Since 1866, the American University of Beirut (AUB) has been providing excellence in education and advancing knowledge through research in more than 120 undergraduate and graduate programs. AUB believes deeply in freedom of thought and expression by fostering tolerance and respect for diversity and dialogue. To accommodate its growing demand for IT services and to cut costs, AUB deployed three Microsoft solutions to meet its needs successfully.
Responsible for servicing several thousand employees, students, alumni, a main office in New York as well as a medical center, the IT department at the American University of Beirut (AUB) recognized it had a growing problem on its hands.
The IT department experienced continuous requests for additional IT services. Although most of the support cases could be adequately addressed, Samih Ajrouch, who works as an Associate Director for IT Customer Success, realized that it was only a matter of time before the IT department was overwhelmed by these requests and be unable to meet the IT needs of the university.
“Although AUB has an IT infrastructure in place with two resilient data centers, we were concerned that our technology couldn’t keep up with the increasingly demanding business environment.”
The need to be able to provide specific services to their users was, likewise, proving to be a challenge at times.
“For example, if our faculty or students needed a server in order to test or develop certain applications, they would have to wait for at least two months before we could have one available from a supplier. This was simply not good enough.”
The lack of standardization was also a headache for the IT department.
“We were managing a fragmented information infrastructure, as each business unit maintained separate technologies and services, which was not ideal. This meant that we had to spend more time maintaining our IT infrastructure.”
Power consumption expenses were also a very big issue.
“Our power consumption is very high since we have a lot of equipment that needs power on campus. Furthermore, we need to ensure that critical equipment have a continuous power supply (especially those being used by our medical center). On top of that, power consumption is very expensive in Lebanon,” he adds.
In order to tackle all these issues, it became apparent to the university’s leadership that a comprehensive IT strategy was called for.
The IT strategy therefore, needed to address several key issues: standardization of the IT information infrastructure, increase agility, cut costs, reduce power consumption, as well as maintain and optimize the IT department’s high level of service to the university.
In response to this, AUB’s vice president and CIO envisioned a green policy that should be implemented at the university. This meant moving away from the traditional data centers and move towards virtualization in supporting the IT needs of the university in order to save costs and reduce power consumption.
Moving to the cloud also had the added benefit of being able to consolidate and standardize the university’s separate technologies and services. Additionally, the IT department would be in a better position to provide services much more quickly than ever before. We decided to build our private cloud to host a wide variety of educational and healthcare applications.
The IT department looked at several possible solutions in the market. After a careful analysis, the university selected three Microsoft products: Hyper-V Server, System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) and Data Protection Manager (DPM).
“We wanted to be sure that we would have the best possible outcome. In order to achieve this, we realized that a single product was not enough. What we needed to do was to take advantage of several Microsoft solutions,” says Samih.
“By using Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2, we would be able to place our infrastructure in the cloud and thereby cut our maintenance and infrastructure costs. Microsoft Data Protection Manager 2010 (DPM) provides us with a unified data protection system and allows us to back up our Windows servers such as SQL Exchange, Hyper-V, SharePoint as well as our Windows desktops and laptops. Finally, System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 (SCVMM) enables us to centrally manage our physical and virtual IT infrastructure, increase server utilization, and dynamically optimize resources across multiple virtualization platforms,” he adds.
“We’re running Data Protection Manager since 2007; we are being able to back up the most critical enterprise solutions, including but not limited to Exchange, SharePoint, SQL, Hyper-V cluster and File servers. We had several incidents where we were able to react quickly, reaching a high level of users’ satisfaction,” says Maher Kassab, Senior Systems Administrator.
“Moving to a single, integrated, virtualization and management solution is the right strategy. With Hyper-V, we can now deliver a robust infrastructure for our services with consistent availability,” he adds.
The implementation has proven to be a resounding success for the university.
“Building our private cloud, on Microsoft’s technology, enabled us to increase our productivity, improve our level of service, lower our operating expenses, decrease our capital investments, and reduce cycle times as new systems need to be provisioned,” says Joseph Hage, Associate Chief Information Officer.
Prior to the implementation, a significant portion of the budget was allocated towards paying for costs, but not anymore.
“By building a private cloud, we saved at least 50 percent in terms of hardware, software, and power consumption costs. As a result, we achieved all our goals and to satisfy the requirements of all business owners,” says Samih.
Faster Response Time and Zero Maintenance
Virtualization has allowed the IT department to respond much more quickly to the needs of its users.
“For example, before we moved into the cloud, it would take us at least two months before we could get a server from a vendor and have it ready. Now, we can do it almost immediately. We also don't have to maintain our servers anymore. Not only has this saved us a lot of money, but has given us more time to focus in servicing our users.”
Positive User Response
“We have had extremely good feedback from our users regarding improvements we have undertaken in their behalf. They have noticed an increased improvement in terms of efficiency and response time by the IT department. Additionally, business operations at the university have not been affected by this implementation.”
Efficient and Quick Microsoft Support
One of the reasons why AUB chose Microsoft solutions had to do with Microsoft's comprehensive ecosystem.
“Two years ago, we were making a comparison of possible solutions concerning making the student's and the alumni's email account accessible in the cloud. One of Microsoft's strong points was that they had a representative in Lebanon that we could contact directly. Furthermore, the representative responded very quickly to all our queries - usually within the same business day. The other solutions that we looked at didn't have a representative in Lebanon, and it took sometime before we got an answer. Obviously, we chose Microsoft because of the company's quick response time concerning support issues.”
Because of this implementation, the American University of Beirut has shown that it is possible to successfully execute a green IT policy without sacrificing the quality of service while at the same time, cut costs using Microsoft solutions.