AWS ERP migration required staff buy-in and curiosity
East Tennessee State University is moving its ERP systems from its data center to Amazon Web Services. It’s a big project, and essential to its success was getting the IT staff on board.
East Tennessee State University is undergoing an AWS ERP migration, a major change for the university’s IT department. One of the hardest parts of the move was getting the IT staff to warm to the idea.
In this Q&A, Andrea Di Fabio, the university’s chief information security officer and associate CIO, discusses the ongoing Amazon Web Services (AWS) ERP migration with SearchERP. The university is moving an on-premises system that runs Banner by Ellucian ERP to AWS. This is otherwise known as an infrastructure-as-a-service migration. Banner is commonly used by colleges and universities.
The university, which has about 3,000 employees and 15,500 students, uses its ERP system to manage the student information systems, as well as the financial system, procurement and HR. They are using Docker containersand Terraform to design their infrastructure.
The cost of running the school’s ERP on AWS, as compared to keeping it on premises in university-operated data centers, will be roughly similar over five years. But the university will gain improvements in security and disaster recovery and free up IT staff time, now spent on server physical maintenance, for new projects, Di Fabio said.
Di Fabio recently gave a presentation on the project at a CompTIA conference. In a separate interview, he explains some aspects of the ERP migration project. What follows was edited for length and clarity.
What are you trying to fix with this AWS ERP migration?
Andrea Di Fabio: I have two hats. One is to drive risk compliance and security at the university. The other one is to drive our technical team to think outside the box to improve technology and improve processes. The university had two data centers, a primary and a secondary. It had just built a third data center, which was becoming the primary data center. We had a lot of legacy servers and needed to buy new ones. I started asking questions and challenging my technical staff. ‘What if we don’t buy anything? What if we move to the cloud?’ That sparked their (the technical staff’s) interest. ‘What could happen if we do this?’
What happened once you started asking questions?
Di Fabio: When you start asking questions, the status quo comes out: ‘We’ve been doing this. We feel comfortable with this. It’s working. Why? Why move? Why go through the trouble of learning what the cloud is all about and then rebuild our infrastructure in a place that is unfamiliar to us? Why would we move to someone else’s data center?’ I was just asking open-ended questions. Our CIO started asking questions about the budget: ‘What does this mean to our infrastructure, to our cost model?’ So, that’s when the project became a little bit more serious. It went from ‘Let’s ask questions’ to ‘Let’s start planning for the AWS ERP.’