2 page Case Study - Posted 2/27/2013
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King Saud University

University Remains Regional Technology Pioneer by Upgrading Messaging Solution

King Saud University (KSU) was established in 1957 as the first institute of higher education in Saudi Arabia. KSU strives to be a leader in technology research and development, so it is always interested in being an early adopter of the latest technology solutions. Most recently, it deployed Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 to provide the latest capabilities for business-critical communications. KSU has the first large Exchange 2013 deployment in the Middle East and Africa.

Business Needs
King Saud University (KSU) is a world-class university with a mission to provide students with a quality education, to conduct valuable research, and to contribute to Saudi Arabia’s “knowledge society.” It’s fulfilling this mission through learning, creativity, the use of current and developing technologies, and effective international partnerships. Administration, faculty, and staff at the university rely on email for business-critical communications and to track important tasks and alerts.

KSU had previously deployed Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 as its messaging solution. The university has 30,000 mailboxes in its messaging environment and handles more than 500,000 email messages daily. It provides mailbox quotas of 2 gigabytes (GB) for most employees and 5 GB and 10 GB quotas for smaller groups.

Research and development are a crucial part of the culture at the university. In addition, KSU is considered a pioneer of technology services by other schools in the region, so it decided to join the Microsoft Technology Adoption Program for Microsoft Exchange Server 2013. “By working with the Microsoft Exchange Server product group, we had a chance to provide feedback and help influence the technology in ways that would be beneficial for us and for other area universities and government offices,” explains Dr. Jalal Muhtadi, Vice-Dean for E-Transactions and Communications at King Saud University. “It gave us a chance to preview the solution in our own environment and understand how we can take our messaging services to the next level.”

KSU implemented Exchange Server 2013 at its main data center. It deployed six mailbox servers, and four Client Access Servers, in addition to its three Exchange Server 2010 edge servers. It is using database availability groups to maintain two copies of its Exchange databases. For storage, KSU is using an EMC VMX storage area network (SAN) with two tiers containing 7.2K SATA drives and 15K SAS drives.

* With Exchange Server 2013, we can reduce the cost for storage expansion by 50 percent, or $133,000. *

Dr. Esam Alwagait
Dean for E-Transactions and Communications, King Saud University

KSU was able to complete the migration of its 30,000 mailboxes to Exchange Server 2013 with zero downtime. It took advantage of the Windows PowerShell command-line interface to automate the mailbox moves. “Microsoft has done an amazing job to make migration easy,” says Muhtadi.

The university’s two messaging administrators are happy with the Exchange Administration Center, which provides a single, web-based unified management console that is easy to use. KSU also uses the Windows PowerShell command-line interface to perform many administration tasks. “We can do anything we imagine with PowerShell,” says Hany Donia, Microsoft Messaging Architect at King Saud University. “It is very flexible.” They are also taking advantage of Role-Based Access Control to delegate tasks to the service desk.

Data security is a concern for KSU, due to Saudi Arabia’s Anti-Cyber Crime Law. The university is using the Data Loss Prevention feature to help monitor, identify, and protect sensitive data through deep content analysis. Administrators can control sensitive business data with built-in Data Loss Prevention policies based on regulatory standards.

For employees, KSU is excited about Microsoft Outlook Web App, which enables access to email through most popular browsers. Outlook Web App also provides a look and feel that is similar to the Microsoft Outlook messaging and collaboration client on the desktop. Outlook Web App also provides offline access for employees who travel, so they can be productive at locations without a network connection.

Going forward, KSU will deploy Exchange Unified Messaging to replace its Cisco Unity voice-mail solution, so employees can receive and manage both voice-mail and email messages through Outlook. The university has also deployed Microsoft Lync Server 2013 for instant messaging (IM), presence, and conferencing capabilities. Lync interoperates with Exchange Server 2013 so that employees can start an IM session or view presence in Outlook.

Through its Exchange Server 2013 deployment, KSU expects that the latest technologies can help improve the Microsoft messaging environment that it has relied on for years in the following ways:
  • Ease administration. Through the Exchange Administration Center, administrators can use any browser to manage services and troubleshoot issues. Since the interface is web-based, KSU no longer has to apply service packs to the administration interface on each service desk computer. “The Exchange Administration Center is informative and easy to use, and our service desk team is very happy with it,” says Donia. In addition to the capabilities of the Exchange Administration Center and PowerShell, consolidation of server roles helped to reduce administration by about 10 percent.

  • Provide data security. “The Data Loss Prevention feature helps us protect the messaging environment from any accidental leakage of sensitive information,” explains Donia. Administrators can also use PolicyTips in Outlook 2013 to let employees know if any potential leakage or security policy violation exists in outgoing messages, which further protects data.

  • Consolidate architecture to help reduce costs. By consolidating roles in its Exchange Server 2013 deployment, KSU reduced the number of servers required to run the solution by 33 percent. “By using fewer servers for our Exchange Server 2013 deployment, we saved approximately [US]$88,000,” says Muhtadi.

  • Improve performance and reduce storage costs. KSU plans to increase mailbox sizes for employees. Because Exchange Server 2013 delivers a 50 percent IOPS (I/O operations per second) reduction when compared with Exchange Server 2010, KSU can use lower-cost SATA disks for storage. “With Exchange Server 2013, we can reduce the cost for storage expansion by 50 percent, or $133,000,” says Dr. Esam Alwagait, Dean for E-Transactions and Communications at King Saud University.

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Solution Overview

Organization Size: 22000 employees

Organization Profile

King Saud University (KSU) serves nearly 65,000 students in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. KSU has 22,000 faculty and staff.

Software and Services
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2013
  • Microsoft Lync Server 2013
  • Microsoft Outlook 2013

Vertical Industries
Higher Education

Saudi Arabia

Business Need
  • Business Productivity
  • Team Collaboration
  • Unified Communications
  • Data Protection and Recovery

IT Issue
Personal Productivity