IT Tips & Tricks

01 June 2021

Australian University Completes Record-Breaking Data Migration

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How fast could Usain Bolt run a mile?

Tell an IT guy, “We’re migrating to the Cloud,” and you’ll likely earn yourself a grimace as he groans, “Aargh,” and rubs the back of his neck in anticipation of all that’s to come. You’d be wise to utter the following in a hushed whisper: “We also need to do it fast. Really fast. I’m so sorry.” (Then back out of the room to relative safety, bowing as you go.)

Migrations are painful enough without the addition of extreme time pressure. If you work in the IT industry (check), if you’ve ever experienced time pressure (check), if you have bosses who get decidedly grumpy at the mere thought of downtime (check) or missing data (check), then you’re in the ballpark. Recently, however, an Australian IT team literally broke the land speed record for a data migration, which got us thinking about the subjects of speed, agility and data migrations — and it raised some questions.

How fast do you suppose Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world, could complete a data migration? How fast could you run a mile? And does the one have anything to do with the other? Sometimes, perspective is everything.

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History in the making: Roger Bannister runs the first ever sub 4-minute mile.

Completing a task in half the anticipated time is impressive, right? Seriously, think of a major data migration project you may have coming up. How much time, realistically, have you allocated for it? Now imagine chopping that in half. (You’re forgiven if you snorted at the idea of that.) Is it doable? Is it even vaguely possible?

How fast do you suppose Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world, could complete a data migration?

Again, perspective plays an important role here and it transpires that yes, sometimes it is doable. In fact, it’s been done. Allow us to illustrate.

Time can be a quirky mistress, and the astute man bears this in mind..

In 1954, for example, when Roger Bannister, a British athlete and neurologist by trade, attained the first-ever four-minute mile, clocking in at 3 minutes, 59 seconds, the world lost its collective mind. They made movies about the guy and athletes the world over hero-worshipped him. Fast-forward 45 years to 1999, and a whole new generation loses its mind as Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj runs the mile in 3:43. That’s a difference of 16 seconds.

For almost half a century, humans pushed themselves to their absolute physical limits in an effort to beat Bannister’s record. Forty-five years of blood, sweat and tears, and they carved off just 16 seconds. Sixteen tiny, infinitesimal seconds that can catapult a man from anonymity to glory. (How much glory would be heaped upon an IT pro that managed to shave 16 seconds off a process? Probably not quite as much, right? Bah, humbug.)

But what if we told you we know of a way that you can save a ton of time? What if we could eliminate one of the biggest headaches associated with most data migrations? What if you could be the IT equivalent of Usain Bolt? Keep reading. We’re getting to it.

It’s been calculated that, if he could miraculously maintain his top speed for an entire mile, Usain Bolt would theoretically complete a mile in 2 minutes, 34 seconds, which would utterly shatter all previous records. The problem? Usain Bolt has reportedly never run a mile, while Hicham El Guerrouj has.

The truth is, nobody knows what sort of speed Usain could actually maintain over the distance of a mile anyway. We may never know if a sub-three-minute mile is even humanly possible. Judging by how long it took to cut Bannister’s time by 16 seconds, it would take approximately 124 years to establish whether a human could run a sub-three-minute mile. (Check back with us in 2145 for an update.)

When it comes to data migration, the IT team at the Australian University of Newcastle is an eye-watering combination of Usain Bolt and Hicham El Guerrouj.

Thousands of schools in hundreds of school districts across the United States, were forced to immediately start planning migrations to alternative systems.

The university completed an unprecedented data migration that was estimated to take 18 months, but the IT team brought it in at almost half the estimate — around nine months. Actually getting it done is what El Guerrouj is all about. At twice the speed? That’s Mr. Bolt, for sure.

Going for Gold

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Cutting the estimated time for a major data migration in half? That goes beyond academic achievement to enter the realm of IT superstardom.

Audaciously stepping up onto the winners’ podium, the University of Newcastle in New South Wales proudly announced a “significant milestone” in which it has become the first university in Australia to complete a digital migration to the Cloud. That’s quite an achievement in and of itself.

However, in light of the impact of COVID-19, this rapid migration has allowed 37,000 students to continue their education in spite of lockdowns and travel restrictions. Give that uni a gold medal.

“We’re thrilled to be the first university in Australia to make this move to the Cloud — this is a massive achievement and will mean we’re at the cutting edge of Cloud technology,” said Vice-Chancellor Professor Zelinsky.

Chief Information Officer at the university, Anthony Molinia, said that “a modern university needs to be agile, and one of the core advantages of a cloud-first digital platform is the capacity to respond and implement solutions quickly. With a Cloud platform, infrastructure solutions and tools such as secure data storage — that would normally be procured over several weeks — can be provisioned within minutes. This will place the University at an enormous advantage throughout the year,” Mr. Molinia said. “We have already been able to leverage the benefits of the scalability and flexibility of the Cloud at the most critical time in recent digital history.

2020 has become the year of disruption and our early adoption of cloud-based services, communication and collaboration channels was key to the University’s successful pivot to remote learning and working in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Molinia said the migration, overall, performed ahead of market expectation, and all applications and data targeted for migration to the Cloud were moved in just over nine months, instead of the anticipated 18 months. That is one seriously over-achieving athletic migration.

