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August 18, 2003

Fingernails on the Blackboard

Spent almost the entire weekend working on the upgrade of our online courseware, Blackboard. It's a complicated app to begin with, and it doesn't scale well, something that the major universities began to notice a while back. Duke took a look at migrating earlier this year and basically said "the hell with it, we'll wait."

Of course, the only other online course app able to handle 80,000+ courses isn't known for its ability to scale either, so it's not like we have much of a choice.

The database migration alone took 11 days, which is....inefficient. Yes, I'm being kind. Our Oracle DBA described it using much more pungent tones. We'd run several test migrations to prepare for the final one, and surprises still popped up over the last two weeks.

And no, thank you for asking, there were no upgrade in place or incremental options available. The migration was all or nothing. Had we not played fast and loose with the process, running it on a server that it was never intended to run on, and abandoning the internal course file migration completely in favor of doing it ourselves, we may still have been waiting for it to finish.

It finally completed early Saturday morning. We, and by we I mean seven UNC staff and four Blackboard support personnel, spent the next 18 hours troubleshooting bugs on the three Linux servers hosting the new version.

Yesterday was spent customizing. Today is devoted to testing and performance tuning. Tomorrow we go live. Assuming all goes well once a real production load is placed on the system, which is a rather large assumption indeed given our experience with the app, then we're finally finished.

Until version 6.1 comes out.

Posted by Bigwig at August 18, 2003 03:31 PM | TrackBack
Postscript:
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Comments

11 Days??? Eeeek!!

Last migration I did only took about an hour (the planned maintenance of a local council's housing database).

Posted by: Tim Hall at August 18, 2003 05:10 PM

Hey, did I use your handiwork this summer when I took Bio 101 on line at the local community college here in Charlottesville (Piedmont Virginia Community College)? It was called "Blackboard" and it worked well.

Posted by: Jim at August 19, 2003 05:04 PM

Not my handiwork, but the same program. It's pretty popular with professors and other end users, but administrating it is a bitch.

Posted by: Bigwig at August 21, 2003 10:48 AM
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