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New College Durham selects VMware’s VSan over hyperconverged appliances

New College Durham decides to update its expensive SAN with VMware’s Virtual San, as hyperconverged infrastructure was deemed too expensive and ill-fitting for the college

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New College Durham recently updated its SAN, replacing it with VMware’s Virtual SAN (VSAN) technology.

The college began its virtualisation journey in 2010, swapping physical desktop PCs with zero clients running on top of a VDI infrastructure.

George Wraith, head of ICT at New College Durham, said the college was looking to replace its existing Dell/Equalogic storage network. “Whenever we do a replacement we always evaluate the state of play,” he said.

The Equalogic SAN, which is due to be replaced in eight months, would have cost the college £150,000 to replace.

“When VSAN was available, the potential not to replace our physical SANs – one for production and the disaster recovery SAN – were factored into our evaluation,” said Wraith.

He also assessed hyperconverged infrastructure, but found Nutanix too costly and felt Simplivity was not quite ready for the college.

“Hyperconverged infrastructure is a compelling end product. But when we did the evaluation, some of the products did not fit with our internal skill set,” he said.

Three staff were already certified on VMware. “Nutanix almost ruled itself out because it was very expensive, while we felt Simplivity was not mature enough in that it did not deliver in the robust fashion we required. So, the more we looked at it, the more it became a no-brainer to use VMware.”

The college used VMware specialist Phoenix to deploy VSAN. The implementation was completed in the summer of 2016, in time for September’s big hit on the systems – namely the enrolment of new students and start of the academic year.

“While there has been a couple of outstanding niggles, these are not affecting the performance or implementation,” said Wraith. “But, given the newness of the VSAN technology, we have to accept that.”

Over time, Wraith expects the college will purchase further VMware products to flesh out its virtualisation strategy. He admitted NSX was too costly at the moment, but this was certainly on the IT roadmap. Beyond this, he said the college would then look at using the public cloud.

“The timing is not right as we have just refreshed our hardware, so we won’t be going into the cloud yet as we effectively have all the IT we currently need,” he said.

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