When an organization is in the throes of a large virtualization initiative, it’s sometimes hard to remember the beginning. That isn’t the case at Lone Star College System (LSCS) where Link Alander, Associate Vice Chancellor for Technology Services, is crystal clear on how they got started, the goals they have achieved and what they have left to accomplish. I recently caught up with Link Alander to ask a few questions about how things are going at LSCS.
VMware: Tell us about LSCS and the number of students you support.
Link Alander: LSCS is a publicly funded, two-year community college located in Houston. It’s the largest institution of higher education in the area and the largest community college system in Texas. We’ve had tremendous student population growth in six years. Today, LSCS has 78,000 “traditional” students pursuing two-year associate degrees from multiple campus locations. We also provide educational opportunities to 23,000 “nontraditional” enrollees through nondegree courses and adult education programs.
VMware: What challenges were you looking to overcome that led you to consider virtualizing your datacenters?
Alander: When our new CIO, Shah Ardalan came on board in February 2008, LSCS already had a small VMware installation. I was tasked to redesign our core systems. Instead of supporting a confederation of multiple sites, I wanted us to move to a consistent, centralized model for all IT services, which meant reining in our six campus sites, as well as the eight smaller satellite centers that accessed our data, but couldn’t afford their own datacenters. Our team believed that virtualizing the majority of our physical servers was critical in order to efficiently manage the centralized environment and provide high availability for our key campus applications. We started at about 5 percent virtualized and have quickly moved to 93 percent virtualized.
You can hear Link describe our progress at LSCS in some detail:
VMware: Why did you subsequently choose the VMware, Cisco and EMC solution?
Alander: We evaluated Microsoft’s Hyper V, but it was very immature compared to VMware vSphere. When we completed a virtualization assessment to evaluate the consolidation opportunities and calculate the potential savings, the ROI on a joint VMware, Cisco and EMC solution spoke for itself and we got approval to move all of our campuses to the new environment quite easily.
VMware: What advantages has the VMware, Cisco and EMC solution provided to LSCS?
Alander: There are many, but let me give you one example. LSCS is committed to guaranteeing “five nines” availability for Tier-1 applications. VMware, Cisco and EMC provided the only solution that could provide the high availability we required. Now, we have virtualized nearly every Tier-1 and -2 application, including our new ERP system, Active Directory, Exchange, and SQL. We’ve also built a private cloud, which has enabled us to achieve greater elasticity and flexibility.
VMware: What impact has the VMware, Cisco and EMC solution brought to your IT infrastructure?
Alander: We’ve experienced tremendous benefits from improving operational flexibility and efficiency to improving environmental savings. We’ve dramatically reduced deployment times, achieved high availability and improved disaster recovery. On the cost side, we’ve achieved significant savings in power, space and cooling. We’ve obtained ROI in just three years and nine months—and we’ve reduced hardware and capital costs by about $600,000, which is a tremendous improvement.
VMware: Thank you for your time, Link. We hope to catch up with you again next year at VMworld.