UWS invests $5.5m in large e-learning IT project

The University of Western Sydney has signed a $5.5 million contract over the next four years with Sun Microsystems and Hitachi Data Systems for its largest IT project to date.

The university is consolidating more than 15 servers across three computer rooms into two new data centres with a tailored architecture, to meet its existing and emerging e-learning needs.

Partly funded by the Greater Western Sydney Learning Network (GWSLN), a UWS initiative funded by the Federal Government and aimed at establishing a comprehensive learning network across the region, UWS will act as the hub of the network, with TAFE colleges and other participating learning institutions.

Mick Houlahan, director of IT services at UWS said the system will provide students at the university with more flexible options.

"Already, many of the university's courses are delivered electronically. IT enables overseas students to access the learning material as though they were attending the university in person," he said.

Houlahan said to implement the system, UWS required a solution that had the reliability and scalability to support up to 39,000 students and 3000 staff, including e-mail, data and ongoing applications.

Previously, the server infrastructure at UWS comprised multiple small- to medium-sized servers from different vendors across multiple campus locations.

When the university underwent a major restructure in January 2001, the disparate systems could not cope with the increased load and the decision was made to move all applications across to a Sun system.

The data centres will operate using two Sun Enterprise 10000 servers, each with 40 CPUs. The university has also purchased two Sun StorEdge 9960 systems and a StorEdge L700 Tape Library.

Paul Hardaker, manager, IT infrastructure at the university, said the consolidation into two servers from multiple servers each with little or no built-in redundancy means there is no longer a single point of failure.

As part of the deal, UWS has signed a four-year, $1.5 million maintenance contract with Sun to ensure the smooth implementation and operation of the system, with university staff undergoing training programs with Sun Educational Services.

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