University's data centre takes a virtual focus

Curtin University turned to virtualization last year to achieve a three-to-one server consolidation, but the technology has quickly become key to the university's strategic direction and it is now looking at an eight-to-one server consolidation ratio.

Kim Wisniewski, systems engineer at Curtin University of Technology, said the engineering department was the main driver of the move to virtualization as part of an overall IT refresh, but he is now starting to roll the technology out to other business divisions within the campus.

"We started out just by virtualizing our core servers, but now we are offering it to various teaching and learning divisions. Virtualization fitted in perfectly with our overall strategic direction," he said. The project deployed VMware.

"There was a big drive for disaster recovery, for instance, not just at an IT operational level, but also at a business continuity level. Now, if a data centre goes down we are able to address that quickly so things like student enrolments, financial systems and HR systems can all be assured continuity."

The university has more than 39,000 students, around 3000 staff, 6000 desktops, 10,000 network points and some 400 servers. Virtual machines currently take up 2TB of the data centre, but that will grow, according to Wisniewski.

"Our data centre is 50 percent full, but that is not really an issue because we are finding that it is very easy to expand capacity with the scalable storage that virtualization warrants," he said.

Wisniewski is excited about the opportunity that VMware's recently launched Virtual Infrastructre 3 (VI3) platform will bring.

"Through using VI3 we are seeing that the operating system is becoming less important as there is an increased emphasis on the service that is being delivered," he said.

"Internally we are looking to use virtual mechanisms for corporate business applications so we are keeping an eye on the all the desktop virtualization applications and initiatives."

The comprehensive audit trail, enhanced disaster recovery options and 64-bit computing power that are added to V13 are all welcome additions for Wisniewski.

"We feel the new platform is overall more agile and truly ready for the enterprise," he said.

The university plans to make VMware VI3 the primary platform for disaster recovery and predicts the infrastructure will account for 90 percent of services delivered through the data centre by 2011.

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