Worcester Polytechnic Institute Case Study
A top ranked national engineering and technical university leverages OmniCube™, SimpliVity’s market-leading hyperconverged infrastructure platform, a modern “Infrastructure as a Service” hosting offering for new applications and collaboration services.
Based in Worcester, Massachusetts, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is one of the oldest engineering and technical universities in the United States. Among the hundreds of universities in the Boston area, WPI is unique with its center of excellence in engineering, science, technology, and mathematics, along with strong academic and co-curricular programs in the arts and humanities, the social sciences, and business. The university, ranked 62 for National Universities in the 2014 Top 100 Best Colleges by US News & World Report, prides itself on its academic core values, innovation in science and technology, and strong community.
BUSINESS CHALLENGE: Virtualization, Tier-1 Applications, and Data Consolidation
WPI faced an information technology challenge of rolling out a set of new applications based on requests from the university’s broad community of faculty, staff, and students. The IT staff at WPI maintains skills in a wide variety of infrastructure domains from servers, networking, and storage as well as Windows and UNIX application development and application delivery. Like many IT organizations, the IT staff had to be very efficient to handle all the application and infrastructure requests from the approximately 5000 students and faculty in the community. The university’s IT Hosting team, under Associate CIO Jon Bartelson’s leadership and vision, was looking to create “Infrastructure as a Service” for the wide set of application requests coming from the student body, faculty, and staff at WPI. Critical requirements like “always on” availability, agile deployment models, and ease of use and maintainability were foundational requirements to the IT team.
The administration requested a new application environment that would not only enable document management and collaboration, but also support the university’s many process improvement and paperless initiatives. The existing infrastructure was running on complex, expensive racks of legacy servers with networked storage provided by a Dell SAN, but the configuration was becoming expensive and difficult to scale and maintain, making it challenging to meet the new application demands. This new application initiative was of concern to the IT team because of the time it would take to expand and maintain the legacy systems, which lacked easy, horizontal scalability, integrated data efficiency, automation, and unified management. They foresaw wasted operations time managing the legacy systems that could be spent more productively on other, higher value IT initiatives.
With the request for a set of new document management and collaboration applications from the faculty and community, Bartelson and his team took a step back and began to consider how they could implement a modern, hyperconverged infrastructure with unified and consolidated virtualization technology at equal, or less, cost than the legacy systems currently in use. The team began looking for an affordable, efficient, reliable, and easily manageable solution that would enable data center agility, pooling of resources, easy and rapid turn-up of applications, built-in virtualization, and integrated data efficiency—all while maintaining the high service levels expected by the university.
The WPI IT team researched the market to find a solution that would address all the requirements below:
- Support the university’s new application requirements
- Meet budget and total cost of ownership (TCO) requirements
- Enable full pooling and sharing of all resources
- Provide simple, cost-effective, incremental scale-out in the future
- Provide ease of use and unified global management from one interface
- Include fully integrated data efficiency with policy-based data protection
- Support quick and simple deployment
Globally Federated Public/Private Cloud building block
While the team did see a variety of early generation “converged infrastructure” offerings that met some of the university’s requirements, the IT Hosting team, under Bartelson’s leadership, chose SimpliVity’s OmniCube for its new modern IT infrastructure because it was the only solution to meet all of the hyperconverged infrastructure requirements. The university’s IT team was impressed with OmniCube’s simple, “datacenter-in-a-box” concept, its ability to run a wide set of application workloads, deliver “pay-as-you-grow” horizontal scale-out, revolutionary inline deduplication, compression, optimization of all application data, and provide simple, unified management from within VMware vCenter. With OmniCube, WPI and the Hosting team found the perfect hyperconverged infrastructure solution to run the new set of applications.
Now, WPI can implement powerful, policy-based data protection with replication and disaster recovery capabilities that significantly improves application service level agreements (SLAs). Included in OmniCube’s hyperconverged architecture is built-in inline deduplication, which delivers IO savings and optimizes storage consumption. Because WPI had a small Hosting Services staff and couldn’t afford to tie up resources with a complex deployment, OmniCube’s fast installation and implementation was also a true advantage. In addition, OmniCube’s scale-out design will enable the university to easily expand the use of the system in the future without a forklift upgrade.
“With OmniCube we significantly improved our application uptime, RPO, and RTO while reducing our infrastructure costs by more than half.” Bartelson says. “The ease of use and single management interface from within vCenter for all operations is incredibly powerful.”
WPI is transitioning to the new hyperconverged modern infrastructure at two sites with multiple OmniCube CN-3000s. This solution enabled the university to roll out the new document management and collaboration applications robustly, including comprehensive backup and recovery policies with hourly RPOs and low RTOs at a much lower price than it would have cost to expand and maintain the legacy infrastructure. Because OmniCube combines compute, storage, inline deduplication, compression of data, across all tiers, DR/DP and VMware integrated management in one device, WPI can easily transition from the old servers and SAN using the VM mobility features built into VMware. The unique converged architecture creates a single shared resource pool that can be easily, and incrementally, expanded to add more compute, IO-optimized performance, and storage in a “pay-as-you-grow” manner.
“With OmniCube, we can backup and recover Windows or UNIX applications in minutes now and deliver improved service to the university community. The converged architecture and feature-rich capabilities are truly unique” says Bartelson. “We also like the flexibility to easily send deduplicated, compressed, optimized VM backups to the Amazon Cloud for additional remote data protection and DR.”
Key benefits include:
- New, hyperconverged infrastructure with built-in data efficiency and HA
- Single, shared resource pool with incremental scale out expansion of compute, performance, and storage capacity
- Unified management from a single interface within VMware vCenter
- Built-in, efficient, and optimized VM backup and recovery for a mix of Windows and UNIX applications
- Support for efficient data protection with VM backups in the Amazon AWS cloud
- Streamlined deployment and implementation frees up IT staff
- Ability to quickly, efficiently scale-up new applications
- Support for diverse Windows, UNIX, and other application workloads