Sydney Uni takes virtual course to central IT

Education and research institution takes the path to more agile service delivery

Sydney University CIO, Bruce Meikle

Sydney University CIO, Bruce Meikle

The University of Sydney has implemented a virtualised information infrastructure that has enabled the institution to simplify storage management, increase flexibility and storage utilisation and reduce overall costs.

Following a long IT career in the financial services sector, two and half years ago Bruce Meikle joined Australia’s first higher education and research institution, the University of Sydney, as CIO.

Like all enterprises with many distributed departments, one of Sydney University’s greatest challenges is centralising IT management in order to reduce infrastructure duplication and streamline operations.

The advent of virtualisation has been a significant facilitator in centralising services and enabling the university to deploy new infrastructure, particularly for research and collaboration.

Moving to virtual infrastructure

Although some elements of server virtualisation were happening before Meikle started at Sydney University, the organisation intends to “really ramp it up” over the next couple if years.

“One issue is dealing with the significant growth in operational and research data, which is going through the roof,” Meikle said. “The ability to provide storage and computing in a flexible and efficient way is critical for us.”

Meikle, who spent many years in the financial industry at the likes of AMP, Colonial, Westpac, and even had a year at Woolworths, said the university wants to move to a much more robust set of services as it helps manage the transition of services from the older, distributed IT model. The ultimate driver, however, is dealing with growth and providing more effective disaster recovery.

The university went through formal review and tender for servers and storage and established preferred suppliers in those categories. It settled on VMware as its server hypervisor and its hardware suppliers are IBM, HP and Dell for servers and IBM, HP and Sun for storage.

Most of the centrally managed storage is virtualised and of the 1083 servers, 762 (70 per cent) are virtual and 321 are physical. Of the virtual servers 474 are Windows Server and 142 are Red Hat Linux.

“Our approach is: with anything new, consider virtualisation as the first choice, but we will make pragmatic decisions,” Meikle said. “There are some situations where virtualisation is not ideal, like primary backend databases.”

All teir-1 storage at the university is now going onto storage area networks (SANs).

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