Most organisations are looking to save money but academic institutions are under particular pressure as they cope with the pressure of trying to do less with more. Universities have increasingly turned to virtualisation in a bid to cut costs and the savings can be dramatic.
Coventry University looked to adopt this approach, by taking on board Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter and has managed to save about £1 million through virtualisation. It was part of a long-term plan to improve technological facilities within Coventry. The university has invested significantly in developing its facilities, spending £160 million on improving research and learning facilities in a 10-year plan that included the opening of a new £55 million Engineering and Computing building in September 2012. Providing students with modern information and communications technology tools—such as streamlined, high-performing student computing labs and consistent access to a virtual learning environment—is a major focus of improvements.
Coventry University has saved about £1 million through virtualisation
Coventry University has saved about £1 million through virtualisation
Two years ago, the University started on its plan to improve university services. The team looked at Hyper-V, Citrix VirtualBox, and VMware, comparing each product and evaluating the best combination of price, performance, and tools. As part of its strategic plan, the university wanted to centralise IT to support efficient management.
The university chose to virtualise its infrastructure using Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter, which helps staff manage all IT services from one place.
"With Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter, we gained precisely the features we needed to achieve savings, standardisation, and greater control over the network," said Steve Rogers, Server Team Leader at Coventry University
The evaluation resulted in the university choosing to deploy a virtualised infrastructure based on Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter and Hyper-V. “There was no question that it was the best total infrastructure solution for Coventry University,” says Steve Booth, head of Computing Service at Coventry University. “Not only is the licensing cost-effective, but we can also use Microsoft System Center tools to manage the infrastructure efficiently from one location.”
The licensing structure for Hyper-V meant that Coventry University bought just one license for the host machine, but is entitled to run as many virtual machines as it needs. This is included as part of Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter and provided the team with dozens of tools to manage infrastructure, including those needed for live migration and clustering, from a graphical user interface.
"Although we were initially a bit skeptical about Hyper-V, we played around with it to get the best configuration for our needs. We started to think it was a good fit for us in terms of features and a more cost-effective solution for our environment than VMware," said Booth. Coventry University configured each host operating system with 32 gigabytes of random access memory and four processors, to ensure it met its stringent requirements for memory and performance.
As part of the plan, the university used Microsoft System Center 2012 - Operations Manager and Virtual Machine Manager to ensure that applications kept on working in the same way they did prior to moving to the cloud.
For example, Operations Manager detects failures automatically and re-configures server failover so that users don’t experience downtime. With Virtual Machine Manager, the IT team can manage and configure all machines onto the virtual network.
"Virtual Machine Manager manages more than 280 of our servers. That’s around 85 per cent of our server infrastructure,” said Booth. “Applications managed in the new environment include business-critical services such as human resources, Exchange Server, and payroll. Rather than having one of our team managing servers physically, we can do this from a central console.
The university also wanted to centralise IT to support efficient management. It’s now achieved this with a virtualised server infrastructure based on Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter. This has helped staff manage all IT services from one place. The team avoids downtime through automated, proactive monitoring in Microsoft System Center and its ability to configure thresholds to meet university network demands.
This has enabled the organisation to deliver new business services quickly. Booth said that the IT organisation was able to aligns IT delivery to business needs. “It takes us just one day to provision a standard server, compared to three months in our previous environment,” he said.
The move to virtualise infrastructure has mean that the university has managed to save £1 million in the first year of deployment. The virtualisation of the organisation’s infrastructure has made on-going savings through improved control and has reduced its requirement for IT staff, saving the university one full-time staff member’s salary a year. Power and cooling costs have also been cut because the university has reduced the number of physical servers it needs and has made a corresponding reduction in floor space requirements within the data centre.
Booth said that savings of £129,000 in licensing had been made, “plus we avoid costs for further investment and gain greater control with the Microsoft System Center tools in Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter,” he added.
The university has reduced power and cooling costs by around £28,000 each year. This has mean that it has also cut carbon emissions by 20 per cent. Rogers said that had the university not managed to achieve this goal it would have received a hefty fine. "Virtualisation and centralised management is helping us to avoid these costs too," said Rogers.
