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Small College Reaps Big Benefits From Cloud Computing

Having consolidated and virtualized its servers using VMware's vCloud initiative, a small college is learning how much it can get done.
It was "the only classroom lab big enough for both activities" but Temaat had to figure out a way to coordinate the dissimilar computing environments, without requiring the small IT staff to reconfigure the machines for two different sets of users each day.

With the school's new virtualized environment, Temaat was able to fire up virtual machines running Vista and Office 2007 in the data center, and then provision the 25 PCs in the lab with Vista and Office 2007 desktop.

When university staff members were finished training on their VMs for the day, they were shut down, leaving the original Windows XP and Office 2003 systems intact on each PC for the next wave of users.

It wouldn't have been possible to get double duty out of a single computer lab before, Temaat noted.

The VM cluster came in handy as well when the school's CFO decided to go from many individual printers around campus to a handful of departmental, multipurpose printers, to better track usage and get a handle on printing costs. With just days to go before school started, Temaat got the new virtualized print servers and departmental printers installed.

"We gave the ability to support file sharing, [and] pull in more RAM to a particular print server, if it needs it" in the virtualized environment, Temaat explained.

"The biggest change I see is the high availability on nearly everything. With VMware, we can move our resources around in background. The end user sees a lot less disruption, maybe 10 to 15 seconds instead of 10 to 15 minutes," he said.

"That means a lot less stress to us. With few server outages, there are fewer instances where we get 50 calls that the server is down and we have to explain it's not [an] emergency," he said.

Equally important is the more effective backup and disaster recovery made possible by coordinating the internal cloud with BlueLock's external one. Mirror images of the college's running systems can be stored at BlueLock's data center and activated in the event of a failure.

"The ability to encapsulate the internal cloud and move it to the macro cloud off-site -- we didn't have the ability to execute off-site replication before," said Temaat.

He's counting up savings in power and space and a seven-member IT staff's time among the gains. But perhaps best of all, when a department asks for a Microsoft SharePoint server for staff collaboration, he doesn't have to go through a two-week purchase order process and another two weeks of configuration and testing before fulfilling the request.

"Now we can bring up a SharePoint server (as a virtual machine) tomorrow. We can let the department mess with it and do what it wants. When they find out what they want, we can tear down the initial version and built it right," he said.

"We can do a lot more things than ever before," he added.