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Posted: 10/24/2013
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The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) University Reduces Costs with Streamlined Cross-Platform Virtual Machine Management

The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) depended on 30 VMware servers to support its 550 virtual machines, which ran Linux and Windows operating systems. UTSA is migrating its virtualization servers from VMware to the Windows Server 2012 R2 operating system with Hyper-V and is adopting Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 components. The university expects to reduce costs and improve management efficiency with the new solution.

Business Needs
The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement, and public service. This public research university strives for academic excellence in all areas and uses technology to support its scholastic efforts.

Until recently, the IT department at UTSA relied heavily on VMware ESX technology for virtualization in its data center. It had approximately 550 virtual machines (VMs), which ran a mix of Linux and Windows Server operating systems. The VMs handled more than 100 different applications and services—from websites to line-of-business applications—and were hosted on approximately 30 VMware servers. Because it used so many different technologies, the UTSA IT staff had to be well-versed in several operating system environments and had to use multiple tools for comprehensive management and monitoring.

However, the university also had a Microsoft Campus Agreement that included the Windows Server operating system with Hyper-V, which could provide similar support for VMs. “As a public institution, it is critical that we make smart use of taxpayer dollars,” says David Vargas, Enterprise System Administrator at UTSA. “We realized that, if we could migrate our VMs to Hyper-V, we could phase out VMware and stop paying extra for those VMware licenses.” In addition, UTSA wanted to migrate from the UNIX-based Solaris operating system to Linux, also virtualized using Hyper-V.

Solution
The University of Texas at San Antonio decided to explore prerelease versions of Windows Server 2012 R2 and Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 to determine whether it could eliminate VMware from its environment without affecting service for its faculty, staff, and student users. “We had limited experience working with Hyper-V, and we recognized that it would be a big shift to move away from VMware,” says Vargas. “But migrating seemed like a clear way to reduce our IT spending.”

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* If we can continue to provide excellent service … at a lower cost, we are doing our part to help UTSA.... We believe we can accomplish that by migrating to Windows Server 2012 R2 with Hyper-V. *

David Vargas
Enterprise System Administrator, University of Texas at San Antonio

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The IT department decided to set up a pilot solution using Windows Server 2012 R2 with Linux guests to test the performance and manageability of Hyper-V and learn how the networking aspects of the solution worked. “We completed an initial installation of Linux VMs on Hyper-V and have had no problems thus far,” says Robert Byrod, System Administrator at UTSA.

As of October 2013, UTSA is in the process of determining storage options and configuring automatic VM deployments with the help of a Microsoft Services consultant. The university selected its kiosk systems, which students can use to work around campus, as the first workload to migrate because those systems require only a small number of VMs; it will migrate its virtual hosted Citrix web service applications next. Ultimately, UTSA plans to migrate all 550 VMs from the VMware platform to Hyper-V within 18 months to satisfy its drive for reduced costs. It will be assisted along the way by Catapult Systems, a Microsoft partner, which will help with troubleshooting and assessing the new solution’s performance.

As part of the technology transition, UTSA also is using several Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 components to help manage and monitor its virtual environment. For example, the university is autoprovisioning its VMs using System Center Virtual Machine Manager, which is new to the IT department. “I had a lot to learn initially because much of the terminology is new to me, but it quickly became familiar,” says Byrod. “One of the first advantages of Virtual Machine Manager that I noticed is that I can see and easily modify Windows PowerShell scripts. It is helpful to be able to repurpose these scripts for other uses.”

The university also uses Virtual Machine Manager in conjunction with the Operations Manager component so that it can more effectively monitor comprehensive system health. UTSA is supporting its virtual desktop infrastructure using the Configuration Manager component of System Center 2012 and Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V), which makes it possible to centrally manage applications as services.

Benefits
The University of Texas at San Antonio looks forward to the simplified virtualized environment and streamlined IT management that it will achieve as it migrates to Windows Server 2012 R2 with Hyper-V and makes even greater use of System Center 2012 R2 components. “The ability to manage all of our systems from a common interface will be a great time saver and will help us quickly and effectively respond to any issues as they arise,” says Vargas. The benefits of the migration will include:
  • Annual cost savings. UTSA anticipates that it will significantly reduce the costs associated with its virtualized environment by migrating to Hyper-V from VMware. “The university’s academic goals ultimately motivate our actions,” says Vargas. “If we can continue to provide excellent service to our university community but do so at a lower cost, we are doing our part to help UTSA meet those goals. We believe we can accomplish that by migrating to Windows Server 2012 R2 with Hyper-V.”

  • Increased IT staff efficiency. Because the UTSA IT staff will use so many interconnected components of System Center 2012 R2, the staff should be able to enhance its monitoring and other management capabilities. “We look forward to using Operations Manager and having a single window through which we can monitor every aspect of our virtual environment,” says Steven Stewart, Enterprise System Engineer at UTSA. “We have never had that sort of easy, coordinated visibility in the world of system management.”

  • Better integration. UTSA also anticipates reaping significant benefits from an infrastructure made up of more tightly integrated technologies. “By migrating to Windows Server 2012 R2 with Hyper-V, we will be using products that play nicely with each other, which will make everything easier on us as an IT staff,” says Stewart.

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Solution Overview



Organization Size: 5500 employees

Organization Profile

The University of Texas at San Antonio is an emerging Tier One research university that serves nearly 29,000 students annually through more than 140 degree programs.


Hardware
  • Intel Xeon Processor E5-2650 with 96 GB RAM


Software and Services
  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Microsoft Hyper-V
  • Microsoft System Center 2012 R2
  • Microsoft Consulting Services
  • Datacenter

Vertical Industries
Higher Education

Country/Region
United States

Business Need
Cloud & Server Platform

Languages
English

Partner(s)
Catapult Systems Microsoft Services

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