As well as savings in IT, the university also has reduced costs in research. As an applied research institution, Coventry University often needs to set up and support short-term projects quickly. The virtualised infrastructure will help avoid unnecessary costs by making it easier to take advantage of managed cloud services where it can provision servers, applications, and capacity fast.
"We can embrace the cloud business model in the future, either for our entire infrastructure or for specific department projects, such as those that need an on-demand computing service. Before, we had to buy physical servers—now, we can ‘rent’ virtual server instances from our central provision for a project’s duration," said Booth.
The university has reduced power and cooling costs by around £28,000 and cut carbon emissions by 20 percent
The university has reduced power and cooling costs by around £28,000 and cut carbon emissions by 20 percent
The university now plans to tackle the business continuity issue, replicating its data at another location with the tools in Windows Server 2012 Datacenter.
"It’s very straight forward to configure our data to be replicated at another site that we are in control of. We currently use a managed storage service with our data carried off-site every day but we’re now equipped to organise our own disaster recovery solution," said Rogers.
Originally posted on Cloud Pro by Rene Milman.
The Microsoft Accessibility team run a wide range of initiatives, including a global network of Accessibility centres, an online Accessbility tutorial programme for Windows, Office and Office 365, which includes Office 365 for education. They also publish a comprehensive range of general guides for specific types of impairments:
The precise details of the accessibility features available to you will depend on which components of Office 365 for education that you use, and which web browsers your users select, but I've summarised the accessibility for the key components and features below:
There's plenty of detailed information on the Microsoft Accessibility website but perhaps better still, a handy downloadable handout, "Accessibility in Microsoft Office 365" for education, to share with colleagues who are starting to use Office 365 for education.
Shape the Future is a global initiative, led by Microsoft, that aims to close the opportunity gap by giving learners 1:1 access to their own computer. So far, more than 21 million students in 56 countries have already gained access to technology through Shape the Future.
Now, for the first time, Shape the Future is coming to the UK. Microsoft, Intel and RM Education are working together to enable schools to provide high quality, affordable devices to all students, enabling them to benefit from the many opportunities technology has to offer.
This infographic sets out to explain why it’s so important that all of our children are digitally included.
Additional information is also available via the RM Shape the Future Portal.
Shape the Future is an innovative, simple and cost effective way to get all your students using 1:1 devices at home and in the classroom. The affordability of this PC and software package is supported by Microsoft’s global digital inclusion programme, in collaboration with RM Education and Intel. Only available from RM Education, this device and software package has been speciﬁcally designed to help you provide a great value 1:1 device programme for all students and their teachers.
More information is available via the Shape the Future RM portal. Alternatively, the flyer below offers a nice overview of the programme and the benefits of 1:1 computing.
It’s inevitable when you put 160 worldclass teachers in a room and ask them to present about the work they do, then you are going to see some amazing examples of how technology can facilitate learning in the 21st century. Microsoft does this annually at its Global Forum, and to add a twist to the whole proceedings, there is a competition element. Each project submitted is judged by a panel of global education experts, the winners are announced at the event’s closing dinner.
The UK had two fantastic teachers at event, Katie Boothman from saltash.net community school and Nicki Maddams from Hartsdown technology attending and competing. I am pleased to announce that they both won awards for their projects. This is an exceptional achievement and one we are very proud of.
Please will join me in congratulating Nicki and Katie, their schools and students on their outstanding work by leaving a comment below.
You can see details of Nicki’s and Katie's’ projects on the Partners in Learning Network and this blog.
Nicki’s project involves Kodu and is the first ever computer science based project to win an award. This video explains it. We will have more news on Kodu at BETT .
Katie's project used a range of Microsoft tools such as Photosynth to support an intergenerational project between her students and older people in their community.
By September 2013, all Live@edu customers will need to complete the upgrade to Office 365 for education. Microsoft will start to schedule your institution for the upgrade soon. By completing the upgrade process prior to the scheduled date, you control the upgrade timeline.
