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University of Birmingham improves IT resilience with virtualisation

Monthly outages are now a thing of the past

The University of Birmingham has built resilience into its legacy IT systems by moving to a mainly virtualised infrastructure.

The university worked with systems integrator Prolinx and HP to transform its systems. It started by virtualising its financial system in 2007, which has been extended to include all corporate systems, so that the university now has 400 virtual machines and is 70 percent virtualised using VMware solutions.

Technologies used by the university include HP StorageWorks 6000 EVA and HP StorageWorks 8100 EVA disk arrays, and the HP BladeSystem p-Class and two HP c-Class blade enclosures.

"We suffered from system outages regularly and did not have resilience in the infrastructure," said Chris Grant, systems, storage and virtualisation manager at the University of Birmingham.

He explained: "We use ServiceNow to monitor the service desk. Previously, if a group of more than 100 users were affected [by an IT problem it was classed as a major incident. These major incidents averaged once a month.

"Now, there has only been one major incident in the last three years."

In addition to bolstering the resilience of the IT infrastructure, virtualisation has allowed the university to reduce its physical footprint in its two onsite data centres. Reducing the number of racks has saved on space, power and carbon emissions, Grant said.

He added: "Previously it took a lot of man hours to fix the racks. We now have automation [there]."

Grant said that moving to virtualisation was a steep learning curve for him and the 150 staff in the university's IT service department, which meant that staff training was "prevalent" to enable them to overcome the hurdle.

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