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Registration Issues

Summary

Technical issues affected the registration period in Spring 2021. Here's a breakdown of what happened...

Full Description

After having several rounds of registration without system issues due in large part to leveraging container technology to meet peak demand, students experienced errors and system outages while registering for Fall 2021, and registration was halted.

Registration

Initially, the Banner registration system experienced reduced performance on Tuesday morning, but engineers were able to restore service to complete registration for the class of 2022. However, after only a brief opening of the registration window on Wednesday for the class of 2023, the Banner system became totally unresponsive. W&M IT engineers worked fervently to troubleshoot the issue but couldn't immediately find the root cause of the outage. Registration was suspended until the problem could be further investigated and resolved. 

What Happened

Initially engineers looked at the typical causes for Banner issues during registration - database server capacity, and webserver memory space. Though the resources provisioned aligned with the demand, IT increased those allocations as a way to eliminate architecture as the cause. However, there was no change in performance and the problem remained unresolved.  

W&M engineers felt the nature of the issue pointed to an issue with the Oracle database supporting Banner, so they engaged Oracle and Ellucian (the software provider for Banner.)  Analysis indicated the issues aligned with a known defect in Oracle that Oracle patched in a prior release. William & Mary had that patch in place before the outages occurred. Oracle identified a related, undocumented setting as the likely cause. They recommended a change to that parameter and suggested it would eliminate the registration errors. 

Level of Certainty

Oracle and Ellucian have advised us that they believe the parameter change will resolve the registration issues. Registration would not be restarted without a high degree of confidence in the solution. Unfortunately, despite the successful system and load testing performed, there is no test that exactly mirrors our registration approach. We'll be watching Banner closely next week as registration reopens. We understand how stressful the registration period can be for students, and we hope to finish Fall 2021 registration without causing additional inconvenience.