QES – Server Virtualisation

Queen Elizabeth’s School is an Academy School based in Barnet that provides a first class education to 1,200 exceptional young boys. The Queen Elizabeth’s School mission is to produce boys who are confident, able, and responsible. In a modern world, technology is crucial to a child’s education. Schools are becoming more reliant on IT systems for their continued operation, and for a school to truly excel it needs to be underpinned by reliable and flexible IT infrastructure.

The Problem

The School has traditionally made use of traditional servers for their operation. Due to the cost of hardware multiple services were co-located on as few servers as possible. This made servers slow, and the business impact when hardware would fail or maintenance had to be performed was significant. Queen Elizabeth’s School faced a number of problems which affected service delivery, flexibility, and management costs.

Notably the School had a number of key obstacles to overcome:

  • Ageing hardware needed replacing.
  • Co-locating many services on a small number of servers was beginning to impact performance and reliability
  • Reliance on IT systems has dramatically increased over the years, to the point where the School could not function without it.
  • The School was running out of storage capacity.
  • More servers were required frequently as infrastructure needs increased.

These obstacles hindered the School’s progress and they had to be overcome in order for the School to grow.

The Solution

Queen Elizabeth’s School approached Next Dimension to assist with designing and implementing a flexible and scalable platform on which the School’s future systems could be built and further expanded. To provide the flexibility and scalability that the School required while keeping costs down Next Dimension implemented virtual infrastructure based on VMware vSphere technology and running on HP c-Class Blade infrastructure. A vSphere cluster consisting of 4 ESX hosts was created on 4 blade servers and connected to a high speed HP MSA 2000 storage area network. Curriculum and Admin networks were configured in VMware to establish a clear separation between students and the school’s administrative staff and data. The existing Windows physical servers were then converted to virtual servers, and Veeam Backup and Replication was implemented to back up all virtual machine data to a disk unit in a nearby building.

The Benefits

The new solution helped Queen Elizabeth’s School realise the benefits of virtual infrastructure and shared storage technologies. Servers that were a single point of failure could now operate on any of 4 physical hosts and snapshot technology meant that software updates could be performed with the greatest of ease without worrying about failures. The implemented solution also greatly improved the school’s ability to provision new servers in a fraction of the time (and cost) than what was previously possible. The relatively inexpensive cost of adding additional virtual servers allowed Next Dimension to move critical services (such as SQL and Exchange) onto dedicated virtual servers. This allows maintenance and software updates to be carried out without affecting unrelated services.

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