Information Technology Shared Services experiences green benefits from new data center improvements

Friday, April 21, 2017

One of UNT System Information Technology Shared Services (ITSS) main initiatives has been to find ways to make cloud computing more easily accessible for students, faculty and staff. In addition, with the fast consumerization of IT, it is more important than ever for the University of North Texas System (UNTS) to modernize its data centers and redefine IT in higher education.  Modernization will result in “green” data centers that house the servers, decreasing their energy footprint and power usage, and improving the day-to-day business on campuses for UNT System’s more than 45,000 students, faculty, and staff.  A main initiative of UNT System Information Technology Shared Services (ITSS) is to make cloud computing more easily accessible to our campuses.

To do this, ITSS adopted EMC’s Federation Hybrid Cloud (FHC) converged infrastructure solution in May 2015.  Since then, it has delivered applications and infrastructure at a faster pace, offering the university community an unparalleled experience while achieving a 33 percent cost savings. These savings are now being reinvested in the UNT System Key IT Initiatives through dollar and time savings with their cloud setup.

The converged infrastructure solution provides a catalog of 60 services through a self-service portal, ranging from provisioning raw servers and storage to creating and hosting mobile applications for students.  In the past, a range of disconnected systems and eclectic individual processes handled those services.  Now, when customers request services, they come through the self-service portal and are serviced by a single hybrid cloud infrastructure.  The overall goal is to move data seamlessly between data centers, and also to send some data to a public cloud.  

Providing services through this single hybrid cloud infrastructure gives UNT significant strategic advantages for student recruiting. The higher the level of services a university provides, the more attractive it is to students.  For example, one of the services ITSS offers is server provisioning.  Today ITSS can provision a server in 30 minutes as opposed to the days it used to take — and without devoting any IT team resources to the request.

ITSS has discovered that server virtualization has been a game-changing technology for IT system wide, providing efficiencies and capabilities that are not possible when constrained within a physical server. Besides saving more dollars with a smaller energy footprint, server consolidation with virtualization has reduced the overall footprint of our data center. This means fewer servers, less networking gear, and a smaller number of racks needed to support the servers — all of which translates into less data center floor space.

 It is estimated that maintenance time is reduced by 30 percent and costs by 27 percent by managing patches better, scaling effortlessly, and adding new services quickly. The ITSS data center receives fewer support calls and performance improvements are substantial: for example, what used to take 32 minutes to execute now takes less than three minutes.  

The evolution of distributed computing has led to greater overall capabilities for the data center.  The ITSS virtual servers, higher-capacity storage devices and increased local and wide area networks translate into improved data center computer power with the number of virtual servers, higher capacity storage devices and increased local and wide area networks’ ability. The ultimate goal is for UNT System to  incorporate more server and storage memory for computing at all campus locations.  This will result in an overall benefit for UNT’s students, faculty and staff:  more computer power, lower costs and a healthier environmental footprint.