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Starting a new academic year

We always plan to have the IT systems run smoothly at the start of the academic year.  This is the time when many new students first come to the university and find their way around, when personal tutors discuss their students' academic plans, and when the new systems we have implemented over the previous year come into full use. 

It is usually this last point that can throw a spanner in the works.  This year, we installed a new learning environment, replacing the aging WebCT with Learn 9; we applied the annual upgrade to the EUCLID student record system (which is needed to cope with changes in government regulations, let alone improvements in functionality); we rolled out the first version of software to support personal tutors; we upgraded several databases from Oracle 9 (which is no longer supported) to Oracle 11, and we continued to upgrade our Cold Fusion servers. Although we test each of these systems, we can be caught out when staff and students start to use the systems in earnest.

This year, we had problems on three separate systems - our main database server, our main application server, and our main hosting server.  These combined to give less than satisfactory performance.  People will mostly seen this as the MyEd portal taking a long time to log them in.  The problems had several different roots.  The hosting server failed to reboot properly following a network problem, which meant that some MyEd channels were very slow.  The database server was slowed by a rogue indexing process related to Learn 9 and also from some other applications using too much memory.  The application server seems to have had an unrelated hardware glitch.

Our support teams have worked hard to resolve these problems and keep everyone informed.  My development staff have helped to debug some of the issues.  The major issues seem to have been dealt with and we should be back to business as usual.

We will also be reviewing the situation to see what we can learn for the future.


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