Category: Higher Education

Case Study: RMIT implementation of LoadRunner

Twice a year, RMIT publishes course results for its students on the student portal of the university’s website. These two days in the calendar generate the highest volume of website traffic. With such huge spikes experienced in a 24-hour period, RMIT’s student portal was being saturated and not handling the volume effectively. This resulted in poor performance and students reported difficulties in accessing their results in a timely fashion.

Tim Ash, RMIT’s senior production assurance and test manager, explains, “The single most important aspect of our students’ lives, apart from the education they receive, is knowing how well they are doing in their studies. Having a stable student portal is critical to satisfy our students’ needs and deliver a high level of service. It also impacts on our credibility and future success.

“For this reason, we identified performance testing as an essential part of future application delivery. With limited resources available in-house and a tight deadline, we invited JDS Australia (JDS), an HP Platinum Partner, to help us to predict future system behaviour and application performance."

Objective

Predict system behaviour and application performance to improve student satisfaction

Approach

RMIT University verified that its new critical student results application (called MyResults) met specified performance requirements

IT improvements

  • Achieved 100 percent uptime on MyResults
  • Delivered student results 60 per cent faster than predicted
  • Gained a true picture of end-to-end performance of MyResults
  • Emulated peak loads of 20,000+ student logins per hour – more than six times the average loads
  • Uncovered and rectified functional issues prior to going live
  • No helpdesk complaints logged for poor system performance
  • Optimisation opportunities were identified that enabled the student portal to be scaled more appropriately

About RMIT University

As a global university of technology and design, RMIT University is one of Australia’s leading educational institutions, enjoying an international reputation for excellence in work-relevant education.

RMIT employs almost 4,000 people and has 74,000 students studying at its three Melbourne campuses and in its Vietnam campuses. The university also has strong links with partner institutions which deliver RMIT award programmes in Singapore, Hong Kong, mainland China, and Malaysia, as well as research and industry partnerships on every continent.

RMIT has a broad technology footprint, counting its website and student portal as mission-critical applications essential to the day-to-day running of the university.

Industry

Higher Education

Primary applications

  • SAP Financials
  • PeopleSoft Student Administration

Primary software

  • HP LoadRunner software
  • HP Quality Center
  • HP QuickTest Professional software

Selecting an industry standard

A long-term user of HP software including HP Quality Center, HP QuickTest Professional and HP Business Availability Center, RMIT chose HP LoadRunner software, as its performance validation platform.

“HP LoadRunner is the industry standard for performance testing,” explains Tim. “It was a natural choice for RMIT, due to its functionality and integration capabilities as well as our investment in other HP software.”

Predicting system behaviour

In seeking to prevent future student portal performance problems, RMIT had identified a number of potential solutions.

Tim explains, “Due to the complex nature of our student portal, it was unclear which solution design would provide the best performing architecture. HP LoadRunner was used to obtain an accurate picture of end-to-end system performance by emulating the types of loads we receive on result days. We tested all the options. Our objective was to handle the loads and satisfy 100 percent of our students’ results queries in under five seconds.”

Emulating loads

By leveraging the experience of JDS, HP LoadRunner was used to emulate peak loads of 20,000+ student logins per hour, which is more than six times the average loads experienced on non-results days. “The data from our tests revealed that we needed our student portal platform to have the ability to scale considerably, to handle traffic up to six times the usual volume on result days,” explains Tim. “As we drove loads against the various design options, we also captured end-user response times.

“Based on this, we selected the design solution that had the best performance. There were several options to choose from with some going through a portal which put unnecessary load on the system. The brand new application chosen is called MyResults, which, during testing, met our performance objective and delivered response times in less than two seconds.”

The JDS account manager for the case says, “As well as testing the performance of the various design solutions, optimisation opportunities were identified that enabled the student portal to be scaled more appropriately. Using HP LoadRunner, JDS consultants identified bottlenecks in the application and platform. By working with RMIT, they were able to direct efforts to remediate the problems prior to going live.”

"Using HP LoadRunner, JDS consultants identified bottlenecks in the application and platform. By working with RMIT, they were able to direct efforts to remediate the problems prior to going live."
JDS Consultant
We are delighted with the outcomes of HP LoadRunner. First and foremost, we rectified poor performance issues to provide a results system that exceeded our goals and those of our students. Thanks to the preparative measures we put in place, our system thrived and delivered 100 percent uptime. This enabled us to provide a high-quality student experience, which culminated in increased user satisfaction.
Tim Ash, RMIT
Our students certainly noticed the difference. We received a number of tweets praising the system’s performance. Many of our students couldn’t believe how quickly they obtained their results.
We rectified poor performance issues to provide a results system that exceeded our own goals and those of our students.

