Teachers association cuts hardware costs with virtualisation technology

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) is using virtualisation to cut its hardware costs, recover quickly from systems failures and maintain business continuity.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) is using virtualisation to cut its hardware costs, recover quickly from systems failures and maintain business continuity.

In the next six months, the ATL will move all of its applications over to a VMWare virtual environment, which it implemented last July. This will enable the association to halve its server count and get a single view of all its computing resources using the Vmotion tool.

Virtualisation allows an organisation to pool its computing resources across a smaller number of physical machines.

This summer, the ATL’s IT team will bring a Blackberry server under VMWare to support 25 Blackberry mobile devices.

The association faced a challenge when adopting VMWare’s technology, as the association only had a small IT team with limited resources, said Ann Raimondo, head of IT at the ATL.

“From a team perspective, you have to have talent in lots of different areas, such as security, networking, applications and development, and also a good solid infrastructure background – because it is pretty much all hands on deck when things go pear shaped,” she said.

When ATL adopted the system, some of its software and integration suppliers refused to support applications that were being moved to a virtualised environment, as the technology was considered immature.

“There were some initial concerns; most of our suppliers had not gone through any quality assurance with [VMWare]. We took a few risks,” said Raimondo.

She added that a self-taught in-house network specialist migrated the first four applications in a month. He has since become trained and accredited.

One major benefit of virtualisation for ATL has been the management flexibility. “Vmotion allows you to move virtual servers around, and this was fairly new territory to us. We were able to move a whole Exchange server and people carried on working, and our network guy was able to do the physical fixing without any downtime,” Raimondo said.

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