USC Upstate Speeds Growth and Academic Innovation

Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the University of South Carolina (USC) Upstate is one of the leading metropolitan universities in the Southeast. Founded in 1967, with just 177 students and originally occupying a space on the first floor of the Spartanburg General Hospital, the university has grown to boast a 330-acre campus in Spartanburg and an enrollment of 6,000 students from 36 states and 51 nations.

USC Upstate’s growth has been powered by an ambition to be recognized nationally among peer institutions for excellence in both education and operational effectiveness. But the school’s growth prompted some technological challenges.

“We were starting to see performance problems in the virtual desktop infrastructure environment,” says Kevin Hodges, VDI systems administrator for USC Upstate. Specifically, Hodges refers to an existing storage area network (SAN) that was slowing down and running out of space.

Watch the video to hear more from Kevin Hodges about the particular issues USC Upstate faced and how VMware helped the university meet those challenges. Then read on to learn about how migrating to VMware Virtual SAN, VMware’s enterprise-class shared storage solution for hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), yielded unexpected benefits.

That’s So Much Faster. What Did You Do?

Hodges knew that upgrading the university’s system to vSAN would increase storage and simplify complexity. But it was the promise of improved performance that really drove Hodges to choose VMware.

“When we went to Virtual SAN, it fixed all our performance problems immediately,” he says. “Having an integrated, solid state, hypervisor-controlled storage system makes all the difference in the world as far as performance. It makes a huge difference as far as speed.”

After USC Upstate migrated to vSAN, tasks that had once taken 45 minutes to an hour were suddenly reduced to 15 or 30 minutes. Hodges wasn’t the only one impressed. As he tells it, “Typically when we move people over to Virtual SAN, their first comment on the system is ‘Wow, that’s so much faster than it was before. What did you do?’”

Unexpected Benefits

In addition to reducing complexity, increasing capacity, and improving performance, the university was pleased to discover, vSAN provides additional, unanticipated benefits. “It allows us a lot of flexibility in growing our environment and deviating as the environment changes and as virtualization changes,” says Luke VanWingerden, director of ITS Client Services at USC Upstate.

Faster storage also reduced the need for capital expenditures to upgrade or add to the existing system. “It would have been very expensive,” says VanWingerden. “Immediately, we were seeing roughly a 50 percent savings over three years.”

The university successfully migrated 70 percent of its system to vSAN this past spring, and Hodges plans to complete the additional migration this summer. “Virtual SAN was just so simple and cost-effective. The performance was there, and it’s integrated into the VMware hypervisor,” he says. “It helps a lot that we have the integration with the company that owns everything that we’re doing.”