Successful go-live drives student satisfaction

While MyResults is a simple application that delivers results, its structure is quite complex as it receives inputs from various databases. Ensuring it would perform as intended on results day was key.
Tim says, “By using HP LoadRunner, we significantly decreased the risk of deploying an application that would not meet our performance requirements. On results day, MyResults proved an outstanding success. It handled the loads and spikes extremely well, consistently delivering results in timeframes sub-two seconds. This would not have happened if we had not validated performance beforehand.

“Our students certainly noticed the difference. We received a number of tweets praising the system’s performance. Many of our students couldn’t believe how quickly they obtained their results. Another great indication of our success was the low impact on our helpdesk. They didn’t receive complaints or issues regarding the system and that’s a big plus.”

Boosting reputation

As a result of deploying HP LoadRunner to validate the performance of MyResults, RMIT has realised considerable benefits. The institution has facilitated better decision-making as information is more readily available, and experienced operational efficiencies.

Tim says, “We are delighted with the outcomes of HP LoadRunner. First and foremost, we rectified poor performance issues to provide a results system that exceeded our own goals and those of our students. Thanks to the preparative measures we put in place, our system thrived and delivered 100 percent uptime. This enabled us to provide a high-quality student experience, which culminated in increased user satisfaction.

“Operationally, HP LoadRunner helped us to identify the most suitable option to improve our performance. It gave us confidence (prior to release) in MyResults’ ability and allowed us to make informed business decisions, which reduced our deployment risk. In addition, we saved money, because we were more efficient and did not experience any downtime. Plus, we were able to fix issues in development which is always a cheaper option, and we saved considerable time during testing by having the ability to re-use and repeat tests."

Business Benefits

  • The university's reputation was boosted by providing students with reliable and fast access to results—students tweeted their satisfaction.
  • Money was saved through having zero downtime and the ability to fix issues early.
  • RMIT could make informed decisions and reduce the risk of deploying poor quality applications.
  • University and student confidence in IT systems was improved.

Next steps

HP LoadRunner will continue to play a key role as the performance validation backbone of MyResults. Tim believes RMIT is certainly up-to-date with testing technology with the HP Solutions it utilises, as well as adoption of a stringent testing methodology.

“Students are early adopters of technology. So it’s logical that our next big push is mobility and wireless applications. More and more, our students are accessing RMIT’s website using mobile devices and we need to make sure our applications are optimised accordingly. We want students to be able to log in from home and attend a lecture from their laptop or access their results from their mobile phones. HP LoadRunner will be used to ensure we can meet the wireless requirements of the university’s future.

“Looking at the big picture, HP LoadRunner is an essential component of RMIT’s technology footprint. It allows us to perform due diligence on our applications, make go live decisions with confidence and provide statistical information that is trusted and relied upon by the institution.

“Ultimately, HP LoadRunner gives me peace of mind that RMIT’s systems will work as intended and deliver the quality of service our students and staff expect.”

Our team on the case

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Why choose JDS?

At JDS, our purpose is to ensure your IT systems work wherever, however, and whenever they are needed. Our expert consultants will help you identify current or potential business issues, and then develop customised solutions to suit you.

JDS is different from other providers in the market. We offer 24/7 monitoring capabilities and support throughout the entire application lifecycle. We give your IT Operations team visibility into the health of your IT systems, enabling them to identify and resolve issues quickly.

We are passionate about what we do, working seamlessly with you to ensure you are getting the best possible performance from your environment. All products sold by JDS are backed by our local Tier One support desk, ensuring a stress-free solution for the entire product lifecycle.

JDS is now a CAUDIT Splunk Provider

Splunk Enterprise provides universities with a fast, easy and resilient way to collect, analyse and secure the streams of machine data generated by their IT systems and infrastructure.  JDS, as one of Australia’s leading Splunk experts, has a tradition of excellence in ensuring higher education institutions have solutions that maximise the performance and availability of campus-critical IT systems and infrastructure.

The CAUDIT Splunk offering provides Council of Australian University Directors of Information Technology (CAUDIT) Member Universities with the opportunity to buy on-premise Splunk Enterprise on a discounted, 3-year basis.  In acknowledgement of JDS’ expertise and dedication to client solutions, Splunk Inc. has elevated JDS to a provider of this sector-specific offering, meaning we are now better placed than ever to help the higher education sector reach their data collection and analysis goals.

What does this mean for organisations?

