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Driving a High-Tech Curriculum with HPE SimpliVity

 
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Driving a High-Tech Curriculum with HPE SimpliVity

APRIL 12, 2018

Technology can disrupt everything and if you don’t adapt fast enough, it can be hard to find the right job and build a career. But an education grounded in technology prepares today's students for tomorrow's workforce. We value technology at Luther College and make it a priority to give our students and teachers the best start possible.

Luther College offers co-educational secondary schooling (Year 7–12) in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. Upon completing their studies, our students find pathways right for them. As a Christian school Luther College values service, community, excellence, and integrity. Our education policy is dynamic and innovative, we’re agile and consistently seek to integrate new technology into our curriculum.

Our students explore topics like artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and augmented reality. We’re committed to  STEM with science, technology, engineering, and math key to our approach. 

Traditional approaches to learning are stifling education. Embrace technology in the classroom.

We are undertaking exciting projects and giving our students amazing opportunities. Last year, our students sent their experiments to the International Space Station. They wrote code, put it into a box called a CubeSat, and launched it into orbit. It went up as part of a supply run on one of Elon Musk’s rockets. Astronauts in the Japanese module ran the experiments and then beamed the results back to Earth for students to analyze. These are incredible opportunities and something we are very proud of. 

The Role of IT

As Luther’s Director of IT, together with my team, we support 1,200 students, close to 200 staff, and 1,500 laptops. Every student in Years 7–12 uses a laptop.

Maintaining these machines—and the infrastructure that supports them—is a 24/7 job. My team isn’t just responsible from 9-to-5. Our increased reliance on IT infrastructure means it can’t fail. Our network is one of the cornerstones of our educational experience. It has to be rock solid and resilient. We can’t afford the downtime.

Taking into account our commitment to technology particularly with the introduction of virtual reality and artificial intelligence, we can no longer say, "The system isn't working today. Come back tomorrow." We use technology in the classroom every day. Our networks have to work.

An added difficulty to any IT role is that technology is changing at an accelerated pace. Things like shadow IT are becoming bigger concerns and while we have to defend our network against external attacks, we also have to secure it against unauthorized use from within. This means limiting access permissions for internal users. We are taking a 360-degree approach to security to protect our internal and external resources.

At Luther, we don’t have the luxury of unlimited resources and cannot hire a half-dozen network engineers. With limited staff and the need to keep up with the latest technology advances, we turned to HPE SimpliVity and hyperconvergence to transform our operations.

Off to a Quick Start

We adopted HPE SimpliVity for several reasons. One was that, nearing the end of a four-year hardware replacement cycle, we realised emerging hyperconvergence technology could save us some rack space. We also wanted something we could manage and support in-house.

We looked at various solutions, and HPE SimpliVity was the clear winner. Another consideration was our approach to technology. Luther is all about pushing the envelope and adopting new technologies. HPE SimpliVity helps our students break the barriers of traditional education. It has been a stellar addition to our infrastructure.

HPE SimpliVity engineers and our local partners helped set up the platform. But after everything was installed, we found we could manage the solution ourselves. Because it's based on vSphere and vCenter, my engineers were up and running within a half hour. That was all the training they needed.

Support and Rise to the Challenge

Now that we have HPE SimpliVity, we’re more confident than ever that we can execute on delivering services.

But we’re not only able to execute because of our new hyperconverged infrastructure, it’s also because of a portfolio of remarkable products, like Aruba. Our new setup provides us with far greater throughput than we’ve ever had before. It's a 10 GbE back-to-back network across all the nodes.

Our new infrastructure also helps with our applications. Being an educational institution, we have a wealth of applications we need to support. We use Schoolbox as our Learning Management Sytstem (LMS), the entire Microsoft suite, and workflow products, among others. Thanks to our new hyperconvergence setup, we’re seeing incredible performance for our end users.

We have countless people bringing in new requirements, which is why we need to be flexible. We must view these new challenges as a chance to help students learn better. I want to embrace every vertically integrated, agile educational opportunity that is presented to us. But the only way we can welcome these demands is because we know we can rely on HPE SimpliVity.

Recovering from a Major Outage with HPE SimpliVity

Before we adopted HPE SimpliVity, our approach to IT was what you would call traditional. We used several different products to manage our infrastructure. This was especially true of our backup strategy, which was not efficient as it could have been.

