“We only have a small IT team, so an important part of our strategy is to work with trusted partners, bringing in resources and expertise that enable us to achieve more than would otherwise be possible. If our systems don’t run, the business can’t operate,” says Laura Gibbs, IT Director, Royal Holloway.
“Engaging with ICM means we’ve been able to do things more quickly and with greater certainty. Crucially, there’s a significant skills and knowledge transfer, which means we have a truly sustainable model. We’re left with a full understanding and capability of the technology.”
Virtualisation delivers benefits
“The only thing not on the virtual platform is end user data - people’s documents,” says Huw Michael, Technical Architect at Royal Holloway. “Virtually everything to do with IT and the business lives on our virtual platform and SAN – finance data, student data, operational data – and we’re continuing to consolidate.”
Gibbs expects to continue making savings and efficiency gains: “These days, you need a very good reason for something not to be virtualised. Our rubric is to always ask: can it be virtualised?”
Delivering technology – building in-house skills
Royal Holloway wanted to reduce the footprint in its data centre and it started looking at virtualisation.
“It was the classic situation,” Michael adds. “We were running out of space, power and cooling with all the servers in there. We wanted to do new things without having to build a new data centre at that time, or co-locate. We wanted someone to come in and work with us, to help build our architecture, something that would stand up, and help develop our competencies in-house.”
Royal Holloway carried out a scoping exercise, with ICM handling deployment of the new system. The next stage was backup and replication.
“Virtualisation, consolidating 250 physical servers down to 20, meant we avoided all the problems around space, power and cooling, and had the opportunity to replace our four or five backup solutions,” Michael says.
Backup and replication: ‘a huge game-changer’
Royal Holloway built a new data centre, engaging ICM to move all equipment from the old site, as well as support it. Today, Royal Holloway has two data centres, 1.5 miles apart, a development that led to its backup solution being extended.
“We didn’t want to manage physical tape any more. Now, we backup overnight and copy across to the other site, so overheads were reduced. In terms of failover, we can start running services from the other site in just 60-90 minutes. You may never need to push that button, but having that capability in place could make all the difference. It’s an insurance policy,” Michael says.
Moving forward with confidence
“We have vastly increased resilience,” Gibbs adds. “Space, power and cooling are no longer issues. We can ensure systems uptime. And we’ve removed certain menial tasks. The capacity we’ve gained means we can concentrate on more ‘added value’ work: we can do so much more, and are more agile. And we certainly saw huge cost savings when we first moved to virtualisation at our former data centre. You can’t really place a value on having that resilience -the ability to avoid downtime.”
In terms of capital costs, Royal Holloway can now plan more effectively: “It’s clear what we need to do, and further investments required, rather than adding new servers or capacity in an ad hoc way. We’re more mature as an organisation and we’re much further along the curve in terms of our capability model,” she concludes.
Tags: Virtualization, BC/DR, Data Centres