Live@edu administrative changes coming December 2012
While we work to improve the upgrade experience, starting December 3, 2012, these administrative features will not be available until your institution upgrade is complete:
• Add or remove accepted domains to your institution subscription
• Change your institution mailing address and phone number within the Service Management Portal (SMP)
• Modify co-branding. Note: Co-branding is not supported in the Office 365 Exchange Online service.
Consider making these changes prior to December 3, if you need to take any actions.
Get Started Today
The Office 365 upgrade builds on your existing Live@edu deployment—mailboxes, calendars, and contacts do not move, and there is no need to re-provision accounts. We provide the tools and guidance at each stage—simply follow along by using the upgrade planning worksheet. Use it to estimate how much time you will need for the key tasks required before, during and after the upgrade.
1. Download the Upgrade Planning Worksheet. This tool provides customized guidance to plan each phase of the upgrade. Start by selecting the scenarios that apply to your Live@edu configuration.
2. Prepare for the upgrade. Review the outcome of the upgrade planning worksheet and visit the upgrade center to better understand each step in the upgrade process.
3. Start the upgrade to Office 365.
Great 2 minute overview of Windows 8 To Go by Mark Reynolds, Schools Business Manager (South), and some ways it might be used in Schools.
Additional how to videos are available via our IT Heads Up channel.
Acer for Education is the investment in tomorrow! Acer’s mission of breaking down barriers between people and technology makes the company the appropriate partner for education institutions. Acer believes the world would be a better place if more people had better access to technology, and that the most valuable part of computing is its power to spread knowledge. For this reason, Acer is dedicated to making technology affordable and accessible to all, providing innovative and extremely easy solutions for the global community. Acer sees as its responsibility to equip today’s generation with the knowledge they need for tomorrow. Creating innovative technology for the classroom, Acer helps students explore beyond limits providing access to new paths of communication and interaction. Empowering educators to keep pace with today’s high-tech world, Acer’s trusted solutions are easy to use for teachers and students alike. Confident of their technology, teachers can concentrate on their pupils’ learning. This new approach to education will make today’s students, grown up in an era in which young people live and breath technology, feel closer to their everyday life.
Why Acer for Education?
The Education sector cannot stay still. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) investment in Education is considered a key way to fuel economic development, increase workforce competitiveness, transition to a knowledge-based economy, and drive job creation.
A new scheme launched today in Wales which has created a bilingual learning platform for Wales. Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education and Skills, launched the new platform, called Hwb, at Ysgol Pencae in Cardiff this afternoon. Hoping to connect every student and teacher across Wales as part of broader Welsh government agenda called “Digital Wales”, the aim of Hwb is to help boost the Welsh economy by having a vibrant national technology strategy and to encourage students to begin careers in IT.
The scheme has come about due to disparity between what some schools have as learning resources and what others have. The lack of consistency in digital access for online learning was an issue that needed resolving. The Welsh Government wanted a scheme with the ability to connect all students and teachers in Wales, enabling better sharing, collaboration and ultimately better learning and better outcomes for young people. Creating a common infrastructure would allow students and teachers the ability to work together on a shared platform. It was also important for the platform to be bilingual and cater for resources in both English and Welsh, something which has been achieved by Hwb.
During the launch, the minister spoke to the Headteacher and a year 2 teacher about how Hwb is being used within Ysgol Pencae to improve communications and support teaching and learning. In addition to this, he talked with pupils who have been using Hwb to find out what they think of the platform and how they feel it is benefiting their education. Finally, a parent was able to have their say in how they feel the scheme has impacted upon both their engagement with their child’s learning, and their child’s learning experience.
Mr Andrews said Hwb would "play a key role in helping schools to share information with parents and involve them in their child's learning, a critical relationship which we know makes a massive difference to outcomes for learners. I am confident that Hwb will make a real and significant difference to education outcomes for all learners aged 3-19 and become a truly world-class learning platform for Wales."
