SunGard accepts blame for technical negligence

Jennie Loucks

┬áThe e-mail debacle that plagued Washburn’s campus for the first part of this semester is almost over.

On Friday, Sept. 18, the 12-member Technology Steering Committee sent out an e-mail to the Washburn community explaining in detail the extended outage. It explained the reasoning for the upgrade, which led to all the problems that occurred, as well as how the problems progressed and were eventually resolved.

On the Banner system that Washburn has been running on since 2004, there have been at least three major upgrades.

“The upgrades depend on the area and on the module,” said Mike Gunter, director of Information Systems and Services. “There are about 12 upgrades per year, not including patches.”

The upgrade that led to all the recent e-mail problems at Washburn was done by SunGard, the company who provides the university with the Banner system. The main problem with the upgrade was that the e-mail server would not function. There were also more minor problems that were fixed along the way.

SunGard indicated to Washburn that it had never had issues on such a scale as ours before. This was caused by a design failure of the software itself.

The failure was discovered on Monday, Aug. 17, around noon. Two days later, unrelated events occurred, when the core router crashed, and the e-mail system continued to corrupt.

Today Washburn is running on the original e-mail software, part of the resolution of the problem.

Wednesday, Sept. 23, a design review meeting between SunGard representatives and Gunter’s team began the process of finding and deciding on new software.

“These were just problems that were not foreseen, and it took a long time to get things back up, but it takes a long time to move millions of messages,” said Gunter.

The amount of time it took to configure the systems stemmed from restoring the millions of messages in the 17,000 e-mail accounts. All told, the fix took approximately 40 hours to complete.

Gunter said that they moved at the quickest pace that they could, working 12 hour days, including weekends.

The ISS team at Washburn spent weeks, and is still communicating with Sun Microsystems, the company who created the software, to solve existing problems, as well as successfully complete an upgrade.

“There are at least six people that we are for sure interfacing with, and many more doing work in the background,” said Gunter. “We have been patched through to Sun Microsystems people around the world, and everyone has been fully cooperative.”

SunGard understands that this has been a major inconvenience to a lot of people and it has accepted full responsibility for the failure.

“SunGard promised they would deliver, configure, and make the upgrade work, but they failed,” said Gunter. “They have been very responsive. We’ve been meeting a lot, and they are bringing in their partners from Sun Microsystems.”

Washburn hired SunGard on a firm fixed price, which means they paid one sum for the entire conversion. As soon as the problems were discovered as a design failure, SunGard began fixing everything for free.

There is no limit on the compensation that Washburn will receive. SunGard has promised to foot the bill until the conversion is complete, and the system is up and running problem-free.

“We did get some benefit out of the upgrade,” said Gunter. “We changed out a lot of our systems, and most of them are working OK.”

Gunter also said that he would like everyone to know that he and his counter partners are taking notes of exactly what happened from start to finish of the process that will be published as soon as problems are resolved.