Success Story: St. Michael’s Grammar School

Supporting a Productive and Flexible Environment

St Michael’s Grammar is a leading independent school in Melbourne that provides education from Kindergarten to Year 12. Established on its current site in St Kilda in 1895, the school strives to be the benchmark among innovative K-12 co-educational schools across Australia. With more than 300 staff members and close to 1,300 students, St Michael’s aging IT environment was causing significant productivity issues in late 2011. With the school’s data growing exponentially and existing infrastructure at capacity, St Michael’s needed to explore options to upgrade and provide improved IT services to students and staff.

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The Challenge

St Michael’s five-year-old infrastructure included two IBM servers that were 80% utilised and a SAN that had 5% free capacity- a total of 12TB of useable storage. The hardware was approaching end of life. ICT manager Jai Ross decided to explore options to improve its overall infrastructure scalability, capacity and performance.

“They were spending a lot of time in reactive support as opposed to proactive management by running around responding to issues, as opposed to working as one unified department,” said Cloud Solutions Group Sales Director Ben Brame.

“They wanted an environment with enough capacity to grow, a system that was easier to manage, wasn’t complex and also a cost effective solution.”

The Solution

Ross and his St Michael’s colleagues met with Cloud Solutions Group and were impressed with the company’s history and customer references in the Education sector. “They felt our solution offerings closely met their requirements, especially cloud storage and desktop virtualisation” said Brame.

CSG began a full hardware infrastructure replacement at St Michael’s in the first week of January 2013, with the project completed by the end of school holidays three weeks later. “There was little to no loss of productivity to students and staff
overall,” said Brame.

Key elements of the upgrade included an EMC VNX5300 SAN to provide high performance centralised storage with significantly increased capacity. Veeam Backup & Replication 6.1 was deployed to provide seamless backup of Virtual Machines. Veeam Backups were stored on a TwinStrata Cloud Array and replicated to Cloud Storage for an off-site copy of mission critical systems.

St Michael’s also required a way to accommodate the school’s online learning platform SchoL. “Previously, parents were buying their children iPads and Apple products that weren’t part of the school’s official program and the IT department had to support them,” said Ross.

The new infrastructure supports a BYO D policy, which provides students with the flexibility to use their personal devices to access SchoL through a Windows 7 environment on any device.

To support the BYO D initiative, Citrix XenDesktop was implemented. Utilising Citrix XenDesktop students were able to access Windows applications and Desktops from any location. Combined with the high performance infrastructure, Citrix delivers an excellent end user experience and allowed students new levels of flexibility in accessing curriculum services.

“With a four host VMware system, we now have confidence that in the event of a host failure, systems will remain up,” Ross said.

“This was a huge factor for St Michael’s; maintaining uptime for teachers and ensuring learning could be delivered without interruption.”

The Future

St Michael’s new infrastructure was well received by parents and students at a series of information nights. “They promoted the fact that they were going down to a VDI [Virtual Desktop Infrastructure] path and talked about the benefits; everybody thought it was a great initiative,” said Brame.

The school’s relationship with CSG will continue as the BYO D initiative, currently available to Year Nine students, will be rolled out across other year levels in the short-term future. “Their solution is a scalable one so we are already talking about adding more computer power to cater for next year’s demand,” said Ross.

From St Michael’s perspective, CSG went beyond its obligations to ensure the school’s upgrade was seamless.

“Anything we needed, the guys were more than willing to help which is a great start to a long partnership over the years to come,” said Ross.

“We have been very happy with the solution and have seen many performance increases in various areas across our 50 virtual machines. What we set out to achieve has been met by CSG – and then some.”

Key Benefits

  • Decreased storage costs
  • Removal of tape backup -via cloud back up solution
  • Increased productivity for students and staff
  • BYOD initiative allows students to use personal devices to access school resources

Technology Used

  • EMC VNX5300 SAN with FAST Cache and FAST Tiering
  • vSphere 5.1
  • Citrix Xendesktop and XenApp
  • Citrix Netscaler VPX
  • IMB BladeCentre HS22 Chassis with eight blades for VMware and Citrix
  • Veeam Backup & Replication 6.1 to backup Virtual Machine Workloads within the vSphere 5 Cluster
  • TwinStrata Cloud Array, which utilises Veeam to send backups to Sydney cloud storage provider Ninefold
  • APC Rack and Power

Solution Areas

  • VMware and Server upgrade
  • Storage refresh and optimisation
  • Desktop and Application Virtualisation
  • Backup solution
  • Cloud Storage
  • BYOD initiative offered to students
  • Mobility and Remote Access