The new yellow

The yellow web forms used by staff to interact with the database

Earlier this month, IT Services achieved a long-held ambition. There was little fanfare (although we did have cakes). Most staff and students would have been totally unaware of it. But it was the culmination of years of work and planning when we successfully upgraded the University’s central database and its web form interface to a brand new platform.

The database holds all the key information relating to Sussex people, courses, assessments and a hundred other things. Most staff will recognise the Oracle Web Forms, or “yellow forms” as they are universally known. They’re the main interface for finding and updating all sorts of details and many of us have something of a love/hate relationship with them. But a host of other vital systems, including Sussex Direct, Study Direct, the main Sussex website and the Library systems, are closely bound up with the central database and couldn’t function without it.

For some time, we’ve been concerned that the system was running on a platform that was increasingly dated, but there were always too many other major projects on the agenda. Last year we decided we couldn’t wait any longer and embarked on the lengthy process to test and revise hundreds of forms, scripts and interfaces on our development and testing platforms.

The crunch point came on Valentine’s Day. At 8.00am on Saturday morning, Sussex Direct and a number of other systems were switched into ‘read only’ mode and my colleagues began to migrate the live database to the updated platform. Then, from Sunday afternoon onwards, interfaces were reconnected one by one and by Monday lunchtime, everything was running smoothly. There were a few little glitches, of course. Given the scale and complexity of the task, that’s to be expected. But it was a satisfyingly quiet end to a serious bit of work.

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