HUIT Cloud Project – Cloud Gazing with the PeopleSoft Application Portfolio Team

September 7, 2018
Three people from HUIT Cloud Project

The vision for HUIT’s Cloud Program is to make it easy for the Harvard community to realize the transformative benefits of the Cloud. To accomplish this goal, HUIT is migrating hundreds of Harvard applications to the Cloud – a highly complex, detail-oriented process accomplished by creating six cross-functional, cross-HUIT, cross-expertise Application Portfolio Teams (APT) of technology and business professionals. Among the many successful migrations, was the move of PeopleSoft to the cloud. PeopleSoft APT team members Joel Fanton, DevOps Manager in Infrastructure Technology, and Al Pacheco, Cloud Solutions Architect, Cloud & DevOps Program, along with Isabelle Modiano, Associate Director for HRIS in the Administrative Technology Systems Group, discuss their work in HUIT and the PeopleSoft upgrade and cloud migration project.

What do you do and what was your function's biggest contribution to this project?

Joel Fanton: I’m a DevOps Manager and DevOps Product Owner for the team that migrated PeopleSoft to the Cloud. My team worked together with the Cloud team to provision, configure, test and validate all Cloud environments prior to go-live. Since go-live (in April of last year) we have been managing all of the applications and infrastructure and have been performing regular maintenance and release activities.

My team also supports a number of other Central Administration systems including GMAS, Oracle EBusiness Suite, CAADS, PIDashboard and numerous applications and systems for Central Administration, ATS and FAS.

Isabelle Modiano: My team supports university-wide HR systems, including PeopleSoft HR, Harvard Careers (formerly known as Aspire) and the Harvard Training Portal. As stewards of these applications, our role is to keep the systems up-to-date, secure, reliable, compliant and flexible. We work with over 150 business owners and stakeholders across the University. I am happy to say that over the years, we have been able to keep these applications on the latest version while continuously adopting new functionality delivered by our vendors. The latest major upgrade was in April 2017, when we upgraded PeopleSoft to version 9.2 and at the same time, migrated to the AWS Cloud and adopted newly available Mobile navigation and functionality. PeopleSoft was the first major level 4 application to move to the Cloud. Our migration to the Cloud was not easy but it was very successful thanks to the APT team and people like Joel, Al and Prabhakar Ramakrishnan, Manager of our PeopleSoft technical team.

Al Pacheco: I am an Enterprise Cloud Architect on the Cloud Program. I am a lead technical advisor on mission critical applications and projects, leading the architecture, migration and production launch for Harvard’s most important systems.

PeopleSoft was migrated early on in the cloud migration program and the PeopleSoft APT team made significant contributions, working on how to transform/re-architect existing on premises services to support the cloud. These included Data Management, Security, Shared Storage, Automation, etc. The APT PeopleSoft team developed many of the standards and best practices used to migrate complex vendor applications to the cloud.

What don't people know about you and what your team does?

Al: People may not know the significant amount of planning and design that goes into migrating a complex application like PeopleSoft to the cloud. Some of the on premises services and technology that we rely on do not exist in a cloud environment. We spend a significant amount of time and effort collaborating across several teams to design and architect around these limitations in order to provide a highly reliable and robust cloud architecture.

Isabelle: We support applications that are owned by our vendors, therefore we do not have much freedom in changing these, unlike IT teams who work with custom applications. PeopleSoft allows us to make some customizations and we work with a terrific team of IT developers. Still, we are very constrained by the application built by our vendor. This is also true for Harvard Careers and the Harvard Training Portal. So, we spend a lot of time participating in regional and national user groups and collaborating with other universities to form lobby groups to advocate for changes needed to meet the needs of higher ed.

Joel: Most people may not know that we are not just a support organization. We also architect and develop systems and provide full stack services to build and deploy systems from the hardware or virtualization layer all the way up to the operating system, application software, and the applications themselves. We’ve been supporting central systems for the University for over 20 years!

What is the most challenging thing about your work?

Isabelle: We work with many stakeholders to understand their needs and we need to carefully prioritize our work so that we assign our resources to the highest priority projects, initiatives or demands. This is tricky because we have many stakeholder groups and they often have different priorities – sometimes conflicting – priorities.

Joel: Juggling support for hundreds of applications and coordinating with numerous other product owners and stakeholders all at the same time is a challenge. Luckily not everything goes wrong at the same time so it’s all manageable.

Al: The most challenging thing about my work is to successfully deliver on cloud migrations in an environment that is in a constant state of change. We are continuously updating cloud architecture and automation processes due to AWS constantly releasing new or updated services, HUIT continually improving on cloud services; Ansible, Cloud Backup, etc., and HUIT IT Security continually updating security policies and requirement to meet the ever-changing security risks.

What are the professional backgrounds of your team members?

Joel: My team members all hold degrees in computer science or related fields and a few also hold advanced degrees. The average professional years of experience is 20 years and most have been working at Harvard 10 years or longer.

Isabelle: Members of my team are Business Systems Analysts. Some started as developers who were interested in working more closely with the users, some started as HR generalists and realized that they loved working with data and systems, and some have been business analysts for a long time and just love it.

Al: The APT PeopleSoft team was comprised of SME’s (subject matter experts) across several IT areas, such as, Windows / Linux Administration, Oracle Database Administration, Cloud and application architecture, PeopleSoft and Oracle Application Administration and Development. Several hold advanced degrees in Computer Science or related fields as well as profession certifications in Oracle, AWS, RedHat, etc.

What does success/your best day look like?

Joel: My best day is when nothing in production breaks or when it does, we get alerts in a timely fashion and are able to fix the issue before anyone notices.

Al: The ultimate success for me is when a cloud migration cutover goes as planned and the application functions as well or better than as it did on premises. However, from a team perspective, I measure success with how well the team collaborate on a cloud migration. PeopleSoft was a very complex application and had many technical requirements and challenges. This PeopleSoft migration would not have been possible without the tight collaboration between the PeopleSoft APT team and the PeopleSoft application team.

Isabelle: What I love most is working with our stakeholders to understand their needs. At Harvard, working on projects is always interesting and requires a lot of creativity. I also enjoy managing my team of 19 analysts and managers. We recently improved our Agile methodology and made significant changes to the way we organize and prioritize our work to deliver system changes more frequently. My secret love is to write SQLs and I would love to do that all day long, but these days I don’t have much time when I am not in meetings.

See also: Profile