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"Not only did Huawei implement the project in an efficient and cost-effective manner, but our overall costs have been greatly reduced since we can now manage the entire solution from a single interface and less space is being used in the data center. There has also been a reduction in the hardware we use, there is greater protection of data due to our ability to centrally store files, and we have seen an improvement of our overall ICT system reliability."
— Courtney Walker, Director of Information Communication Technology
Walter Sisulu University for Technology and Science (WSU), founded in 2005, is the newest university of science and technology in South Africa, as well as the fastest growing university in the country. More than 24,000 students and teachers are spread across one primary campus and four subsidiary campuses, which provide vocational, undergraduate, and graduate programs.
To improve the educational experience for students and improve the efficiency of educational delivery, many educational institutions are beginning to build on the concept of a digital campus. A digital campus uses computer science and communications technology to improve the quality of teaching, research, and management.
WSU has been involved with IT-enabled education since its establishment and has developed a number of IT-enabled systems, such as a teaching management system, a digital library, a Video on Demand (VoD) system, and an email system, which have greatly improved efficiency and assisted teaching and research.
IT-enabled services have become popular with many different groups within WSU and new IT applications are constantly being developed. Along with this increase in IT applications is an increase in data. Because most of these new applications are independently planned and deployed, the IT storage systems have not been optimized.
"We must change the situation, because this not only generates high capacity expansion and maintenance costs, but also leaves key data not well protected," said Courtney Walker, Director of Information Communication Technology.
The primary problem related to storage lay in "data silos" across the campuses. Because WSU had one primary and four subsidiary campuses, IT systems had been deployed at each campus independently and each system had its own independent storage devices. The result is that storage space could not be shared between storage devices, reducing the overall space usage rate (less than 50%), causing severe data silo problems.
The data silo problem had other side effects. The large number of device models made scalability and maintenance difficult and expensive and, compared with a centralized storage system, the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) was increased by over 20%. In addition, each IT application had its own requirements for storage system performance (such as bandwidth and input/output operations per second). The distributed deployment of storage devices led to inefficient use of the entire storage system. For example, there some devices could have been overloaded while others were idle.
Because information technology has penetrated every aspect of WSU's daily work, students and teachers rely heavily on the IT system and data has become increasingly important to the proper running of the university. WSU was concerned that the university lacked a unified backup policy for teaching and research data. Deploying independent backup systems would have a low return on investment, which could not be justified. To address all of these issues, it was decided to build a cost-effective backup center.
Courtney Walker said, "We needed a single, long-term solution to address our current and future needs. This meant allowing students and staff access to their files from any location. With our previous system, we were experiencing slow deployment times for new applications and in the procurement of new hardware."
To meet the various challenges being faced, WSU launched open bidding for a storage system reconstruction project. Huawei joined the bidding with Eclipse Networks, an IT management support provider.
After in-depth requirements analysis and solution design, Huawei proposed the OceanStor N8000 clustered Network Attached Storage (NAS) solution, which features centralized storage, Disaster Recovery (DR), and backup. This solution would meet the requirements of the digital campus project. Thanks to its simple networking, unified maintenance, and flexible capacity expansion, this solution was favored by SWU's IT department.
Based on Huawei's technical solution, SWU deployed an OceanStor N8000 clustered NAS storage system for each campus to centralize storage of campus data. To meet the varied requirements for storage performance by different applications, SWU adopted a layered storage technology using the Huawei N8000 to deploy different types of hard disks for different application systems. Using the layered storage technology, the system can allocate high-performance Fiber Channel (FC) disks to the database and cost-effective Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) disks to the Network File Server (NFS). In this way, Service Level Agreement (SLA) requirements of various applications are met and the expected goals of "device centralization, service consistency, and cost reduction" are reached.
An additional N8000 clustered NAS was deployed on the primary campus to provide multipoint-to-point cost-effective DR and backup functions for key campus data. The Huawei N8000 supports NAS, IP-SAN, and FC-SAN storage protocols, which meets the requirements of VMware and Oracle for quick read-and-write performance to implement data redundancy. In addition, key data from all five campuses can be remotely copied to the N8000 in the DR center using Symantec NetBackup (NBU) software to enable centralized data backup.
In terms of future scalability, the Huawei N8000's scale-out storage architecture supports a maximum of 15 PB storage capacity and flexible expansion from TB-level to PB-level.
According to Courtney Walker, "The Huawei OceanStor N8000 is an excellent product with high performance and rich functions. Huawei's solution completely meets the requirements of building a digital campus for Walter Sisulu University for Technology and Science. In addition, we are very impressed by Huawei's quick and responsive after-sale support."
In the second half of 2010, the storage system reconstruction project was delivered and the new storage system was officially put into use. In the three years since deployment, the OceanStor N8000 clustered NAS at Walter Sisulu University has operated smoothly. In early 2013, the first capacity expansion was implemented to meet business growth requirements. Currently, the Huawei N8000 plays an active role in WSU's digital campus with its high performance and reliability.
Reviewing the overall project and the performance of the Huawei N8000 in actual operation, Huawei's OceanStor N8000 clustered NAS solution not only meets the storage challenges faced by WSU, but also accommodates WSU's business growth requirements. The tailored storage solution has delivered the following benefits to WSU:
Courtney Walker summarized, "The benefits of the new Huawei solution were immediately apparent. Not only did Huawei implement the project in an efficient and cost-effective manner, but our overall costs have been greatly reduced since we can now manage the entire solution from a single interface and less space is being used in the data center. There has also been a reduction in the hardware we use, there is greater protection of data due to our ability to centrally store files, and we have seen an improvement of our overall ICT system reliability."