De Montfort University has chosen Novell Open Enterprise Server 2 as the foundation for its IT infrastructure for students and staff. The Novell system, built on the SuSE Linux Enterprise Server SP1 operating system, is designed to reduce storage costs, and using Novell's Xen virtualisation technology, improve resilience and flexibility.
The university is one of the largest in the UK, with more than 20,000 students and 3,000 staff across two campuses in Leicester. It offers 400 undergraduate and postgraduate courses.
Because the IT infrastructure at De Montfort had been managed by individual departments, a number of different systems had developed independently of each other, with poor integration. A lack of centralisation for data and services and fragmentation of the infrastructure made it hard for students and staff to work and share information effectively.
Novell's network management software, together with the Linux operating system, created a single point of access to applications and information for all staff and students.
Following the successful implementation of Novell Open Enterprise Server, Novell eDirectory and Novell Identity Manager a few years ago, the university had a stable platform that permitted all users to access all relevant resources from any computer. As the next step, the university wanted to improve the flexibility, efficiency and scalability of the infrastructure - with tiered data storage - and to begin to exploit server virtualisation technologies.
Last year, De Montfort finished implementing a three-node Linux cluster with Novell Cluster Services on Novell Open Enterprise Server 2 on Intel-based servers. The cluster will provide file and print services to a growing number of students and academics as the university migrates from NetWare. The university worked with IT services firm NDS8 to implement the new system.
"The main driver for upgrading to the new version of Novell Open Enterprise Server was to push the adoption of Linux at the core of our infrastructure," said Chris Semmens, IT team leader at De Montfort University. "The usual cost argument for Linux is relatively unimportant from our point of view it's much more about scalability, security, robustness, high performance and the ability to run on practically any hardware."
The university is improving storage capacity and performance by automating the movement of inactive data from high-performance disks to lower-cost disks based on preset policies. After a set period, the Novell system archives inactive data from the fibre-channel disks on the university's Hitachi SAN to the SATA disks on a newly implemented IBM System Storage DS3300 storage array with iSCSI connections.
"Dynamic Storage Technology in Novell Open Enterprise Server has given us a transparent second tier of storage, enabling us to reduce the cost of storing inactive data in a way that is transparent to the users," said Semmens. "We then only need to back up the data from the lower-cost devices on a monthly basis, as it is largely static."
Stored data could be from any of the university's activities. Admin staff use the system for administrative work, students use it to develop coursework and lecturers to develop course materials. In terms of the actual data, this includes word processing documents, financial spreadsheets and presentation documents.
De Montfort is now testing Xen virtualisation on SuSE Linux Enterprise, to create a Novell iPrint system to improved printing speed and resilience. "Virtualisation will allow us to abstract services from the hardware on which they run, enabling non-disruptive infrastructure upgrades and improved disaster recovery options," said Semmens. "The Novell solution has improved the resilience of core services and enabled us to adopt Linux at the centre of our infrastructure."
Using open source Xen virtualisation technology integrated in SuSE Linux Enterprise, De Montfort was also able to upgrade its infrastructure with minimal or even zero impact on users, Semmens said. He added that virtualisation enabled faster recovery in the event of a disaster, as well as allowing more efficient use of hardware, power and floor space.
Novell said virtualisation of the Linux operating system lowers hardware, maintenance and electrical costs. It also helps use excess storage capacity and improve response times by balancing computing loads across server system resources at peak times. Meanwhile, applications could be moved between hardware systems without altering them, according to the software firm.
So the Linux, Novell and virtualisation technologies would have knock-on environmental benefits for the university, Semmens said. "The university is committed to reducing its carbon footprint, and virtualisation will have an important role to play. With Xen, we will reduce the total number of servers we run, and technologies such as Novell ZENworks Orchestrator will enable us to move services and power down servers when demand falls, helping to reduce power consumption."
This was first published in June 2008