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Busted Oracle finance cloud leaves Rutgers Uni unable to foot bills

Cornerstone collapse led to blackouts on campus, it is claimed

Rutgers University is struggling to pay its bills on time amid a prolonged outage of its Oracle-powered management systems. It is claimed this IT failure led to power outages within its campus after supplies were cut off due to non-payment.

The hedgerow-league college, in New Jersey, US, has publicly admitted its Cornerstone administration system is broken. People familiar with the matter privately told El Reg that the software's inability to send money to creditors is so serious, staffers had to labor through the winter break issuing emergency payments to catch up with outstanding invoices.

"We are working to stabilize the system," Rutgers' procurement team said on its website.

According to one source, the Cornerstone system has been experiencing glitches as far back as September, through Christmas, and into the new year. Eggheads and administrators have been unable to reliably pay vendors and service providers, we're told.

Some of these failed payments led to offices on campus having their lights and power cut off, it is claimed.

"This system has somehow been incapable of sending payments for invoices to the university's suppliers, and in some cases electricity has been turned off at certain offices," one source said on Tuesday.

"The blackout period has persisted ever since Rutger's switched to the Oracle Cornerstone system in September. People worked around the clock over the winter break through to Monday to try to pay invoices."

Unveiled in 2015, the Cornerstone system is a project by Rutgers and Oracle to get the college's human resources, accounting, and ordering systems migrated to a cloud deployment [PDF]. The full rollout of Cornerstone is set to be completed by 2018.

"Rutgers University is transitioning from a lengthy, paper-based expense management process to a more streamlined and automated online system for expense management," the college explained on its website. "The university’s goal with this project is to replace the current expense management systems with an Oracle Cloud Expense solution."

Rutgers was not ready to comment further on the invoice system's outage at time of publication. Oracle did not respond to a request for comment.

A Cornerstone help page, dated December 19, suggests staff run payments through an "emergency payments" option on the Cornerstone online portal.

"If you are contacted by a vendor who is requesting immediate payment, please advise that we have an emergency process in place, and your unit will submit a request for expedited payment," the bulletin reads.

The service woes won't come as welcome news for Oracle, which has been pushing cloud systems – and the migration to them by its existing customer base – as the basis of its business strategy into the coming decades. Meanwhile, Rutgers suffered power outages in September after a transformer failed, and its IT systems were hit with further blackouts in early December. ®

Have you been affected by the ongoing problems with Cornerstone? Tell us your story in confidence.

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