Microsoft-funded "proof of value" workshops and an introduction to partner Adaptiv eased Waikato University's efforts to replace its legacy integration platform.
The University of Waikato relied on its legacy integration platform to connect its on-premises and cloud applications, data and devices.
However, its ability to manage and develop the platform cost-effectively inhouse became a challenge due to turnover in its technology team and the tech job market boom after the pandemic.
“Changes in our data and integration teams meant we no longer had the same level of capacity and skills," said Glenn Penfold, associate director for architecture and digital platforms at the university.
Having to rely on third parties for support and development made the existing integration platform increasingly expensive and difficult to maintain.
“We took the opportunity to evaluate our current environment and establish our future technology needs as an organisation,” Penfold said.
“We believed that building our integrations on Microsoft Azure would provide us better long-term strategic value – from both a cost and resourcing perspective."
That would deliver the flexibility to only use the components the university needed on an on-demand basis instead of through a flat fee service.
As a Microsoft solution, a wider ecosystem of resources would also be available through partners.
Microsoft recommended the university talk to its partner Auckland-based Adaptiv, which has performed similar work at Victoria University and elsewhere.
"We’d initially contacted them some time ago to see if they could provide some guidance on our legacy integration platform, but the timing wasn’t right," Penfold said.
"Talking to them did kick off the whole integration platform review process. We asked Adaptiv to present an overview of Azure integration services and were so impressed that we decided to move platforms pending validation."
Microsoft then funded Adaptiv’s proof-of-value workshops through its ECIF (end customer investment fund) programme and did some integration prototypes to determine if Azure was fit for purpose.
“Moving from our legacy platform to Azure Integration Services was the first project off the rank,” Penfold said.
“Our second objective was implementing Oracle Fusion Cloud ERP – which required 50+ new integrations."
Adaptiv supplied architecture and development resources specialising in Azure Integration Services and Azure DevOps to build, deploy and automate the integration platform.
The partner was also tasked with creating edge or landing zones, helping to migrate data from the old platform, and rebuilding the integrations.
Adaptiv provided a senior Azure Integration Services developer and solution architect to work with the University’s technology team.
As the university was new to Azure, Adaptiv enrolled it in Microsoft’s Azure FastTrack program, to help it get to grips with infrastructure requirements.
To help control the integration development costs for the Oracle Fusion Cloud ERP components, Adaptiv used its team of offshore developers to work under experienced Auckland-based senior consultants.
It also decommissioned the legacy integrations, replacing them with new Azure ones, and reverse-engineered the documentation for the old platform.
An agile approach and on-the-go training to the university’s technology team meant the internal team has since been able to take over remaining migrations and operational support.
“One of the biggest benefits of the project to the University has been the increase in visibility,” said Brian Crowe, the university's principal enterprise architect.
“Using the Azure solution has been like having a big, single pane of glass – our reporting is much better.
“As well as making savings on annual licensing, we’ve taken advantage of the day-to-day flexibility that Azure offers."
Alex Zaicu, head of digital platforms at Waikato University, said internal resources can now help with delivery rather than outsourcing.
"It’s given us our independence back and reduced development and maintenance costs," he said.
Continuous integration and continuous delivery had transformed how the Uni's team operated, using DevOps.
"It’s made the solution development process and team communications seamless and transparent – we’ve seen the real value DevOps can provide from a project delivery perspective," Zaicu said.
The university is running the two integration platforms side by side, disabling integrations as they are replaced.
The old platform will be officially turned off at the end of November this year.
“Time and time again, we’re hearing from customers that they’re looking for a partner that empowers them to do more for themselves," said Microsoft chief partner officer A/NZ Vanessa Sorenson.
Customers also wanted a partner that came to them with suggestions for improvements. Adaptiv, for instance, suggested ways the university could optimise its monthly Azure consumption costs.
“They weren’t contracted to do that – they were just trying to do the right thing for us," Penfold said. "I think that shows the culture and the value that Adaptiv bring to the table beyond a transactional engagement.”