Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore
            

                How a 100-year-old university can be agile as a startup? It's possible!
            

                Meet our customer hero
            

Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Catholic University of the Sacred Heart) is the largest private university in Europe and the largest Catholic university in the world. Founded in 1921, the university has 4,160 professors and researchers teaching nearly 40,000 students. In recent years, the university has dramatically increased its international partnerships and made great strides toward broad digitalization.

                Challenges
            

  • Broad educational digitalization
  • Rapid increase in online teaching due to pandemic
  • Growing number of international students
  • Move to the cloud with minimal downtime

                Outcomes
            

  • Met digitalization goals quickly
  • Moved Adabas & Natural application to Azure®
  • Modernized and integrated systems for hybrid cloud
  • Cut average execution and batch times by 50%
  • Achieved system availability of 99.56%
  • Eliminated a legacy system bottleneck by going to the cloud
  • Positioned organization to introduce DevOps

                Solution
            

  • Adabas & Natural on the Cloud
  • CONNX
  • webMethods EntireX
  • webMethods ApplinX
  • Professional Services
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                    “The bottom line is we took our main student system that was living on-premises to the cloud, setting-up the core of our disaster recovery architecture. By going to the cloud, we gained the ability to scale quickly, and added resilience. As a result, we are now able to better support our student needs in a fast-changing world.”
                

Giuliano Pozza, CIO, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

Historical tradition meets modern digital education

Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore was established over 100 years ago in Milan. Today the university educates over 40,000 students in Italy and beyond. That makes it the largest private university in Europe and the largest Catholic university in the world.

Such educational institutions usually struggle with modernization. They tend to get squeezed between the data historically tracked from paper to mainframe to other on-premises platforms—and the students who expect modern interactions and experiences comparable to what they get with Amazon®, Google®, or Apple®. This is why the university decided to move its core student application to the cloud, allowing more flexibility to scale with demand as students increasingly log in to the university from off campus using a variety of different channels.

“When the global pandemic hit, we (like many other universities) were in the middle of a major push to digitalize everything,” says Giuliano Pozza, CIO, Università Cattolica del Sacro. “Suddenly we needed to finish moving our core student system from on-premises to the cloud even faster. And in the middle of all that, we needed a way to handle a rush of students going online. That would help us benefit from an increase in international registrations, as long as we could keep downtime at a minimum.”

The Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore already had a long relationship with Software AG. It had previously moved its student information system, built 30 years prior on Adabas & Natural, from the mainframe to UNIX® and Linux—so making the last steps to Microsoft® Azure® Cloud with the help of Software AG’s Professional Services was a breeze. Good planning by the university also meant its modernization project wasn’t disrupted by the pandemic.

The new architecture allowed the university to scale up and down quickly according to load as students went online. Implementing a hot standby ensured the university was better prepared to recover unexpected outages and provide better business continuity than its competitors. Switching to Azure also made it possible to perform the same operations in half the time and not be limited by hardware capacity.

“The bottom line is we took our main student system that was living on-premises to the cloud, setting-up the core of our disaster recovery architecture,” says Pozza. “By going to the cloud, we gained the ability to scale quickly, and added resilience. As a result, we are now able to better support our student needs in a fast-changing world.”

Keeping the good stuff, getting the cool stuff

But going to the cloud with a core system while many back-end applications primarily remain on-premises means finding ways to work efficiently in a hybrid environment.

“Our administrative needs were piling up,” says Pozza. “We had to integrate lots of different data types, structured and unstructured, from different sources—as well as multiple applications implemented on multiple operating systems.”

So the university turned to its trusted partner Software AG.

Because most of the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore's applications are still hybrid—with back-end systems on-premises, and the user experience on Azure— webMethods Integration made it easy to wrap legacy applications with modern interfaces and functionality and unlock data.

It used ApplinX, EntireX and CONNX to modernize applications for the web and integrate them for mobile. By providing modernization at the screen, business logic and data level, Software AG’s solution ensures there are no limits to modernizing and connecting legacy systems to thrive in a hybrid environment.

The university used CONNX to integrate and manage data from Adabas, Microsoft® SQL Server®, and Oracle®. That let it unlock the data silos of its existing systems, and replicate data from external databases to its data warehouse and business intelligence products. This ensured a complete view of data for better analysis and decision making.

That’s how the university unleashed the cloud’s most powerful benefits: instant scaling, reduced computational needs, and wildly improved agility. And it let the university increase the number of services available for direct student use—such as booking exams, updating personal profiles, obtaining certificates, reserving seats in a class, and verifying fees— from 70% to 90%.

In the two years after moving the core university system to the Azure cloud, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore cut average execution time for transaction processing by 50%. It did this with system availability of 99.56%, and a service level—including scheduled downtime and the migration to Azure—of 99.73%.

Now the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore is about to show the world how an educational institution can be as agile as a start-up while maintaining all of the good stuff that’s made it a beacon of the past 100 years.

The university is working in parallel to implement DevOps. Having to develop more services that can be used via REST means it is necessary to do end-to-end tests, manage versioning, and work with components written in different languages.

Taken together, this broad modernization effort is leading to more services for more students, from more home countries than ever before.

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