Legacy Systems Retirement Project Concludes With 150 Percent Success Rate

After more than a year of planning and implementation, Project Neptune, an ambitious initiative to retire and replace many of Iowa State University’s legacy systems and decommission their servers, has been completed.

Since the 1990s, the university has hosted a variety of physical servers that provide administration, communication, and security services. But over the years, the servers became incompatible with modern practices and ultimately phased out of use. Beginning in early 2018, a joint venture between Information Technology Services (ITS), the university’s Information Technology Leadership Committee (ITLC), and department IT units was designed to find better solutions for 100 of the aging servers on campus, and the effort and resources necessary to update, repair, or make changes to them. 

“The mindset about legacy systems on campus changed with the introduction of Workday, the new cloud-based platform the university will use for HR and finance business processes as of July 1, and we took advantage of the change,” said ITS Systems Operations Manager Jason Shuck. “The project helped re-invigorate the drive to keep our technology and processes modern and recognize that it is okay to retire legacy services when they no longer benefit the Iowa State community.”

Project Neptune — named after the Roman god of the sea — was pitched in January 2018 and officially started in February 2018. Shuck said talk had previously circulated about eliminating outdated university technologies, and Project Neptune condensed multiple projects into a single concept to eliminate duplicate legacy systems and retire outdated servers. 

Over the course of the project, outdated login systems were eliminated and replaced by identity and access security platform Okta, a more secure and straightforward option than its predecessors. The Andrew File System (AFS), a file sharing service in use since the 1990s, was retired due to complex access requirements and newer, easier alternatives such as CyBox. Blackboard, the university’s former online learning tool for students, was retired along with its 16 servers and replaced by Canvas

In addition to a dozen other systems and tools that were updated or replaced, Project Neptune began the decommissioning process of Iowa State University’s first public website service “public.iastate.edu.” The service, which has been available since 1993, will officially sunset at the end of 2019, and will be partially replaced by new web resource “sites.iastate.edu.”  

Project Neptune officially concluded on Dec. 31, 2018, with smaller branches of the project carrying over into 2019. Although the original goal for the project was to decommission 100 servers, the final tally was 152, consolidating more systems than expected and significantly decreasing the initial energy footprint of the retired systems.

“There were dozens of people directly involved in this project — both from ITS and across campus — and hundreds more indirectly involved, who all helped make it possible,” said ITS Identity Services Manager Darin Dugan. “While there are still finalization steps to complete, the project was a huge success.”