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To remain competitive and agile, universities across the world are building digital campuses. Also known as e-campuses, these cloud-based, online platforms improve the quality and accessibility of educational resources, expanding the geographic scope of universities and increasing the number of services they can offer.
But e-campuses have also created new challenges for organizations, namely how they can handle large volumes of digital activity in a cost-effective manner. Universities with tens of thousands of students or more generate a nearly unmatched amount of communication and information.
In 2012, the University of Lübeck in Germany tried to build a digital campus for 24,000 students and 53,000 staff members. The public university, which also has a teaching hospital, specializes in medicine, science, technology and natural sciences.
But the initiative placed increasing demands on its technology infrastructure. Lübeck had a choice – either expand the infrastructure or migrate it to a new platform. Hoping to improve education quality, management efficiency, and access to scientific research resources, it chose the latter.
“Due to increasing demands for capacity and availability, the university decided to migrate the existing storage infrastructure to a new technology platform,” said Fan Ruiqi, president of the Huawei Storage Product Line. “In addition to the technical framework, easy integration with VMware Server virtualization software played a particularly important role.”
Lübeck’s digital campus would include an eLibrary, forum, online storage and file sharing. More than other universities, Lübeck needed a high-performance density system – meaning high IOPS, or input/output per second.
Serving The Needs Of A Vibrant Institution
The digital campus’s existing storage loads created some serious challenges. The new solution needed storage with high enough performance to meet the requirements of more than 150 VMware servers. It had to have a long uptime to serve the needs of an institution that not only conducted scientific research, but also treated medical patients. It also needed to be easily scalable – meaning it had to be easy to increase the size to suit future needs and applications.
Finally, migration needed to be smooth, as disruptions would affect more than 150 campus services and applications – harming students, researchers, faculty and patients. This meant seamless VMware integration. If new storage devices weren’t fully compatible with the existing, outdated ones, storage performance, reliability and scalability would all be compromised.
The university reviewed several proposals before narrowing the field to two finalists. Lübeck initially had concerns about both. E-campuses looking to expand must ensure that the solutions they’re weighing will perform as advertised, and are affordable and scalable.
“The university was not 100 percent convinced by the paper content at the very beginning,” Ruiqi said. “As a matter of fact, the customer required a proof of concept from our storage, [and then] strict performance and availability – under VMware and Hyper-V – virtualization platform testing.”
Lübeck chose OceanStor Converged Storage, swayed by cost-effective performance and efficiency features that met the university’s needs. The system delivered a 25TB capacity and integrated with the existing VMware, alleviating pressure on the legacy storage devices. Employing RAID 2.0+ block-level virtualization technology, OceanStor OS accelerates data recovery by 20 times. The Hyper series data protection software suite underpins local high-availability, active-active, and 3DC DR solutions, delivering 99.9999% reliability. All these advantages help customers ensure unbroken continuity of business-critical applications.
Fiber channel connections delivered high-performance storage, and the system was designed with a tiering feature to help maximize both performance and cost-efficiency.
“We were able to meet all of our requirements on the storage solution with the OceanStor Converged Storage,” said Helge Illig, Lübeck’s IT Service Center Director. “We are optimally positioned with regard to future growth of the storage system.”
Five Times As Fast
The system has delivered stable, reliable 24/7 service operation since its deployment, and it currently operates 150 VMware servers. Lübeck’s new system operates five times faster than its predecessor. For teachers and students, this has meant more campus applications and services delivered faster and more reliably — and accessible any time.
For other universities facing issues of limited storage and outdated digital infrastructure, Lübeck’s example offers valuable lessons.
The first is simply that the benefits of using new architectures outweigh the risks. Had Lübeck elected to simply expand its existing architecture, it would have been unable to increase performance, speed and services to the degree it did. Lübeck didn’t have to update all its storage devices and software at once. In fact adding the OceanStor technology alleviated pressure on the existing devices.
One of the university’s strongest initial concerns was a smooth transition and integration with existing infrastructures. This is a concern for other institutions, but Lübeck’s example should alleviate those fears and show that a seamless transition is possible. In fact, companies like Huawei are dedicated to assisting this transition.
“After sensing the new trends of cloud computing, big data, mobility and socialization, Huawei developed the ultimate goal of lowering total cost of ownership (TCO) and increasing business scalability for customers,” Ruiqi said. “As IT architecture evolution steps further into a new development phase, Huawei [will not only] fully exploit its advantages, but also help customers transform their IT architectures to meet future challenges.”
Ruiqi notes that the OceanStor OS will become a standard Huawei platform for future storage product series, meaning that it will continue to help current university clients keep up to date with the latest technology trends.
IT architecture is evolving in new ways that will help customers address future needs and challenges. Adopting future-oriented strategies now can increase scalability, cost-efficiency, reliability and performance both immediately and in the long run. Universities hoping to remain competitive must acknowledge and respond to these facts.