This article was first published in the Autumn 2014 issue of Touch
Asia Pacific University of Technology and Innovation (APU), part of the Asia Pacific Institute of Information Technology (APIIT) Education Group, has a student community of more than 10,000 students from more than 105 countries studying at its Malaysian campus. To meet the increasing technology demands of lecturers, administration staff and students, the university could no longer rely on time-consuming manual processes and needed to transform its IT setup.
As a leading university focused on developing the nation’s technology skills, APU has experienced an ongoing annual rise in student enrolment. To cope with expanding requirements for data storage and increasing reliance on online access to a range of learning resources, APU looked to best practices in technology to support the varied teaching and research initiatives within the university. “Our student numbers continue to grow and relying on our aging physical infrastructure placed pressure on our data centre space, increased manual administration tasks and resulted in higher cooling requirements, which violated our green energy policy,” explains Rasodin Ramuddin, technology infrastructure and systems manager at APU.
The university worked together with Dell to virtualise the data centre to fulfil several core functions: enhance teaching and learning activities for staff and students; reduce administrative tasks; improve decision-making of senior management through providing timely access to data and information; and reduce the risk of disruptions to educational services through implementing a comprehensive business continuity plan. With five educational institutions operating within the APIIT Education Group, implementing a solution that would deliver private cloud computing resources to all end users was a key priority. “We wanted to build and maintain the core IT infrastructure so that we could support the entire organisation from a centralised resource,” says Rasodin.
With students using technology to access everything from course work to textbooks and class schedules, APU wanted a proven solution that could be deployed quickly.
After careful selection, the university chose to deploy a pre-assembled virtualised infrastructure from Dell, which provides all the servers, storage, networking, management tools and services required for a successful virtualisation deployment. As a result, staff requirements for server administration have been reduced by 50%, and three physical Dell PowerEdge R-series servers now support up to 100 virtual machines hosting the entire application infrastructure for the university.
APU can centrally manage the environment across all campuses and easily meet pre-defined service level agreements (SLAs) set with all users.
“We have the flexibility to respond to the needs of our users within minutes and keep to our SLAs,” says Rasodin. “Deploying a new server now takes five minutes compared to two days previously, which means we can be highly responsive to new learning and research initiatives.”
APU has also increased its IT productivity by reducing time spent on manual tasks and, as a result, has refocused its efforts to long-term solutions to improve education delivery. Data is automatically replicated to a Dell EqualLogic storage array at the university’s disaster recovery site, which is located off campus.
Previously, unscheduled downtime meant delays to student assignment submissions and unnecessary administration. Rasodin says: “In addition to technology disruptions having a big impact on the university when students can’t meet deadlines, our reputation is at risk because we are a technology institution. With our new Dell virtualised infrastructure, we have a business continuity plan where data loss is almost eliminated, and we can bring up the secondary data centre within an hour.”
To ensure continued access to the university’s virtual learning environment and email system, APU is protected with Dell ProSupport with Mission Critical 4-Hour Onsite Response service. “We have had great support from the very beginning with Dell’s consultation on the appropriate solution for our business requirements, and they continue to provide immediate support when we have an urgent need. This means we can focus our attention on our students and providing them with a world class education,” Rasodin concludes.
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