lead for HR/CS, Virginia Community College System
Virginia Community College System (VCCS)
Virginia Community College System ends frequent and expensive server upgrades when it implements a policy-driving archiving solution from IBM to archive 10+ years of inactive student data and selectively restore student records as needed.
Implement an out-of-the box archiving solution for PeopleSoft Enterprise Campus Solutions that helps manage data growth without expensive server upgrades, supports compliance requirements, and reduces the time spent on performance tuning and related issues.
IBM® Optim™ software offered the only solution with the capabilities to archive complete student records, preserve the integrity of the data and provide a selective restore feature.
Effectively manages data growth to improve service levels; offers flexibility to archive 10+ years of inactive student data; enables staff to selectively restore student records; lowered infrastructure costs by eliminating frequent server upgrades.
With 23 colleges on 40 campuses throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) delivers quality education and workforce training, with programs and courses to serve the distinct demands of every region. There is no application fee, and in an academic year the VCCS can serve more than 260,000 credit students, with 45 percent of students over the age of 25. Students can earn associate’s degrees and then transfer to one of Virginia’s four-year colleges, resulting in savings of up to half the typical cost of completing a baccalaureate degree. An additional 234,000 students attend Virginia’s Community College for Continuing Education and Workforce related training.
Students who attend community colleges transition in and out of programs based on their interests and needs. Since 1966, the flexible admission policies at VCCS have allowed students to return at any point in time and continue their education. To support these policies and comply with a state law, the VCCS retains all academic records and related information on instructors, classroom scheduling and the use of facilities indefinitely.
To support the growing number of students, alumni and faculty, the VCCS implemented PeopleSoft Enterprise Campus Solutions. To begin, VCCS imported 35 years of legacy data across the 23 campuses and earned recognition from Oracle as being the largest installation of PeopleSoft Enterprise Campus Solutions in the world. With the planned upgrade to PeopleSoft Enterprise v8.9, and student enrollments increasing annually, data growth was becoming a serious issue.
Life-long retention policies impact application performance
PeopleSoft Enterprise Campus Solutions helps VCCS manage day-to-day academic and business activities to support 373,000 students and 15,000 staff and faculty. Any research data that rep
orts on students, classes or academic performance, and any programs that examine how the colleges can best serve student needs depend on data managed in this system. Increasing data volumes was affecting service levels in all aspects of production and operations, including development, testing and disaster recovery.
“We made a significant investment in database tuning,” says Andy Clark, Technical Lead for HR/CS at VCCS. “We also completed three, top-of-the-line, server upgrades in four years to support service levels through peak periods. Adding hardware is expensive. You also have to consider power resources, infrastructure requirements, disaster recovery and everything down the line. But over time, hardware solutions gradually lose ground and eventually you are right back where you started.”
He adds, “Devoting extensive resources to address performance issues was a big part of our decision to find an archiving solution. After we upgraded to PeopleSoft v8.9, we had an extended period of time when our production database utilization was running over 90, toward 99, percent. Almost our entire PeopleSoft IT staff was focused on resolving performance issues. I became convinced that we could not tune our way out of performance issues.”
Finding the right archiving solution
The IT staff at VCCS had the technical PeopleSoft knowledge, but did not have the detailed understanding needed for a complex archiving development project and could not afford to dedicate staff time to a single project for a year or more.
“We spent about two years looking for an out-of-the-box solution to meet our specific needs, but found none,” explains Clark, “mainly because we have a large and somewhat unusual PeopleSoft Enterprise implementation. We learned about IBM Optim at various user group conferences, and although research indicated that Optim was in the lead for archiving, there was nothing yet available for the Campus Solutions modules. We became convinced that we would not find what we needed unless we took more of a leadership role and partnered with a vendor to develop the archiving capabilities to meet our requirements.”
Clark worked with staff to define specific archiving criteria to meet their needs. The solution had to support:
• Archiving complete historical student records in batches based on the age of the data—how long the student has been inactive (versus graduation date)
• Viewing and accessing the archived data for reporting and research and analysis
• Processing requests for transcripts against archived student data without having to restore the data to the production environment
• Selectively restoring a complete record for a single student on demand from the archive
“The most important requirement was the selective restore capability,” says Clark. “However, many vendors were not familiar with that concept. The fact that Optim provides a selective restore capability and proven approach for archiving an entire student’s record in a relational data model was essential. You cannot do the selective restore unless you can archive a complete student record and keep the data referentially intact. Because Optim’s capabilities met our most important requirements, there really was not a lot of competition.”
Teaming with IBM
“Frankly, I cannot say enough about how well we partnered with the IBM Optim development team,” says Clark. “We knew the areas of Campus Solutions and our data well, but they were great at identifying all the necessary records and fine tuning the archive criteria. Our main focus was on archiving data for inactive students because that’s where we expected to achieve the greatest benefit. However, with Optim, we will have the capabilities to archive historical class data; data for students who register, but never attend classes; and a few other models.”
Plans to archive 10 years of inactive student data
“We plan to archive data for students who have graduated or have been inactive for at least 10 years,” says Clark. “We define a student as inactive when we go three years without seeing them enter a class. We have about 4.2 million student IDs and are planning to archive just over 1.25 million records. I feel like 10 years is a minimum if you are planning to take archiving seriously. What I would eventually like to do is to gradually modify the policy to archive records more than five years old, which would bring us to just over 1.63 million records.”
Phased implementation approaches completion
“We are still completing the implementation process,” says Clark. “Initially, we worked with the IBM Optim development and implementation teams to define what and when to archive, and we have since completed some fine tuning. We also have a bolt-on system that allows students to apply online. We worked with the Optim teams to create the interface to this system so we can easily access records for returning students rather than creating a new record and causing all kinds of problems down the line.”
Clark adds, “We are keeping our business users informed, and we asked our functional users to validate their business processes after archiving. Users offer a different perspective on the value of the data and their data access requirements. Initially, I could tell there is always concern, but user confidence increases as they become more familiar with Optim and know that they can access and restore their data.”
VCCS successfully completed user acceptance testing during the summer and fall of 2009 and the initial implementation was completed by the end of October 2009. Clark explains, “We took a slow and steady approach to our initial archiving activities by moving records in batches rather than all at once, again to allow our user community time to adjust to the process, and we completed our initial archive batch at the end of December 2009.”
Lowering infrastructure costs
“We anticipate that the initial payback from implementing Optim will be that we have successfully stopped that vicious cycle of running out and purchasing high-performance hardware, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars,” says Clark. “In addition, less tangible, but no less important, is the amount of staff time spent chasing performance issues. Over time we anticipate realizing the full impact and benefits from archiving.”
Clark adds, “The IBM Optim development and implementation teams were both professional and extremely knowledgeable. My summation of the Optim experience is that IBM Optim appears to be quite solid and offers proven archiving capabilities that live up to expectations.”
For more information
Contact your IBM sales representative or IBM Business Partner. Visit us at ibm.com/software/data/optim-solutions
You can get even more out of Information Management software by participating in independently run Information Management User Groups around the world. Learn about opportunities near you at ibm.com/software/data/usergroup
For more information on the Virginia Community College System, visit: www.vccs.edu
Additionally, IBM Global Financing can tailor financing solutions to your specific IT needs. For more information on great rates, flexible payment plans and loans, and asset buyback and disposal, visit: ibm.com/financing
Products and services used
IBM products and services that were used in this case study.
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