When Alton College’s server infrastructure was reaching the end of its life earlier this year, it did a lot of research into virtualising its IT environment. Its equipment needed updating and the IT team at the College had heard a lot about server virtualisation and thought it was perhaps time to consider it. It consulted with other colleges that had already embarked upon virtualisation and started to plan a five year strategy.
The College now has a clear vision to virtualise as much of its estate as possible, from servers to desktops and is even looking at cloud-based solutions to make applications accessible to users on- and off-campus.
Alton College’s Technical Manager, Andy Searle comments, “We did a lot of research into the type of environment weanted, however our budget for renewal was extremely tight. We have previously used Dell infrastructure and client devices but our research suggested HP would give us a solution with a lower total cost of ownership. DTP came to us with a new view which was refreshing to see.”DTP won a competitive tender against a number of other resellers, to design and deploy a solution which included HP’s award winning, industry leading P4000 iSCSI storage solutions, ProLiant X86 Generation 7 server platform, HP and VMWare’s vSphere 4 virtualisation platform.
The virtualisation solution is already benefiting the IT team by giving them flexibility to test in a ring-fenced environment. Andy comments, “When we want to test and maintain equipment within ten minutes we can have it up and running, which we could never do before.” The benefit of virtualisation extends to back-up and recovery too. Andy continues, “We had an issue with a recent server failure on a physical server which wasn’t part of the virtualisation project, it highlighted to us the benefit of having the virtualised environment. We lost a small amount of email history, which wouldn’t have happened if this server had been part of the virtualised environment, however we were able to deploy our disaster recovery plan because of the new infrastructure around the server.”
The solution is comprehensive for the College’s requirements right now but the team was sure to design and deploy a very scalable solution for the future. Andy comments, “The budget we had for the project was small, less than a suite of Apple iMacs for example. However the HP solution had scalability which we liked. This wasn’t a project that could be put off due to the equipment which had reached the end of its life so we had to do it, and we had to do it for the budget we had available.”
The College has projected savings amounting to over £16,000 per year on energy savings, through reduced air conditioning usage and reduced power consumption of client devices, and whilst not part of the project the central management allowed by the virtualisation infrastructure does enable the team to automate power-off which takes place each evening. These savings go a long way to enhancing the College’s green credentials.
Alton College had originally been introduced to DTP by HP for their previous server virtualisation experience in the education sector however in the end it was DTP’s professional and comprehensive tender response which won it the project. Andy says, “It was reassuring to see the detail in the response and the clear effort that had been put into the tender, and their subsequent work backed up the strong tender submission.”
DTP is a highly accredited HP server, storage and networking partner and works with customers across public sector organisations and UK businesses. Its professional and systematic approach to the design and deployment of this project is what really impressed Alton College. Andy says, “The tools the team have at their disposal is enough to deal with any situation that arises. We needed a specifically vendor accredited support engineer on site and they arrived within 30 minutes! Our experience of other similar resellers has been that the Company portrays professionalism but they may not follow through with knowledgeable staff; this was not the case with DTP. We were asked early on in the project how much we wanted to input and we were then given as much support as we wanted. Simple milestone meetings which kept everyone informed were refreshing to see, and it was clear to see the DTP team were PRINCE2 qualified, we could see it in action.”
The College has grand plans for the future and is already considering pushing a large proportion
Andy comments, “As we continue to evolve the IT infrastructure of our College we will continue to work with partners like DTP, partners that will look at our infrastructure with fresh eyes to ensure best practice rather than just doing the job that is asked of them. I would recommend DTP in a heartbeat.” The College has grand plans for the future and is already considering pushing a large proportion of its services to the cloud as part of its five year plan and whilst it may not yet be ready for such a move it is making great strides. It is currently trialling a deployment of sixty netbooks to students, for them to trial cloud based applications.