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UCAS - The Cloud Journey

The first session this morning was from James Munson and Andy Gillett from UCAS. James described UCAS’s migration from a locally-hosted service in 2012 to a cloud-based service in 2014.  On results day, UCAS gets 235 logins/second.  They had unhappy experiences in 2011 & 2012 and so needed to change.  UCAS needed scalability, security and control of costs, so they chose a public cloud supplier rather than a private cloud.  Their "Track" application was written in .Net so was a natural fit for Microsoft Azure.  Amazon provided the best service for databases.  UCAS already used Rackspace for their web presence, so they went with a mixed set of suppliers.  If they had had more time, they might have preferred a single supplier.

Their architecture handles DDOS suppression, load balancing, monitoring et al. It is built for horizontal scalability with stateless applications etc.  They use Puppet for automatically managing environments.  The UCAS technology team now has sub-teams for customer engagement, IT strategy and architecture, solution delivery, and service assurance.

Andy Gillett described the UCAS's IT engagement strategy.  He outlined the need to apply ITIL service management to UCAS services.  They have established a technical forum, 1:1 meetings, use of social media, user groups, relationships with student system vendors, and relationships with UCISA, HESA and ITSMF.

James noted that putting software into the cloud isn’t a panacea.  You may still have old wine in new bottles – code that needs to be refactored or replaced.  But the gains in flexibility and cost control is worthwhile.


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