The Need to Provide a Higher Level of IT Services to the Institution’s Community
As system response times began to slow down due to the number of direct users, which at times reached as many as 50,000, as well as the amount of stored records (over 300 million), UAM sought to upgrade its IT infrastructure to bring performance back to the level that users required. In a quest for continuous improvement, the UAM IT team thus offered to ensure improved levels of service to the institution’s entire community consisting of students, faculty and administration.
As part of this project, UAM also decided to upgrade its hardware and software infrastructure and train its personnel on all of the technologies. “We prioritized staff training and development and then redesigned the posts and profiles,” says Victor Alcaraz, Director of Information Technology at UAM. “We then created roles and functions that align with industry best-practices and began mapping and managing our processes. We also improved service levels by incorporating frameworks such as ITIL, and we strengthened security through standards such as ISO 27000.”
Database Platform Required to Facilitate New IT Processes
To complete the process-improvement deployment and incorporate the best tools on the market, UAM evaluated several options. “We tested various technologies and evaluated several combinations,” Alcaraz says. “In particular we considered all of the database market leaders because we want to be sure that the technology we invest in is the best available solution, falls within our budget, and conforms to the needs of UAM.”
At the end of the testing phase, UAM opted for Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE), based on the reliability of the platform for information processing as well as the way ASE efficiently uses hardware resources while providing solid performance and response times. To develop more efficient IT processes, UAM deployed ASE with the goal of maximizing the capabilities the database platform offers. This included an enhanced management of very large databases, semantic partitioning, and the new ASE query optimizer.
“Sybase also guaranteed the support we required, which is critical because we partner only with companies that are reliable and have certified procedures, mechanisms, and adequately-trained personnel,” Alcaraz says. We do not work with companies that only sell technology. Sybase provides exactly what we need, and their help is not limited to assisting only with their technology—they supported us on the entire project.”
Once the technology infrastructure and ASE platform were deployed, database end-user applications for the first three sub-systems were released: academic administration, educational administration and human resources. The upgrade of financial resources was then started. This system has the largest number of users and includes functions ranging from budget preparation to management monitoring as well as all formalities, taxation issues, cash flow, acquisitions and accounting.
“Within this sub-system we are seeing the most important improvements that ASE gives us since we now have all the information integrated and no longer distributed across different databases,” Alcaraz says.
Sybase ASE Reduces Backup and Report-Generation Times
Now that UAM has deployed Sybase ASE, progress in the level of IT services provided is clearly evident. All subsystems are integrated and aligned, and they exchange information in a natural way. For example, the financial subsystem no longer has records spanning several databases. Everything is in stored in one logical database since ASE improved UAM’s ability to efficiently manage very large databases.
In addition, since ASE includes semantic data partitioning, data backups have become more streamlined. It now takes minutes and sometimes just seconds for backups to run—in contrast to the previous system, which took hours to complete. Semantic data partitioning makes this possible because information is saved on separate disks (although in reality it is only one logical database), and thus it is not necessary to back up all data—only recent data changes.
The time it takes to search for information and provide responses to queries from students, faculty and administration has also improved considerably—thanks to the Sybase rewrite of the query optimizer. “Information processing and user response-times improved between 30 and 40 percent, and in some cases the process time dropped from 18 hours to 30 minutes,” Alcaraz says.
When asked if he is satisfied with the results of the upgrade to Sybase technology, Alcaraz says, “Yes, not only because of the efficiencies we have achieved, but also because we have a strong working relationship with the Sybase team. Although we ask a lot, we want our partners to be just as committed as we are to the service levels we provide to end users. Sybase demonstrated this by supporting us on their technology and the entire implementation.”
Consolidated Data Enables Improved Decision-Making Capabilities
Looking ahead, the UAM IT team will take advantage of the consolidated data it now has to create indicators that assist the institution in its decision-making. UAM also hopes to integrate its system with systems of other higher education institutions.
In addition to developing applications, consolidating development with methodologies and implementing collaborative tools as well as documenting and standardizing IT processes, UAM also plans to launch a business intelligence project to enable the analysis of information stored in the databases. The IT team also hopes to develop mobile applications that provide students and faculty with information through their mobile devices.
“By deploying Sybase ASE and other developmental tools, we solved the challenge of ensuring higher standards of IT services for the community that the institution serves,” Alcaraz say. “Based on this success, we are confident Sybase technology will also play a key role in many of our future initiatives.”