Higher Ed: Virtualizing Banner Unified Digital Campus with VMware

Banner Unified Digital Campus (Banner UDC) is the most used administrative suite of applications specific to higher education. A specially crafted Google search shows almost 30,000 different universities running Banner UDC!

If you are wondering if Banner UDC can be virtualized the answer is YES. VMware’s website has very little information about virtualizing Banner UDC… there’ just info about virtualizing Banner Xtender, the integrated document imaging solution. Many sysadmins will have difficulty finding a definitive answer to the “Are we supported on VMware?”  question.

Get an account with the Sungard Commons and Sungard Connect and see for yourself. You’ll find Sungard has this to say in FAQ 1-44BOB8:

Banner UDC clients can realize significant cost benefits through the use of virtualization technologies.  Virtualization allows for server consolidation, with potential savings in hardware acquisition and maintenance, operating costs, and administrative time. Virtualization can also play an important role in High Availability and Disaster Recovery strategies. Banner UDC applications are supported with two software solutions, Sun Solaris Containers and VMware ESX Server. Also supported are hardware partitions offered by Solaris Logical Domains (LDoms), HP-UX Virtual Partitions (vPars),  and AIX Logical Partitions (LPARs).  Virtualization is a very dynamic field and additional solutions will be supported in accordance with market demand.

The SunGard Higher Education Support Center will not require clients to replicate every Banner UDC issue in a native supported environment. If we have reason to believe that virtualization is part of the problem, we may ask clients to independently verify that the problem exists in a native environment.  We will also work with virtualization vendors to jointly diagnose and resolve issues. The Support Center is not able to accept virtual images from clients to use as debugging aids. Such images may contain software for which SunGard Higher Education is not licensed.

The note specifically says the Banner Database server is not recommended on vSphere, citing Metalink 249212.1. Google it for yourself: we have found that the Oracle support is just perpetuating fear, uncertainty, and doubt.  Aside from Google, another good place to research is  Sungard’s BORACLE mailing list (customers only) – you’ll find there are several Banner UDC customers large and small running their full suite (including the database) VMware vSphere with no issues.

The support note also mentions ‘Other Third-Party Products’. Many Banner UDC clients use Cognos for reporting/BI. IBM offers Cognos support on VMware. There’s also Luminis, the most popular web portal with Banner UDC, which is also supported as a virtual machine. For more information, see documents titled “Luminis Platform 5” and “Luminis Platform Virtualization”.

As for our organization, we have been running a couple of parts of the Banner UDC install in virtual machines from the beginning: eVisions Intellecheck and Banner ePrint have given zero problems with regard to virtualization.

Our journey to full suite virtualization started out by performing a large Banner UDC upgrade (Banner 7 to Banner 8) with vSphere. The testing of the upgrade was successful (and so the real upgrade) AND we obtained Oracle DBA buy-in to running Banner UDC on virtual machines.

Since then, the staging environment’s application and database servers are on virtual machines and no one’s noticed.  Once the staging environment pilot is done, the next step is to work toward moving our production servers to vSphere.