The University of California, Davis has 33,000 students and multiple undergraduate and graduate colleges on campus, including the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. To support the changing campus technology needs and build streamlined
applications for the entire campus, the college deployed Windows Azure. The platform saves the college money, promotes innovative application development, fosters collaboration, provides higher availability, and even scales for future use among other state
Located in Central California, the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) has approximately 33,000 students and multiple undergraduate and graduate colleges, including the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (the college). The college
is unsurpassed for solving real-world problems in agriculture, the environment, and human sciences.
To support the technology environment and requirements of the entire campus, the college runs critical campuswide hardware infrastructure and both student-focused and teacher-focused programs and applications. This work is done within a strict budget for
server hardware and requires building a solid case for allocation of technology resources.
Managing servers and keeping software and hardware current for all of these needs was a challenge for the college. "Our expertise was in application development and innovation," says Scott Kirkland, Enterprise Architect, College of Agricultural and Environmental
Sciences. “Ensuring everything was running properly was difficult, time-consuming, and expensive." The college would have to buy new hardware and insert it into the data center, and outages were common. "The whole university could get knocked out for a few
hours while the IT team developed a solution," adds Kirkland.
The college was also responsible for developing programs for students to evaluate courses and faculty; establishing a campuswide purchasing system for supplies; reporting staff salary comparisons; and tracking university grant money.
Students evaluated their courses with paper Scantron forms, a method that was time-consuming and often inaccurate. Financial data analysis was performed with Microsoft Office Excel spreadsheets. The campus also struggled with collaboration between different
colleges due to databases being owned by different campus groups, with minimal documentation, poor application program interfaces, and an arcane process for obtaining access. To deal with this array of challenges, the college began to search for a new solution.
||"With Windows Azure and other cloud services, we are able to demonstrate an efficient method of building software that garners universal acclaim from our customers for its ease of use and time-savings. We have completed projects in
months, where our peers have taken years.
| Adam Getchell
Director of IT
College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
After the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences analyzed other solutions from Amazon and Heroku, in 2012 it chose Windows Azure as its solution. “It [Microsoft] was the natural choice,” says Kirkland. “We are a .NET shop and were able to bring
up test databases quickly within our Microsoft environment and that sealed it for us.”
Initially, the college chose an infrastructure as a service solution, but upgraded to platform as a service. The college also uses Windows Azure Cloud Services and Windows Azure Web Sites, as well as Windows Azure SQL Database for its major projects, and
Microsoft Office 365.
The college relies on Windows Azure features including Windows Azure Blob Storage for its unstructured data and Windows Azure Shared Caching to ensure consistency for users. With Windows SQL Data Sync, protected data can be pushed into the cloud, and New
Relic is an add-on to simplify billing. “We’re basically all-in on Windows Azure,” says Kirkland.
The college created two new applications on Windows Azure: an Academic Course Evaluations application for students and a campuswide Purchasing System application for students, faculty, and staff. With Academic Course Evaluations, 33,000 students can quickly
and easily assess the faculty and courses online. Nearly 10,000 faculty, staff, and students use the Purchasing System application to buy notebooks, pens, and laptops online.
Future projects include a financial gift– processing application that will consolidate donations ranging from US$150–200 million. “And we will continue to innovate in Windows Azure,” adds Kirkland.
With Windows Azure, the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences can cut hardware costs; develop more innovative applications for students and staff; foster collaboration on campus; and provide a higher-availability solution that can scale for
future needs—and to include other California universities.
Saves Thousands of Dollarsin Overall Costs
The college realized significant hardware, software, and infrastructure savings. “I estimate we saved at least $60,000 in up-front hardware costs,” says Adam Getchell, Director of Information Technology (IT) for the College of Agricultural and Environmental
Sciences. “To get a higher availability level in Windows Azure, I paid no more than US$150 per month, and with the new Windows Azure benefit in MSDN, my monthly bill for these campuswide services seldom exceeds $50/month.”
Speeds Application Development and Innovation
from Years to Months
The college now spends less time managing the infrastructure and more time developing innovative business applications such as the Academic Course Evaluations application.
“We are able to start a new project, get it running on Windows Azure later that day, and point someone toward the site to see the latest version of the code as we write it,” says Kirkland. “We have more time to be innovative in development now.”
The team is already receiving praise. “With Windows Azure and other cloud services, we are able to demonstrate an efficient method of building software that garners universal acclaim from our customers for its ease of use and time-savings. We have completed
projects in months, where our peers have taken years.”
Improves Collaboration and Skills
The college’s development staff now has a shared infrastructure that fosters better collaboration. “Windows Azure makes it easy for us to keep all the code in one place and have a common infrastructure; and increases the skills of our developers.”
Boosts Availability and Scalability
With Service Level Agreement rates of 99.95 percent, campuswide applications remain available. “A recent analysis determined Windows Azure uptime was 100 percent this year,” adds Getchel. “Recently, the University of California Office of the President looked
over our Purchasing System application. I feel entirely confident in being able to scale it up to whatever demand exists,” states Getchell.
This case study is for informational purposes only.