We weren’t agile and it’s possible that an equipment malfunction could have severely impacted our entire IT infrastructure. We needed hours or days to recover. Things are different with HPE SimpliVity. Earlier this year, we had to restore a server when our data center went down. With building works on at the College, our data center was not protected and due to heavy rain some of our gear was exposed to the elements.

The flood wiped out an HPE SimpliVity node, as well as some HPE and Aruba gear, including one of the switches. We’d only recently moved to HPE SimpliVity, and had never tested the built-in resiliency and restore features. This was the first time we had to create a complete redundant solution from a backup. We hoped everything would be okay.

Sure enough, it was smooth sailing. Our website and our intranet stayed up. They continued to function for most of our users, even though the data center went down. Two or three hundred of our 1,500 users may have encountered a problem, but only because they were connected to the damaged switch. We brought the system back online in a matter of seconds. We right-clicked and restored half a terabyte of data. Everyone was back and able to access their system in minutes. Not only was this incredible for us in the IT department, but it proved to everyone the value of HPE SimpliVity.

HPE SimpliVity Reduces Costs

One of the biggest benefits to hyperconvergence has been the space we save in our data center. An HPE SimpliVity replaces a rack of equipment—it uses far less room and energy. HPE SimpliVity’s real-time data compression and deduplication also save us significant storage space. We can fit everything that is happening in the school into 540 terabytes, and the resources to support our workloads run on three compact HPE SimpliVity systems that consume a fraction of a rack in our data center. As a result of HPE SimpliVity inline deduplication and compression, we’re looking at a 40 to 1 data efficiency rating, 30 to 1 deduplication, and 1.3 to 1 compression ratio. These savings add up.

We’ve been in a situation where we’ve had to upgrade storage before. It wasn’t a planned cost. Our growth exceeded our initial estimates, and we had to find significant funds to add capacity. Since it wasn’t in our original budget, we had to divert funds from other projects. With HPE SimpliVity’s dashboards, we can see how much storage we have, and how much is available. We can also monitor our growth trajectory and better plan future upgrades.

Reduced equipment, energy, and storage costs are a few of the ways HPE SimpliVity helps us to do more with less. We were also paying significant licence costs for backup software and equipment support services. Now, we manage all this ourselves with HPE SimpliVity.

There are also more benefits to right-clicking and restoring a server from a backup at a specific time. It's nice to restore half a terabyte of data in four seconds. It's even nicer we don’t have to double and triple check the server to make sure we got it right. Manually restoring servers meant dragging, dropping, and expanding archives by hand. Every extra step increased the chance of human error. One-click restores require less work and remove this risk.

One-click restores require less work and remove risk.

Here's another example of HPE SimpliVity in action: Recently, one of our servers experienced an issue. It reset the passwords of 2,000 parents who log into our system to monitor their children’s progress. We had no idea what caused the malfunction and it would have taken too long to troubleshoot the problem manually. My team could have handled it, but we would have received 600–700 phone calls by the time we’d resolved the issue. With HPE SimpliVity, we went back and restored the entire server to a previous working state. We saved hours of effort and frustration for everyone involved.

All this adds up. I haven’t put a dollar figure to the money we’ve saved, but I can tell you that HPE SimpliVity helps us do a lot more with the money we have.

Preparing Kids for the Future

We are in the midst of a revolution in education. Technologies like AR, VR, and artificial intelligence are transforming the way we teach. This year, Luther's students are learning how to create VR and AR content. Ten years from now, they may be doing all their learning on VR headsets.

Don’t think about saving money. Think about doing more with the money you have.

Right now, we need rock solid infrastructure to allow our students to explore science and technology and we can’t let our network go down when students are working on data- and processor-intensive projects.

With HPE SimpliVity, we can add capacity in seconds. We can fire up a virtual desktop from an image in minutes. Adding storage is a snap. If a server goes down, we can restore it right away with a single click.

All this may sound very technical, but it boils down to one thing: helping our students learn and grow. In the end, that’s what we’re all here for.

Chris Topp

CTO at Luther College

A Christian coeducational secondary school committed to a culture of care and passionate about learning.

 

 

 

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