. . . the migration, overall, performed ahead of market expectation . . .

“This has positioned the University of Newcastle as sector leaders in cloud-based technology,” Molinia said. “We are delighted to be the first Australian university to achieve this milestone. It is an important step in our digital transformation.

“Importantly, there is a wealth of opportunity still to come from our cloud-first solution. In particular, our researchers and academics can expect to experience better access to resources across multiple platforms and perform faster testing and analysis of research.”

Ducks in a Row

A migration that comes in at almost half the estimated time is a sure sign that this Aussie IT team had their ducks in a row and their track-shoes securely laced up. (And they sure didn’t linger after the starting gun was fired.) In other words, they planned, and they planned well. They had back-up plans — and back-up plans for their back-up plans. They clearly left nothing to chance. No “let the chips fall where they may” attitude here. No, just a well-orchestrated, tightly-controlled, strategic run.

. . . how do we clear the tracks for a stellar . . . medal-worthy run?

Yes, other universities and various educational institutions have performed migrations, but by all accounts, none with the speed and audacity of the Newcastle crew.

In September 2019, data systems and student information system (SIS) provider, Illuminate Education, gave US school districts and administrators a heads-up that they would cease offering their SIS services by the start of the 2021 school year. As a result, thousands of schools in hundreds of school districts across the United States, were forced to immediately start planning migrations to alternative systems. How long were they given to get it done? Two years.

In 2017, the University of South Florida decided to modernize its IT environment and centralized its data with a migration to Microsoft Azure. They used Azure Data Box to transfer their on-premises data into the Azure Cloud platform. This saved the university time and money and paved the way towards a strategic Cloud future, but there’s no mention of it occurring at breakneck speed.

As you’re no doubt aware, there are multiple areas where problems can surface in any migration. One of the most common is the lost or missing data that occurs as a result of broken links and we’ll definitely address that.

While Bannister, El Guerrouj and Bolt are all super speedy characters, locating and repairing broken links is a time-consuming chore of pure drudgery. It doesn’t matter how securely your sneakers are laced up, this activity generally occurs at a snail’s pace, even with a “search & replace” tool. And as always, time is money and bosses don’t want to hear about it. (If, however, you could avoid some of the slows and downtime, though, someone comes out of this looking like a winner. And that someone could be you.)

. . . the IT team brought it in at almost half the estimate . . .

Higher Education Migration Moves

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Unbeaten for more than 20 years: Hicham El Guerrouj — titleholder for the fastest mile ever run.

One of the most commonly migrated databases in most higher education institutions is the student information system (SIS) and one of the biggest decisions is choosing the most fitting migration process for the existing data. Migrating the legacy data generally requires time, money and resources. However, based on the size of the institution, the budget and the data integration, alternative approaches should be considered. For most colleges and universities, there are data groups with differing needs — prospects, students, parents and organizations, for example — in the database and the type of data could be separated by biographical data, admissions data, student records, career development and so forth.

In most cases, the different data types may actually require different treatment. For example, most vendors willingly offer to import biographical data at no cost, because it’s a pretty standard process. For the other types of data (such as admissions, student records, alumni and so on), there are multiple options to choose from:

  1. Manual data entry. This works well for smaller institutions with 100 students or less.
  2. Attached files (formatted as either .pdf, text or .jpg). This can be done either in conjunction with, or in place of, the manual data entry. In this case, simply upload individual files which can be attached to the student record.
  3. Data conversion. The data cleansing process of mapping, scrubbing, de-duping and porting the data into a new system frequently offers the best return on investment, particularly for schools with a few hundred students or more.

Obviously, there are many factors to contemplate when considering a migration of the records for thousands of students, which is generally the case at most universities. Data integrity is key, as is greater accuracy and timeliness for reporting, whether to a trustee board, investors or the government. Careful, considered analysis will tell you what is right for your organization.

Streamlined Solutions: No Hurdles Here

Downtime, missing data and complaining end-users are all undesirables in the migration game, yet they seem virtually unavoidable. (If your migration includes attached files as per point number two, above, then what follows could be a lifesaver for you.) So, how do we clear the tracks for a stellar (and obviously victorious) medal-worthy run?

The easiest way to prevent missing data caused by broken links would be to use LinkFixer Advanced. The “Inoculate” feature literally vaccinates or preps all the links in all your files prior to the migration. Then, after the migration, the “Cure” feature will automatically re-link all your files in a single batch run. If that isn’t Bolt-like efficiency, we don’t know what is.

If your migration is already complete, and you’ve got broken links like debris in a stadium after a gold-medal celebration, LinkFixer Advanced has another feature called “Modify Links.” This track star will rapidly fix thousands of links at a time, so that each link points to the file it’s supposed to, which restores the missing data in a flash. Voila!

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The iconic Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world.

So, whether you want to challenge the Aussies for completing a migration in record-breaking time, or you simply want to get it done as fast as a record-holding runner, call 727-442-1822 or visit www.LinkTek.com for a live demonstration. On your mark . . . Ready? Set? Go!

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