Gonzaga University upgrades to Oracle Cloud for better security

Large university uses Oracle Cloud Infrastructure to accelerate its ERP upgrade, improve disaster recovery, and maintain high security standards.

We can typically failover to our disaster recovery site in 5 to 10 minutes, if that. That’s given everybody on the infrastructure side a lot of confidence.

Darren OwsleyCTO, Gonzaga University

Business challenges

Gonzaga University runs many of the campus operations, including student registration, on a university-focused ERP system from Ellucian, called Banner. In 2017, Gonzaga IT staff learned that Banner version 8, which they were running in their own data center, would soon be retired, and they would need to upgrade to the new version 9. At the same time, the IT staff committed to a cloud-first strategy.

Running the new version 9 of Banner was the core objective of the project, but the IT staff was very focused on maintaining their strong security posture and on adding a disaster recovery capability that they were missing. An additional goal was to stop sharing resources between production, test, and development environments.

“We are very security-focused at Gonzaga IT; security was one of our top three goals,” said Darren Owsley, CTO at Gonzaga University.

The existing implementation of Ellucian Banner Campus Solutions (Student Information System) ran in their own data center on 30 virtual machines and a 700 GB Oracle Database. The system is complicated by around 80 integrations. Although there was some local high-availability capability, there was no dedicated off-site disaster recovery capability, and the IT staff was worried about unacceptably long recovery times.

We were 95% moving to AWS. [But] at the end of the day, our Infrastructure team, our ERP team, our Project Management team voted—it was unanimous for OCI.

Darren OwsleyCTO, Gonzaga University

Why Gonzaga University Chose Oracle

The timing for the upgrade (and therefore the cloud migration) was critical, as Gonzaga needed to finish before the new school year registration began. The school considered moving to a SaaS ERP system but knew it would need to keep the old system to manage historical records, so it seemed better to do the upgrade.

The main reason the team selected Oracle Cloud Infrastructure over any other approach was cost. Gonzaga IT estimated that it could save 25% by switching to OCI. In addition to its own analysis, the team spoke to other universities running the same applications and concluded: “If you are on a Campus License [for Oracle Database], it makes sense to go to OCI,” Owsley says. Rather than just pocket the savings, Gonzaga IT spent that budget on improvements to security, disaster recovery, and test/dev capabilities.

Additional benefits included the performance of running on bare metal servers in the cloud, and the ease of migrating an on-premises Oracle Database to OCI.

A top priority for the IT team was maintaining a strong focus on security. The university currently uses Fortinet firewalls on premises, and it has a significant investment in configuration and processes around them. Gonzaga was delighted to see that it could integrate on-premises FortiGate Firewalls with OCI to mesh with what the university had on-premises and keep those security standards high.

The integration is so smooth, the engineers found that the configuration work in the cloud is exactly the same as they were used to on-premises and delivers a seamless experience. “If we did not tell our developers or functional users that we were deploying in OCI, they would have no idea their ERP was in the cloud,” says Owsley.


The initial project focused on doing the version upgrade and test in the cloud, and then migrating users when they became confident. As staffers were working in the cloud, they realized that starting new systems was effortless, so tasks completed much faster. The project was originally scheduled for nine months, but actually completed in only seven. That project velocity advantage continued into future projects, with some cloud-based deployments taking 75% less time than they would on premises.

Publicate:July 7, 2020