University slashes virtual server provisioning time

The UK's only private further education institution has cut the time taken to provision new virtual servers from two hours to 10 minutes with new software.

The University of Buckingham is using server virtualisation technology to mitigate the cost of adding new space, power and cooling capacity to its data centre.

Matthew Day, University of Buckingham head of IT, said the institution's main data centre was reaching its capacity limit. "We needed to invest, but it was clear that there had to be more we could do than just throw more space, electricity and cooling at the problem," he said.

The Milton Keynes university used Citrix XenServer to virtualise 49 servers. Day explained that he felt the alternative technologies did not offer capital savings over purchasing more physical servers.

He said: "[Alternative technologies] meant I would have had a complicated proposition to put to the Finance Director because although there might have been power and cooling savings, neither are considered part of the IT budget and that was what I had to reduce."

In addition to addressing just the logistical challenge of increasing server capacity, the new XenServer management software was also able to address the challenge of deploying new systems quickly and providing a business continuity plan in the event of a server failure.

"XenServer comes into its own if we receive a request for a new system to be set up," said Day. "We can configure the environment very quickly without any physical hardware being involved. Recently, this meant that we were able to launch a new multimedia lab ready for the start of term. Without XenServer, the launch would have been delayed for the students due to having to order physical hardware."

He added that the fact that XenServer includes optimised performance as part of it core product was a key consideration. "Unlike competitive options, we didn't have to buy the top of the range product to get full bare metal virtualisation performance," Day said.

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.