By investing in the partner hosted SharePoint 2010 on the Learning Possibilities platform, integrated with Office 365, the Welsh education system now have a central store of Welsh and English digital resources. The local learning platform allows teachers to plan lessons, assign digital homework, communicate and collaborate. Teachers from all over Wales can now share ideas and work together in real-time via Lync. Learning possibilities will work closely with users to deliver secure collaboration between staff and students through a bi-lingual, personalised interface. The platform will also include open public access to resources.
Learning possibilities is entirely focused on offering centrally hosted and managed, scalable and robust learning platforms through its LP+ technology. Knowledge and experiences can now be shared across the whole of Wales between educators and learners. Learners will have the ability to create an ‘account for life’ which will be a personal e-portfolio that stores work throughout their education by using a unique learner number, while teachers are supported by the LP+ ADOPT portal which provides teaching support, professional development and opportunities to collaborate and share best practice.
It is hoped all learners aged 3 to 19 will have access to Hwb by 2015.
Hwb is now live and viewable at https://hwb.wales.gov.uk/Home/Pages/Home.aspx?lang=en
Guest post by Mark Reynolds, Schools Business Manager (@themarkreynolds)
Last year I was asked to join the Advisory Board of SAFE, a project that gives pupils a real-life way of learning e-safety through social networking. At the time, they were looking to expand from their established base in Primary Schools, up into Secondary – where pupils not only needed e-safety advice, but would also benefit from understanding the positive impact that social networking can have and the opportunities it could create for them. As well as me representing Microsoft on the board, there are also people from Facebook, the SSAT and school groups like the United Learning Trust and we are working together with schools across the UK to create a positive new approach to digital wellbeing education and social media projects for learning.
At a recent board meeting, I was being told all about Digital Badges and the work which the SAFE team have planned for Safer Internet Day. As they know much more about it than I do, here is a guest post from Kate Valentine that originally appeared on the DigitalME website:
Safe and Makewaves introduce the Safe SID Badge to reward young people who ‘Connect with Respect’ on Safer Internet Day 2013.
Digital Badges are being awarded to young people who ‘Connect with Respect’ as part of a Safer Internet Day campaign being run by Safe the Certificate in Social Networking, and Makewaves, the award winning social learning environment.
The Safe SID Badge will be awarded to young people who follow the 2013 Safer Internet Day (SID) theme by commenting on debates and uploading their own media to a dedicated channel on the Safe Network on Makewaves.
Digital badges are an innovative way of rewarding safe and positive use of social networking. The accreditation system will use Mozilla’s exciting Open Badges technology, which was launched in 2011 and has the potential for officially recognising the skills and achievements gained by learners (students and teachers) both in school and beyond.
Schools will be able to explore the issues around online rights and responsibilities with pupils and students, and the digital Safe SID Badge 2013 will be awarded and displayed on successful reporters’ profile pages on Makewaves.
Leading e-safety expert Alan Mackenzie believes "sitting children and young people in a classroom and "teaching" e-safety is an ineffective way of empowering a life-skill. Safe and Makewaves have taken this to the next level by creating a learning environment where the safe use of digital media is the cornerstone of learning. The landmark tenth year of Safer Internet Day on 5th February 2013, Safe and Makewaves are encouraging children and young people to "Connect with Respect"; working collaboratively to create, upload and share digital content and at the same time earn a fabulous digital badge for all their hard work. What better way to reward children and young people for sharing, safely!"
Schools new to Makewaves can sign up for free social media tools to enable safe and easy publishing of podcasts, videos and blogs. Teachers can moderate students’ work and control who can see it. By joining the Safe Network, schools can also access video tutorials, resources to download and certificates to award on completion of the Safe activities.
The 10th annual Safer Internet Day will be celebrated on February 5th 2013, with organisers Insafe and UK Safer Internet Centre hoping to make the event “bigger and better than ever before”.
If you or your school would like to get involved in the SAFE program, please contact Kate and the team on firstname.lastname@example.org or find them on twitter @DigitalMe_Safe