Response to Clarion query on CUNYFirst

Updated: October 16, 2014
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[Editor's note: Below is a Clarion question on the CUNYfirst breakdown at the start of the Fall 2014 semester, and the response from CUNY's Office of Communications and Marketing. Other questions (e.g., on the total cost for development and implementation of the CUNYfirst system) received no reply.]

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2. What is being done in order to make the system more robust so that it doesn't crash again during times of peak demand? How much are those changes expected to cost?


The problems CUNY experienced at the start of the Fall 2014 term were with Oracle’s Identity Management System (IMS), which provides user access to CUNYFirst, rather than in any of the CUNYFirst core components or PeopleSoft modules. Despite previous load testing, these problems arose during peak loads created by an unprecedented number of concurrent user sessions.

Steps have been taken to ensure that these problems with the IMS system do not recur during periods of peak demand. Although Oracle conducted load testing at various points prior to the semester’s start, CUNY is taking a close look at how the testing was conducted and integrating “lessons learned” in our next round of performance load testing. CIS is also preparing to conduct its own load testing by recreating the problems, implementing fixes, and then testing at peak loads. CUNY is in the process of hiring two performance testers to assist in this effort. CUNY is also discussing with Oracle the need for enhanced support for IMS to conduct this testing and support CUNY prior and during the start of the spring semester.

In addition, CUNY is upgrading its IMS system to version 11g, which had been planned well before the problems experienced this year. Version 11g is the latest version of IMS, with various enhancements that will provide enhanced availability and tuning capabilities. It is understood that version 11g will be far more efficient, reducing the need for servers from more than 100 to 4, thereby reducing the points of failure and making the system easier to support. The upgrade is on track to occur well before the start of the spring 2015 term.

While CUNY is undertaking many steps to make its system more robust, additional costs to fund these efforts will be minimal. The University had already planned and budgeted for the IMS upgrade and for the additional performance testers, for example, well before the problems we experienced.

Concurrently with these steps, the University is working with the individual colleges to identify possible steps that can be taken to ensure that the colleges have the ability to continue to operate in the event of any system outage. This continuity planning has already started and will be an ongoing process with the development, communication and testing the plans that come out of this collaborative effort.