Northern Border University in Saudi Arabia has many departments, each of which develops new specific computing requirements regularly. Using Microsoft System Center, Windows Server 2012 with Hyper-V and a Window 2008 R2 Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
leveraging Remote Desktop Protocol, the University’s network management has created a highly agile, highly available capability to deliver new servers on demand within minutes, and to easily provision applications wherever and whenever they are needed.
||Departments often require servers to install new applications, so they request a new server from us. Now it takes us just five minutes to provide a server using Hyper-V. It usually took days to weeks to supply a new physical server
and configure it.
| Fawzi Shafal
Northern Border University
Founded in 2007, Northern Border University in Saudi Arabia consists of twelve colleges around the northern region and offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in various disciplines, including Chemical, Civil, Electrical, Industrial, Mechanical and Software
Engineering as well as Arabic Language and Islamic Studies. Most of the departments throughout the University have computer labs in which students can perform various types of research, development, and experimentation.
As these labs have developed, their requirements have become increasing diverse at an increasingly faster rate. The challenge to network management at the University was to create a highly flexible computing environment where new servers and applications
could be provisioned within minutes instead of days, and where the various departments would experience zero downtime. This environment would need to be easily scalable and extensible to accommodate whatever new need might develop, and also to accommodate
the continued growth of the student population.
Northern Border University also provides various forms of communication services to its faculty and student population, including email, IPTV (Internet Protocol Television), and computer fax service. With college campuses located throughout the northern
region of Saudi Arabia there was a perceived need to add network-based voice and video along with application sharing, presence, and instant messaging.
To accomplish their goal of having zero downtime, the University needed a continuity of operations and disaster recovery environment that would support truly high availability computing, coupled with a sophisticated alerting system that would instantly make
network management aware of any anomaly that might cause outages or even more catastrophic outcomes.
“The first virtualization technology at Northern Border University,” explains Network Administrator Fawzi Shafal, “was Microsoft, nothing before that.” After several years of using Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2, Shafal was tasked with improving the University’s
IT services to the various user communities at the 12 colleges located throughout the northern region of Saudi Arabia.
With heavy concentration on engineering disciplines, each of the departments had computer labs that were used for student research, projects, and other functions. The University also uses IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) to leverage their network as a
Since any outage in any lab would delay completion of critical work, the University asked that the new IT infrastructure be capable of quickly adapting to any need presented by any department, and that they achieve zero downtime through the use of high availability
and redundancy solutions. Shafal also wanted to provide rapid software deployment from a centralized resource, plus faster and more effective support response while reducing the number of support people he needed to keep on staff.
Since most of their users use Windows, and almost the entire University IT infrastructure is composed of Microsoft products, Shafal felt it was an easy decision to choose Microsoft Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012 for his upgrades. Add to that
the preferred pricing that Microsoft offers to educational institutions and Shafal felt confident that he was making the best decision to achieve the highest possible quality of services for his users at the lowest possible price.
Along with these implementations, Shafal has upgraded their Active Directory, implemented Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Network Access Protection (NAP), System Center Service Manager, and Microsoft Forefront. Additional support on these projects came from
Dr. Mohammed Abalkhail, the Dean of Information Technology and Ahmed Alenezi, the Head of Technical Affair who greatly contributed to the whole process assuring overall success.
Today, Northern Border University has a robust centralized IT service, support, and management solution that allows them to respond quickly to requests for new applications or new resources, control those resources wherever they are deployed, and respond
quickly to support requests without having to deploy human resources to the field.
“Departments often require servers to install new applications, so they request a new server from us. Now it takes us just five minutes to provide a server using Hyper-V. It usually took days to weeks to supply a new physical server and configure it,” explains
Security is provided using Microsoft Forefront which, according to Shafal, introduces no latency into the network.
Northern Border University maintains a complete disaster recovery center 280km from the main data center using Replica from within Hyper-V to make it easy to deploy and replicate the servers.
Impending implementation of a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure will enable Northern Border University to provide a consistent, controlled, completely reliable user desktop experience which helps them to keep each desktop at a specific status. Instead of taking
a unit out of service while it is being repaired, users will disconnect the existing unit and connect a new one without need to transfer any data or desktop images. NBU is already planning to upgrade the Windows 2008 R2 VDI Infrastructure to Windows Server
“We are now implementing Lync Server for network-wide communications,” explains Shafal, “and we’re integrating it with our existing Cisco Call Center implementation to provide a total communications solution.”
Working with the Microsoft services team to implement these various solutions provided Shafal’s team with a unique opportunity to gain knowledge transfer that has helped them improve the performance and their ongoing support to the Northern Border University