Exeter College ensures seamless student and staff services with scalable Lenovo infrastructure

With operations growing and student numbers continuing to rise, Exeter College’s existing IT infrastructure couldn’t keep up. The college migrated its mission-critical applications on virtual servers to Lenovo Flex System – a flexible, easily-scalable platform powered by Intel® Xeon® that delivers high levels of performance –  ensuring that student services run uninterrupted even as demand rises.
“The scalability of Lenovo Flex System is so impressive. It couldn’t be easier to add compute nodes to the chassis when we need more capacity.”
 —David Batho,
ICT Manager,
Information and Learning Services,
Exeter College
Solution components
Lenovo Flex System Enterprise Chassis
Lenovo Flex System x240 M5 compute nodes with Intel® Xeon® E5 processor family
Lenovo Flex System FC5022 16Gb SAN Scalable Switches
Storwize V7000
Lenovo ThinkCentre M70e
Lenovo ThinkCentre M71e
Lenovo ThinkCentre M72e
Lenovo ThinkCentre M73z
VMware vSphere 6
“The reliability of the Lenovo solution is stunning – we haven’t experienced a single hardware failure or any unplanned downtime in the year it’s been running in production.”
 —David Batho,
ICT Manager,
Information and Learning Services,
Exeter College
Exeter College is a large, thriving tertiary college which places teaching, learning and student success as its top priorities. Located in Exeter, England, the college provides further education to full and part-time students aged between 16 and 18, as well as adult education and training courses.

Supporting expansion
Founded as the UK’s first tertiary college in 1970, Exeter College has grown significantly in the years since. Today, the college educates and trains more than 11,000 young people and adults from across the city of Exeter and surrounding region.

With student numbers continuing to rise, Exeter College found that its existing IT infrastructure was struggling to keep pace.

David Batho, ICT Manager, Information and Learning Services at Exeter College, sets the scene: “Previously, we were running over 120 physical servers to support college services, all of which were approaching end-of-life. What’s more, because the servers had already reached their full capacity, we would often experience performance issues.”

When Exeter College announced that it was expanding the college campus – and opening a new data center at the same time – the IT team jumped at the chance to rethink its data center and infrastructure strategy.

David Batho elaborates: “We knew that we’d be moving to a new data center, so finding a high-density solution was key. We realized that moving to a converged infrastructure could deliver the high degree of flexibility and efficiency that we required for present and future college developments.”

Fixing on Flex System
After discussing its technical requirements with its trusted technology partner Q Associates, Exeter College chose to go with Lenovo Flex System.

David Batho recalls: “After evaluating all the converged infrastructure solutions on the market, Lenovo Flex System came away the clear winner. We were blown away by the flexibility the Lenovo solution offered – we really liked that we could pick and choose what went into the chassis so that we got the right mixture of components to meet our needs.

“Another important deciding factor was that we were already a big fan of Lenovo technology. There are more than 3,000 Lenovo ThinkCentre workstations available to students across the college campus, as well as Lenovo T series laptops. We know from experience that we can rely on Lenovo systems.”

Working closely with Q Associates, Exeter College implemented a Lenovo Flex System Enterprise Chassis at its new data center, equipped with eight Lenovo Flex System x240 M5 compute nodes. Powered by the Intel® Xeon® E5 processor family, the Lenovo solution delivers the high levels of performance needed to support Exeter College’s extensive VMware environment. Q Associates also helped the college to deploy and integrate a Storwize V7000 storage system at the site.

“Together, we were able to migrate 120 virtual servers to the Lenovo platform with just four minutes of downtime over a weekend,” says David Batho. “The migration went very smoothly, and support from Q Associates has been fantastic throughout the process.”

Top marks
Today, Exeter College uses Lenovo Flex System to support its mission-critical student information and back office systems, including its Microsoft Exchange environment, file and print servers, and to host the college website.

David Batho comments: “All of our college services now run directly on the Lenovo Flex System. The reliability of the Lenovo solution is stunning – we haven’t experienced a single hardware failure or any unplanned downtime in the year it’s been running in production. On top of that, the performance is top-notch.

“Another big plus is that we’ve more than halved our physical footprint with the Lenovo Flex System and improved our green footprint. Not only have we freed up a lot of space, enabling us to fit our IT infrastructure into the new data center with the ability to expand the current solution, we’ve also been able to cut power costs considerably.”

As more demand is placed on its technology and servers, Exeter College can be safe in the knowledge that its Lenovo system will support this growth. “The scalability of Lenovo Flex System is so impressive,” remarks David Batho. “It couldn’t be easier to add compute nodes to the chassis when we need more capacity, enabling us to keep performance levels high.”

He concludes: “We’re delighted with our Lenovo Flex System solution. And although we know that the hardware is very resilient, we are planning to implement a second chassis on which to back up our VMware environment. With the second Lenovo Flex System solution in place, we’ll have a truly rock-solid – yet scalable – IT infrastructure to support students’ education now and for many years to come.”

For more information
To learn more about Lenovo Data Center Systems solutions, contact your Lenovo Sales Representative or Lenovo Business Partner, or visit: www.lenovo.com/data-center

For more information about Exeter College, visit: www.exe-coll.ac.uk or connect with @ExeterCollege
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