Not-for-profit higher education institutions that are members of CAUDIT can now use JDS to access discounted prices for on-premises deployments of Splunk Enterprise.  JDS are able to leverage their expertise in Splunk and customised solutions built on the platform, in combination with their insight into the higher education sector, to ensure that organisations have the Splunk solution that meet their specific needs.

 

Secure organisational applications and data, gain visibility over service performance, and ensure your organisation has the information to inform better decision-making.  JDS and Splunk are here to help.

 

You can learn more about JDS’ custom Splunk solutions here: Active Robot Monitoring with Splunk.
Contact one of our Australia-based consultants today on 1300 780 432.

CAUDIT Analysis Part 3: Learning Analytics

CAUDIT Analysis Part 3

View Part 1 Here
View Part 2 Here

Since 2006, the Council of Australian University Directors of Information Technology (CAUDIT) has undertaken an annual survey of higher education institutions in Australia and New Zealand to determine the Top Ten issues affecting their usage of Information Technology (IT).

To help our customers get the most out of this report, JDS has analysed the results and is offering a series of insights into how best to address these pressing issues and associated challenges.

Issue 8: Learning Analytics

student-success

Supporting improved student progress through establishing & utilising learning analytics.”

Every interaction from students, staff and researchers, through any of an institution’s systems, is a data point of interest. These points of interest are a wealth of information that can be used to improve services and experiences institution wide.

Numerous studies show the importance of basing decisions on quantifiable measurements. It allows you to target, change and measure outcomes. For example, measuring student performance beyond the standard result orientated structure can allow an institution to intervene earlier in a student’s progress. One study showed that a university was able to intervene as early as two weeks into a semester (Sclater, 2016). They identified students who were at high risk of dropping out and helped these students adjust their program.

These areas may be outside of the typical ICT purview, but are becoming increasingly ICT driven. ICT tends to own the analytics platform and should be responsible for ensuring it meets an institutes requirements.

CAUDIT Ranking Trend: 2014 – | 2015 #17 | 2016 #8

Challenges and Considerations

challenges
Challenge: Manage increased data inflow from a vast array of sources across campuses.
Students and teachers can bring in a multitude of devices for use on campus, including laptops, tablet, smartphones and more. They can also access institutional facilities, applications, systems, and data whilst at university, work, home. These are just a few examples of different institutional data points. Combining all of these devices across a variety of locations depicts how data points are increasing exponentially.

Each data point when analysed in the right manner, holds valuable information - information that determines how an institution should respond and/or intervene to ensure it is providing the right solution to the matter at hand. In order to gain this value, an institution should first understand how to manage many and different data inputs.

JDS has the experience in building and implementing platforms that can provide a universal solution - a solution that can collect, index and analyse any machine data at massive scale, without limitation. Institutions can then search through this data in real time, correlate and analyse with the benefit of machine learning to better understand institutional trends and ultimately make better informed decisions.

Challenge: Cross collaboration across institutional stakeholders (eg. students, teachers, admin, etc.)
An institution such as a university has a wide variety of internal and external stakeholders, all with the need to share information between one another. This information also often originates from a large variety of sources.

The challenge here is making this data from students, teachers, researchers and administration staff accessible to each other in a controlled, normalised manner. These stakeholders will also have different questions to ask of the same data, each with their own requirements. ICT does not necessarily have a deep understanding nor require a deep understanding of the content of this data, but they can provide a single platform for collaboration. A common platform can address these issues and allowing cross collaboration between stakeholders while improving an institutions products and services.

With the help of JDS, ICT can provide such a platform that allows ease of generating dashboards, reports and alerts. JDS can enable the institution to not only ask various questions of the same data but also create visualisations and periodic reports to help interpret and use the information gleamed.

JDS has implemented such solutions across various Australian organisations, unleashing the powerful data collection functionalities of a variety of industry leading monitoring tools. We have our own proprietary solution, JDash, purpose build to help organisations collaborate to understand service impact levels, increase visibility into IT environments, allow efficient decision making and provide cross silo data access and visualisations. JDash is also fully customisable to various institutional needs and requirements.

Challenge: Using analytics for early intervention with student difficulties.
In a recent article in The Australian, the attrition rate from some universities was above 20%. Numerous factors contribute to this, which can ultimately be reduced through early prevention. Institution can make better informed decisions if they have the right data at the right time.

The CAUDIT report highlighted the need to identify student performance early. This allows an institution to intervene by either advising a student of a different direction or providing the right resources to handle their difficulties.

In order to provide this level of insight into student drop-out rates and early intervention, institutions need to build and manage a learning analytics platform. A learning analytics platforms collects, measures, analyses, and reports data on the progress of learners within context.

