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New and Changing: Updates from AIT

Posted January 14, 2021 by Academic and Institutional Technology
Tags: Department News

Behind the Scenes—what happens during a Banner upgrade?

You may remember that in early October we sent out a notice that Banner was going to be down for an entire weekend—including all day Friday.  We rarely do that, since Banner is used daily by many people and it can be tricky for some folks to get their jobs done without access to Banner.  But that weekend we had important and complicated upgrades to do.  Perhaps you wondered what was going on that weekend.  Here are some questions and answers.

Q: How long does a big upgrade like this take?

A: It should take about three months, and we did the whole thing in four weeks.  Obviously, Banner wasn’t down that entire time—much of that time was spent in testing.

Q: When you do an upgrade over a weekend, that means that you are sometimes working around the clock.  What is it like to be working at 2 or 3 in the morning?

A: It helps to put on peppy music to help yourself stay awake.  One good benefit is there are fewer disruptions at that hour—not many emails coming in!

Q: What is your favorite thing about doing these upgrades?

A: When the upgrade is done!

Q: What is fun about doing these upgrades?

A: It is fun to interact with colleagues and there’s some bonding that takes place in these high-pressure situations.

Q: What is scary about doing these upgrades?

A: There’s always the fear that the upgrade won’t work—that we didn’t do enough testing and the fallout can be bad.  Sometimes we end up patching a previous patch.  It’s a lot of work! 

Q: Why do we do these upgrades?  What would happen if we didn’t?

A: For this particular upgrade, there was a federal regulation with implications for Student Financial Services. It was necessary to do this upgrade so we would be in compliance.  Granted, if we don’t do the upgrades, that means we couldn’t use the software to “package” the Financial Aid for students, but in theory we could do it manually.  The software makes the process dramatically easier, though!  This upgrade was pretty intense.  Oracle hadn’t just upgraded—they had rewritten the internal structure for their databases.  A normal upgrade could have been seamless, but that was not the case here.  That’s why it had such an effect on other applications—the upgrade required us to rewrite how those applications connected to Oracle. In addition, not a lot of other schools have gone to this new architecture—we are on the bleeding edge of this!

Wheaton College gives our thanks to the entire Enterprise Applications team for your hard work and the way you take care of so many seldom-seen systems for us!

If you have any questions, please contact us at ait.service.desk@wheaton.edu or call 630.752.4357 (HELP).