Virtualization and Cloud Pass the Test

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Ongoing austerity measures by the British government have meant less money for many academic institutions, including New College Durham. The medium-sized university based in northeast England caters to both higher-education students as well as “further education” students, aged 16 through 18, who are focusing on building vocational and professional skills. Though the school has money set aside for lean times, departments nevertheless must work to control costs while continuing to provide high-quality teaching and resources to all students.

Like other departments, the university’s information and communications technology (ICT) group must justify all expenditures. “Our funding is directly tied to student enrollment and course completion, so we need to ensure that any IT system we invest in will impress prospects and enable current students to be more productive and achieve better grades,” says George Wraith, head of ICT, New College Durham.

Enhancing Flexibility Through Virtualization

The imperative to reduce spending while still offering robust technology resources led to a long-term relationship with VMware that began in 2008. Working in conjunction with IT service provider Phoenix Software Ltd, the university’s ICT group embarked on a project to virtualize servers. Using the VMware vSphere® server virtualization platform, the group was able to enhance agility of its infrastructure and support new services, such as voice over IP (VoIP), while reducing costs. “When we took that first step, little did we know that it was the beginning of a journey that would revolutionize our IT estate for the better,” says Wraith.

The success of the first project led the ICT group to virtualize desktops. By adopting a VMware virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution, the group was able to purchase cost-effective thin clients instead of more traditional PCs. “When we ran a full business evaluation of capital costs against projected savings, the benefits were clear—making significant savings for our business,” says Wraith.

Protecting Resources with Public Cloud

The ICT group subsequently turned to the public cloud to improve its disaster recovery strategy. The disaster-recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) solution provided through VMware vCloud® Air™ enables robust, offsite data protection, predictable budgeting, and the ability to prevent over-provisioning, which can eat into a tight budget.

At the same time, the DRaaS solution helped control management burdens and costs. “We wanted a solution which could be operated using the same tools and skills that our IT team was used to,” says Wraith. “VMware vCloud Air offered this.”

Improving Performance by Virtualizing Storage

When it came time to refresh storage, New College Durham also took the virtualization route. The VMware vSAN™ software-defined solution improved storage performance and functionality for the ICT group as well as the college’s students, while avoiding the costs of replacing the physical storage area network (SAN). “In our evaluation, it looked as though we would be saving in the region of £100,000 to £120,000 by implementing vSAN and not having to refresh our physical storage,” says Wraith.

Going forward, the ICT group plans to take the next step in virtualization. According to Wraith, “We anticipate the journey continuing with network virtualization and hopefully, sometime in the future, moving into the cloud.”

Watch the video below to learn more about how New College Durham is delivering the best IT without compromise.

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