According to analysts, one of the drivers for IT changes in Australian universities services is the need to continue to drive down cost of delivering IT services. That’s not only for planned changes (eg new systems and services), but also for existing projects, where there is an opportunity to cut the cost of existing service delivery.

One way to reduce the cost of your IT infrastructure is to replace technologies with lower cost options. It means you can make savings in your infrastructure, without users being impacted negatively.

Let me share a surprising case study that illustrates what’s possible:

Virtualising Linux servers on Microsoft systems

In summary, Florida Atlantic University changed the platform their Linux-based Blackboard LMS ran on, and saved $600,000.

imageThe scenario may sound familiar to you – the Florida Atlantic University was in the third round of externally imposed budget cuts, creating continuing pressure to reduce the costs of service delivery. One of their costs was in servers to run their Blackboard Learning Management System, which was running on a Linux platform. So they looked at how they could virtualise their servers, to reduce hardware costs and data centre space requirements, and improve their student experience.

The stages of their Blackboard virtualisation journey

The case study goes into detail of their journey, but in a nutshell, their stages were:

  1. Virtualise their servers in a pilot project using VMWare
    Gaining experience with virtualisation, but discovering that full-scale roll out may be prohibitively expensive
  2. Upgrade to Blackboard 9, moving from Oracle/Sun servers to HP/Dell servers running Linux
    Gaining flexibility and scalability, and more virtualisation flexibility, through Intel-based servers
  3. Implement Windows Server 2008 to virtualise their Exchange, SharePoint and other servers
    Reducing their hardware and service costs, whilst improving server management, and giving them a more cost-effective virtualisation solution
  4. Move their Blackboard system, still running on Linux, to Microsoft’s Hyper-V on the virtualised Windows servers
    Reducing the cost, improving manageability, and improving their user experience

Savings through virtualisation

The savings they have identified so far include:

  • Saving $500,000 on new server hardware, through virtualisation
  • Saving $100,000 maintenance costs by retiring existing Sun servers
  • No need to increase headcount, whilst rolling out new services

And, in addition to saving money, the university have also improved the performance of their IT systems. As Mehran Basiratmand, the Director of Enterprise Computing Services and Chief Technical Officer, at the university says:

  Blackboard is running faster on Intel processor–based servers and Hyper-V than it did on Sun hardware and VMware. This has provided better response for our user community. Hyper-V is better in cost and performance than VMware ESX when managing non-Windows workloads. Our Linux virtual machines run better and scale better on Hyper-V. Plus, we can easily add additional virtual machines if needed. That’s the beauty of virtualization. If we hit a peak time, we can add horsepower in minutes; we didn’t have that before. It’s given us a new definition of capacity on demand.  

The case study is very detailed, documenting each stage of the journey, so if you have similar scenarios in your campus, it is worth reading the full version from our global case studies website.

Learn MoreRead the full Florida Atlantic University case study