JDS can assist institutions with building a centralised, scalable, and secure learning analytics platform. This platform can ingest the growing availability of big datasets and digital signals from students interacting with numerous services. From the centralised platform, institutions can interpret the information to make decisions on intervention and ultimately reduce attrition rates of students.

About JDS

about-jds
With extensive experience across the higher education sector, JDS assists institutions of all sizes to streamline operations, boost performance and gain competitive advantage in an environment of tight funding and increasing student expectations. With more than 10 years’ experience in optimising IT service performance and availability, JDS is the partner of choice for trusted IT solutions and services across many leading higher education institutions. Contact us to find out more.

Tech tips from JDS

CAUDIT Analysis Part 2: Educational Technology

CAUDIT Analysis Part 2

View Part 1 Here
View Part 3 Here

Since 2006, the Council of Australian University Directors of Information Technology (CAUDIT) has undertaken an annual survey of higher education institutions in Australia and New Zealand to determine the Top Ten issues affecting their usage of Information Technology (IT).

To help our customers get the most out of this report, JDS has analysed the results and is offering a series of insights into how best to address these pressing issues and associated challenges.

Our second insight featured here discusses the importance of educational technology in maximising the student experience and helping universities compete in the digital age.

Issue 4: Educational Technology

student-success

Supporting the use of innovative technology in teaching in learning.”

ICT in higher education is subject to the same disruption that’s affecting other industries. The difference is, universities are also at the frontline of generational disruptions including ‘Digital Natives’.

Such generational and technological shifts bring a primary challenge to institutions like yours. The question is, how do you maintain an agile technology platform and reliable services. These services can transcend technology shifts and allow students to mix and match their own personal requirements with what the university has to offer.

Ultimately, universities must offer emerging technologies and services to students that can be used by both digital and non-digital natives. What doesn’t change, however, is that both groups are seeking tools that are easy to use, fast to access and always available.

CAUDIT Ranking Trend: 2016 #4 | 2015 – | 2014 –

Challenges and Considerations

challenges
Challenge: Embrace emerging technologies throughout learning spaces as well as virtual and remote laboratories.

The dramatic rise of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon in both the public and private sector presents both challenges and opportunities. Today, organisations and education institutions alike are struggling with deploying technologies that are in sync with what people use in their everyday lives.

The key to resolving this challenge is to have a core platform that offers, tracks and manages these new services. To achieve this, a robust alignment of new technologies is needed with current processes and existing tools/apps. Unfortunately, we’re seeing agencies re-invent the wheel just to get something out there to meet student expectations.

Having an agile platform in place will allow you to standardise new product offerings while at the same time accelerating the adoption of emerging technologies. This platform should facilitate the on-boarding of technologies with minimal effort – backed by orchestration and automation capabilities. In turn, this will give your institution a clear understanding of how technologies are being used and the agility to shift rapidly into new area as required.

Challenge: Provide reliable and robust systems for learning that are interactive, collaborative and personalised.

So you’ve got the latest and greatest technologies…but they’re not always working. What now?

The objective here is that on top of facilitating the use of new technologies through a platform that allows you to distribute, track and manage it, you need to ensure that it is operating efficiently.

Bear in mind, that ‘fast to deliver’ does not always translate to ‘fast to use’. Systems that are deployed need to be reliable so they don’t create more unplanned work.

Unfortunately, unplanned work will impact your institution. For example, full-time employees will be removed from project work to concentrate on fixing issues in production. This has the effect of slowing down the process of adopting and offering emerging technologies—making ICT absent from the innovation discussion.

JDS provides numerous services to ensure the performance of your services—ranging from testing and diagnosing to monitoring. In cases where there are performance issues, we can help you diagnose and narrow down the root-cause of issues. Proceeding to production, JDS can give you visibility into the performance and availability of your systems so you can keep an eye on how your services are being used, and address any issues early—reducing unplanned work.

About JDS

about-jds
With extensive experience across the higher education sector, JDS assists institutions of all sizes to streamline operations, boost performance and gain competitive advantage in an environment of tight funding and increasing student expectations. With more than 10 years’ experience in optimising IT service performance and availability, JDS is the partner of choice for trusted IT solutions and services across many leading higher education institutions. Contact us to find out more.

Tech tips from JDS

CAUDIT Analysis Part 1: Student Success Technologies

CAUDIT Analysis Part 1

View Part 2 Here
View Part 3 Here

Since 2006, the Council of Australian University Directors of Information Technology (CAUDIT) has undertaken an annual survey of higher education institutions in Australia and New Zealand to determine the Top Ten issues affecting their usage of Information Technology (IT).

