Re-architecting a university system to reduce running cost

Five years ago Black Pepper developed an online portal for the University of Warwick’s Chemistry Department. The portal allowed the department to generate revenue by contracting with companies outside of the university. Five years on, the IT infrastructure and security required updating to ensure it was in line with industry and the university IT Services department.

Black Pepper Software were a welcoming and friendly company who listened to our problems rather than leaping to a previously developed solution. They were good at communicating on progress, kept an open two-way dialogue with us and quickly adapted to our new and changing user requirements.

Dr. Mark Barnett
Head of Scientific Services, The University of Warwick

Warwick Chemistry is one of the top Chemistry Departments in the UK and is the core of the science faculty at the University of Warwick. Warwick Chemistry is continuously investing in its infrastructure to guarantee and nurture a world-class quality in education, cutting-edge research, and university life.

Challenges and Objectives

How do you generate revenue from unused lab equipment?

Five years ago the Warwick university chemistry department had the innovative idea of renting out time on its laboratory equipment to interested external companies and universities.

Black Pepper built the e-commerce platform that enabled this and integrated it into their departmental website. The project was a huge success, producing significant revenue from equipment that would otherwise have lain idle.

The portal handles significant invoicing revenue and must comply with the universities stringent policies on security. The system also had to be implemented in line with the IT architecture patterns mandated by the university’s IT Services department.

We were to review and update the system and migrate it onto the IT Service’s new infrastructure.

Black Pepper Software delivered a well-functioning solution that met all requirements. The team worked closely with the internal team to ensure everything went smoothly. They also communicated how the project was progressing, breaking it down into layman’s terms to ensure everyone understood.

Ian Hancox
Research Tech Engagement Manager, University of Warwick

The Technical Solution

The project brief was to migrate from the application from a dockerised solution to a simple Tomcat deployment within a standard Linux JVM. We externalised the configuration of the application so that the IT support team could manage it using their centralised Configuration Management System. In doing so, we removed the need for custom business processes for database backup, restarts and configuration changes.

Next Steps

This project sits in our ‘Support and Maintenance’ programme so it receives regular maintenance and security upgrades.

This was an unusual project because it involved no changes to the actual functionality of the system. Instead, we focussed upon changing the architecture of the system so that it could be more easily managed by the client.

David Griffiths
Senior Software Engineer, Black Pepper Software
W Uni case Study2020