Information Technology Services
Information Technology Services

Massive PeopleTools Upgrade an Overwhelming Success

This is the first installment of a three-part series about a remarkable achievement for ITServices. Read on for an inside view of why this was such an important milestone for the Queen's community

Over the weekend of April 4 to 6, several staff from ITServices, the Office of the University Registrar, Financial Services and Human Resources worked together to complete a major upgrade to the PeopleSoft administrative system.

PeopleSoft runs many of the university's critical business processes, including the SOLUS Student Centre. A formal project was established to upgrade the system's core software and infrastructure, which made this a monumental effort involving over 40 ITServices staff from Infrastructure Services and Enterprise Solutions, and approximately 20 others from the three business units.

The upgrade was performed on "PeopleTools" - the underlying foundation or toolset of PeopleSoft that supports all of the application modules: Finance, HR and Campus Solutions (student administration). It was the first of several phases of a plan to upgrade all of PeopleSoft over the next year, and was necessary to comply with product support requirements. It also addressed the need to update the underlying infrastructure, which was due for a refresh as part of its lifecycle.

PeopleTools Upgrade - Innovation in Action
"Innovation in Action" - a graphical view of the PeopleTools upgrade. (PDF,1.36 MB; Text-only version)

Performance improvements

The changes mainly affected core functionality and increased the number of available toolsets, providing the ability to modernize the look and feel and to introduce mobile functionality. Because of the multiple steps in the overall plan to upgrade PeopleSoft, the project team chose to minimize the impact on end users as much as possible with this release, which means that any new functionality will not be visible until the PeopleSoft Finance upgrade is complete later this year. Regardless, users have noticed significant performance improvements and are now benefiting from the boost in productivity.

  • Database backups are now 66% faster (from 1.5 hours to 30 - 40 minutes)
  • A refresh from the production to preview environment is now 83% faster (from 4 hours to 40 minutes)
  • Processing research account reports is now 86% faster (from 6 hours to 50 minutes)
  • The student grade calculation process is now 92% faster (from 5.5 hours to 25 minutes)
  • A payroll run is now 86% faster (from 2 - 3 hours to 25 minutes)

Optimized for efficiency

In keeping with ITServices' strategic goal of maximizing efficiencies, the upgrade provided the opportunity to reduce the overall infrastructure footprint of PeopleSoft. Before the upgrade, PeopleSoft had to be managed across multiple servers, databases and storage devices. The architecture has been streamlined and optimized considerably in a number of ways.

  • PeopleSoft now operates in a "clustered" environment, running simultaneously with other services. This provides flexibility in resource allocation in times of peak demand.
  • Data centre networking was redesigned to support new technology; and as a result, the system now runs 10 times faster.
  • Physical server hardware was replaced through virtualization and a more efficient ?blade? design.
  • Multiple storage technologies were replaced with a SAN (Storage Area Network) solution.
  • Database servers were replaced with new database ?appliances? ? database management systems with their own integrated servers, storage and software.

These changes will make it possible to retire an additional 30 to 40 servers, generating savings in energy consumption and staffing resources.

There are also major security improvements to the system, with better segregation of internal network traffic between services and built-in failover capabilities for seamless and automatic recovery from system failures.

Continue on to Part 2 - a "behind-the-scenes" look at what was involved in the PeopleTools upgrade, and the events of the cutover weekend.