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Posted: 2/17/2012
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Carmel College College Virtualises Servers and Saves Thousands of Pounds to Reinvest in IT

Carmel College wanted to reduce IT overheads through virtualisation. After finding VMware expensive and difficult to integrate, it decided to virtualise its servers with Hyper-V technology—part of the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system—to reduce power, cooling, licensing, and maintenance costs. The solution saves the college an estimated £40,000 a year in staffing and operational costs, and power and cooling overheads have been cut by 50 per cent.

Business Needs
In the 25 years since it was founded, Carmel College has gained widespread recognition for the quality of its education and the academic excellence achieved by its sixth-form students. The college—located in St. Helens in north-west England—is a British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta) Technology Exemplar Network provider. This means that in addition to providing an outstanding learning environment, it shares practical know-how and best practice IT advice with other institutions in the United Kingdom.

The leadership role is something that Carmel College takes seriously. Kevin Burke, IT Services Manager, Carmel College, says: “We operate on a tight budget and I look for technologies that deliver flexibility and scalability. In addition, interoperability and integration are important because they mean we can build on our existing infrastructure and extend the value of previous IT spend.”

As part of the college’s 2011 IT development strategy, Burke wanted to cut running costs, increase uptime across the network, and reduce the time his four-person team spent managing routine IT.

Burke says: “All sectors are facing a tough time financially, but educational institutions find it a challenge to allocate budgets for extensive infrastructure work. I wanted to virtualise our servers to improve performance and lower administrative, licensing, power, and cooling costs.”

Carmel College deployed a solution based on Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V virtualisation technology, Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 and Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager 2010. This solution won funding from Becta due to the clear strategy for achieving savings through IT simplification, while improving the college’s network performance.

“We virtualised 10 existing physical servers and migrated our VMware servers onto the Hyper-V virtualisation platform,” says Burke. The college’s third-party management information system, which holds all student records, is now on a virtualised server, along with the human resources records management solution. In 2012, Carmel College is moving its finance application into the new environment, virtualising all business-critical servers.

“We’ve got a great team of engineers who are much more familiar with Microsoft solutions than VMware tools, so learning about the environment and deploying it was relatively straightforward,” says Burke. To reduce routine maintenance, Burke’s team customised backup tasks with System Center Data Protection Manager 2010 to run automatically in line with the college’s requirements. “Our maintenance set up is exceptionally simple, yet effective,” says Burke.

As part of the Microsoft Campus Licensing Agreement, Carmel College is entitled to low-cost licensing for servers. As long as the college renews its agreement every year, servers are licensed with each new release, without the need to purchase further servers. “We use six physical hosts for our Hyper-V stack and purchase 12 data centre licences each year,” says Burke.

Carmel College has cut administrative and licensing costs significantly, while improving the team’s ability to manage the network. With savings made through Hyper-V virtualisation, the college is planning to cut costs further by virtualising its desktops.

Interoperable environment reduces costs by around £40,000 a year. With 80 per cent of the college’s servers now virtualised, the Hyper-V environment has reduced operational overheads at Carmel College. “With the Microsoft platform, we can integrate systems so all applications work smoothly. We’ve reduced operational and staffing costs, equivalent to around £40,000 a year, because of the benefits of the Hyper-V environment,” says Burke.

New servers are deployed within 30 minutes. Burke says: “With Hyper-V templates, we can deploy additional server resources for testing and production in less than 30 minutes.” The college increased student numbers by 10 per cent in 2011, and the scalable environment means it can accommodate growth and new user volumes easily.

Power and cooling costs are cut by 50 per cent. Carmel College has reduced its server estate by 50 per cent, reducing power and cooling costs. “We’re investing savings made through Hyper-V virtualisation into a virtual desktop infrastructure project. When fully deployed, the project will reduce IT costs even further,” says Burke.

Backup is expertly managed. Maintenance is carried out during normal business hours without disruption to end users. Microsoft System Center tools help Burke’s team manage the network, preventing downtime. He says: “We configured the network to provide extra storage capacity where we need it. We’re now in a position where we can recover data from almost any timeframe in the event of a failure.”

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Solution Overview

Organization Size: 200 employees

Organization Profile
Carmel College was established in 1987 and currently has around 2,000 students and 200 staff. The college is rated “outstanding” by Ofsted, and is recognised as one of the United Kingdom’s top sixth-form colleges.

Software and Services
  • Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Microsoft Hyper-V
  • Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager 2010
  • Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2

Vertical Industries

United Kingdom

Business Need
Cost Containment

IT Issue