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London college completes data centre build to boost IT regeneration project

Tue 12 Aug 2014

North West London College has announced the completion of a new data centre as part of its drive to transform its IT infrastructure, and hopes to lease out the spare data storage space to local schools and businesses.

“We are very keen to be a part of the regeneration in our area. We want to support local businesses and schools. Plus it is good for our students to get engagement with employers,” said Garod Barker, the college’s IT director.

Located on the Willesden campus, the data centre is fitted with the latest version of Dell Compellent’s storage area networks (SANs) and has been under construction for the past year. The build involved advanced installation of the latest storage components, software migration capabilities, SAN instalment, a new CRM, and proposed desktop virtualisation technology.

The college claims that the installed SANs have already helped to cut costs, with a range of associated projects including an e-tracker (a course tracking platform) for students, a Microsoft Sharepoint framework, as well as a Microsoft Dynamix CRM.
“We have yet to buy a server,” Barker told ComputerworldUK.

The college now runs approximately 300 of its 600 applications through the VMware ThinApp, which packages applications on a virtual server and streams them from the SAN to the desktops.

“Before, as we have about 10 in our team, each member had to go around an average of 400 PCs every summer and deploy software manually on every desktop. Now we just deploy it from the office and assign it to individual PCs. It normally took eight weeks to do but it’s done in four now,” said Barker.

The next step in the college’s technology development is implementing Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) so that the IT admin team can stream the desktop directly from an SAN.

However, despite all this progress, Barker revealed that the college is not yet ready to adopt a complete cloud solution:

“A lot of colleges have taken the option to go completely cloud. But in the last three months, our JANET connection went down and two colleges had to close. We’ve chosen a hybrid cloud using the Dell Compellent to keep some resources going just in case. I know it’s cost effective and convenient to have everything in the cloud – but I have seen too many bad scenarios. If we lose an external connection we can still function internally.”

“Until I’m more convinced that the cloud scenario is more stable I’ll carry on with the hybrid way of doing things,” he argued.

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