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Birmingham City University supports student mobility with multi-million pound data centre overhaul

Matthew Finnegan | Feb. 17, 2014
Birmingham City University (BCU) has enabled a mobile and flexible learning environment for thousands of students following a multi-million pound overhaul of its data centres.

"Business-wise we needed to update stuff because it wasn't keeping up with where we needed it to take us. We wanted to modernise it so we could guarantee we would be able to provide services to the university, which wasn't the case in the past with a single server room."

"Now with the resilient set-up, the mirroring and use of the VMware disaster recovery processes we can keep those services running from either data centre."

Mobile device demand
The legacy network systems also struggled to cope with changing demands from students, with the number of mobile devices supported tripling in recent years.

Logicalis was also charged with updating the network to 10GbE wired and wireless LAN delivering a range of applications including student records, e-learning suite, finance and HR. BCU has now rolled out Cisco Unified Communications Manager to 4,000 users.

"On average we are seeing some where been 7,000 and 9,000 devices on our wireless network daily. That has gone up by a factor of three over the past few years. If you look around at our students, they have two or maybe three devices each — it has grown an awful lot," said Buffery.

"We are well into a world where university students have never know life without the internet, and the requirements that brings: being able to access stuff any time you want and being able to review that content at convenient times, rather than turning up to a lecture and being delivered content there and then.

"That is what is driving this investment we are seeing across multiple universities at the moment."

Future plans — virtualised application delivery
The revamp of its data centres is almost complete, with plans to switch off the remaining legacy servers this summer.

With its new systems in place, the university is now able to pursue new IT projects, and has the ability to support more flexible delivery of applications to students and staff.

A virtual desktop infrastructure roll-out is now being considered, Buffery said, and BCU is currently running trials of virtualised application delivery.

"We are now looking at starting to deploy virtualised application deployment, which is what the infrastructure now allows us to — we wouldn't have been able to do that before," he said.

"So if a student requires a specific application or course, then that could potentially be streamed down to their laptop or other device, and then when they don't need it, it comes off the device. That is a benefit that is going to come in the next six to 12 months."


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