To help our customers get the most out of this report, JDS has analysed the results and is offering a series of insights into how best to address these pressing issues and associated challenges.

Here we take a look at the first technology-related issue.

Issue 1: Student Success Technologies

student-success

Improving student outcomes through an institutional approach that strategically leverages technology.”

For the third year in a row, “student success technologies” has been identified as the highest priority issue within the higher education sector in Australia and New Zealand. In addition to having the appropriate technologies in place, focus is turning to the analysis of the vast volume of data that most institutions collect with these technologies. Doing this effectively and in real time can assist in the decision making process ensuring appropriate actions and limited resources are used to their maximum benefit.
In many cases, institutions have already invested in technologies to support student success, but often these are not being leveraged to their fullest potential, or have not been integrated with other available technologies to provide an improved solution to support student, teacher and researcher success. If persisting with these technologies, the attraction and benefit of new and emerging technologies may not be fully realised if built upon this below-performing foundation.

It is one thing for institutes to provide technologies that support student success but useless if those technologies are not accessible, available or performing at the expected levels.

CAUDIT Ranking Trend: 2014 #1 | 2015 #1 | 2016 #1

Challenges and Considerations

challenges
Challenge: Analysing multiple disparate solutions, each providing insight into different aspects of student, faculty, and administration performance.

Many institutions today have a range of applications supporting different aspects of the student experience (for example: student learning portals, ERP and student administration systems, email and document management, BYOD enablers, etc). While consolidating this information and interpreting it through intelligent dashboards can help display the data, it won’t be enough to find correlations and provide beneficial analysis.

JDS can assist with designing and implementing solutions to combine real-time data from multiple disparate sources to provide a unified view via dashboards, analyse trends and interpret complex data relationships to improve the overall student experience.

Challenge: Ensuring that investments made in technology enablers and new emerging technologies are actually being used and are being used effectively.

It is one thing for an institution to commission supporting technologies and deploy them for use, however it is all for nothing if those systems are either infrequently available when required or performing so poorly that they effectively become unusable. IT departments and vendors alike are often guilty of assuming that the way a service has been designed is the way the service will actually be used. Understanding how services are actually being consumed, both in real-time and through historic analysis, can lead to proactive modification of essential services to improve effectiveness.

JDS has a rich history of providing and supporting End-User-Monitoring (EUM) and Application Performance Management (APM) solutions that improve service performance and availability and provide valuable insight into the effectiveness of delivered services.

Challenge: Using data as information to assist with early intervention to ensure student academic completion.

Institutions have access to large volumes of data on their student population and their progress, both current and historic, that are often maintained in multiple, disparate applications and technologies. Combining this internal sourced data with additional external sources (e.g. QILT) improves identification of students requiring additional assistance or those likely to require future assistance.

Being able to combine or ‘dice’ and ‘splice’ this information – across dimensions of discipline, faculty, geographic location, learning methods or any other demographic – can provide valuable insight into where to invest limited support resources to maximise the likelihood of student retention and success.
JDS can assist by leveraging industry best-of-breed technologies to interrogate, consolidate and analyse these disparate data silos to deliver information that can be acted on to improve overall graduation rates.

Challenge: Managing multiple arrangements and contracts with service and vendor providers

With new technologies and cloud point solutions, institutions face the challenge of managing multiple relationships between internal service providers and external partners and vendors. Services being delivered require monitoring and the technologies that underpin them will necessitate upgrades, patches and monitoring of SLAs. New processes need to be created and maintained. Help desks require additional training and knowledge base articles to be created.

JDS can assist institutions through the identification of routine processes that can be automated and ensure that new applications and services are integrated into their current service management solution.

 

About JDS

about-jds
With extensive experience across the higher education sector, JDS assists institutions of all sizes to streamline operations, boost performance and gain competitive advantage in an environment of tight funding and increasing student expectations. With more than 10 years’ experience in optimising IT service performance and availability, JDS is the partner of choice for trusted IT solutions and services across many leading higher education institutions. Contact us to find out more.

Tech tips from JDS

Case Study: Performance testing at RMIT

JDS Australia’s work at RMIT, performance testing the MyResults (student results) website, has been written up by HP as a case study.

Twice a year, RMIT publishes course results for its students on the student portal of the university’s website. These two days in the calendar generate the highest volume of website traffic. With such huge spikes experienced in a 24-hour period, RMIT’s student portal was being saturated and not handling the volume effectively. This resulted in poor performance and students reported difficulties in accessing their results in a timely fashion.

Read More