Case study: University meets regulatory challenges through storage project

Brunel University used its refresh cycle to help it meet its increasing freedom of information and data protection requirements by transforming its storage infrastructure.

Brunel University has transformed its storage infrastructure to help meet its increasing regulatory and data protection requirements.

The university, which has more than 14,000 students, has also become more environmentally friendly with the implementation of power-saving server virtualisation technology that will also save money.

The Uxbridge-based university was approaching the point when it needed to upgrade its IT storage and took the opportunity to address some of its key business challenges. These included meeting regulatory requirements such as adhering to freedom of information (FOI) requests and data protection laws; reducing information retrieval times; as well as being more energy efficient.

Beginning in late 2008, the institution implemented storage and archiving technology from HP, a server virtualisation platform from VMware, and more robust business continuity with a second datacentre.

Iain Liddell, policy development manager at the university, said the refresh was the perfect opportunity to update IT to meet Brunel's challenges.

The storage, archiving and retrieval infrastructure, based on HP’s Integrated Archiving Platform (IAP), has reduced the time taken to find information through searches from 24 hours to 10 seconds. This is important for the university to improve its own researchers’ work and will help cope with an increasing number of FOI requests. For this year alone the university has already had well over 100 such requests.

HP IAP is also aimed at ensuring Brunel doesn’t fall foul of data protection laws, through making storage more secure, and at the same time ensuring information about students and staff is easier to retrieve. 

“We are providing a cradle to the grave service for staff and students, with everything archived,” said Liddell. 

Data protection is critical given the large amounts of information stored by the business, including staff and student information, and by researchers about people who are subjects in research.

Before the project, which included building a second datacentre and the introduction of search and archiving technology, the university had to extract information from back-up tapes if data was lost.

The technology has been changed with savings in the long term expected. “We have made the investment but have saved money over what we would have had to spend had we not done the transformation,” said Liddell.

Server virtualisation will also help the university lower its carbon footprint. “Although our electricity bill has stayed the same we can increase capacity without using more electricity,” added Liddell. This is as a result of multiple virtual servers running on a hardware unit.

Brunel University worked with an HP partner, Prolinx, to implement the systems. This approach is typical for the university when it is working on projects where the IT is commoditised, said Liddell: “We get into bed with suppliers of specialist technology, but suppliers like HP, IBM and Cisco for example do not have the time to service every customer.”

The technology used included:

  • Servers - HP DL360, DL380, DL580 Proliant Servers
  • Network storage - HP Enterprise Virtual Array
  • Virtual infrastructure platform - VMware
  • Back-up solution - HP Integrated Archiving Platform

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