Geelong Grammar School gains efficiency and flexibility with NetApp

Sydney, AUSTRALIA - June 9, 2011 - Geelong Grammar School in Victoria is Australia's largest boarding school with more than 1,500 students from Early Learning to Year 12 across five campuses. The 156-year-old school has 360 employees with the objective of offering all students an exceptional education and world-class facilities.

The challenge
Geelong Grammar School (GGS) has approximately 1,500 users on its fully-integrated IP network across all five campuses. This includes in excess of 1,500 laptop computers, with all teaching staff and students from years 5 to 12 having a laptop in addition to approximately 250 desktops across a fully integrated and wireless network. These PCs provide students and staff with access to the internet, email, the GGS's learning system, the staff's administrative system and other applications. The network also has over 36,000 members of the community accessing information remotely through the Parental Portal on a regular basis.

The network is used to store a wide variety of data, including teaching files, student information, multimedia files, music, PDFs, and various other forms of documents used within administration and the learning environment.

Based on the school's philosophy of offering the best learning tools for students and teachers, GGS was facing the challenge of a bigger curriculum with wider requirements, which contributed to increasing demands for accessing, downloading and storing data. With data increasing exponentially, GGS's IT team was faced with the challenge of improving the legacy tape-based back-up function to meet the increasing strain on the network. GGS was reaching the point where the traditional tape-based backup methods were taking longer than the allocated backup window. This contributed to delays in information access and delivery for staff and students, resulting in decreased efficiency and productivity.

David Witcombe, Manager of Information, Communications and Technology, Geelong Grammar School, said, "Our old tape-based back-up system was a highly manual process which contributed to inefficiencies in our IT environment. We were faced with a higher chance of human error, as well as the fact that failure of the tape meant the backup would be incomplete."

This presented a challenge for GGS from several perspectives. First, any issues with unsaved data meant it was unrecoverable, placing the school in a position of risk and possible non-compliance if an error occurred.

David Witcombe said, "It's education Best Practice to keep data on students for seven plus years, so we needed a system that would not only allow us to do that, but also allow us to read today's data seven years from now, or legacy data on our current systems."

In addition, there was very little opportunity for scalability of the old storage system, restricting the future growth potential for the network and the types of learning methods GGS staff could offer students.

From the technical perspective, it would take the IT team several days to create a development and testing environment from the rigid legacy system, which was extremely inefficient in terms of time and productivity.

The solution
"We knew we needed to replace our old tape back-up system and come up with a newer, much more efficient storage environment, which involved a full rethink of our strategy," David Witcombe said.

GGS had a strong, long-term relationship with NetApp partner, Think Technology, so decided to engage the team to assist with design and implementation of a new storage solution.

David Witcombe said, "The majority of our technology infrastructure comes from one major vendor, so when Think Technology suggested we consider another vendor - NetApp - for storage, it was a very big ask. Our long, strategic partnership with Think Technology is based on trust, so we decided to take their advice and go with NetApp, and it was the best decision we could have made."

GGS initially worked with Think Technology to implement a NetApp FAS2020 system with 2TB of data to solve the back-up and data storage issue. Following the success of that implementation, GGS wanted to examine a full NetApp disaster recovery and SAN solution which would offer higher availability, reliability and scalability. As a result, GGS implemented a NetApp FAS2040 and expanded the existing FAS2020.

The new solution also included NetApp Flexclone, NetApp SnapVault, SnapMirror, SnapMirror for Virtual Infrastructure and NetApp Deduplication.

GGS also fully virtualized all servers as part of the upgrade.

The primary site for GGS's IT infrastructure and key applications is the Corio campus in Geelong. The disaster recovery site sits within a separate building to the main IT infrastructure, which is run across a high speed fibre connection.

The benefits
"The benefits we've experienced by implementing a NetApp data storage system are significant," David Witcombe said.

"We now have a highly efficient data storage system, which we can expand quickly and simply when necessary. By implementing NetApp Deduplication, we've generated massive gains. What was up to 20 terabytes of data has been reduced to just six terabytes via deduplication.

"We've gone from 18 physical servers with no virtual machines to six physical servers and 40 virtual machines. In six months, we will have that down to just one physical server.

"Once we realised the benefits a new storage infrastructure would provide the school, it was a natural progression for us to move to server virtualization, then to NetApp disaster recovery.

"We now have complete peace of mind that our system and the data on it, is safe and secure - something that is critical when working in a very dynamic education environment. We can be confident that the six-monthly audits implemented to maintain correct levels of governance will reinforce our compliance with policy and regulations," David Witcombe said.

The GGS IT team also benefits from faster creation of development and testing environments, which now takes minutes rather than days. "This benefit alone generates massive dollar savings for us, because we can put the systems analysts' time to much better use than provisioning space for dev/testing."

David Witcombe continued, "With the demands on our technology continually increasing, it's critical for us to know that we're working with a flexible, scalable system which is reliable and available. In our environment, delays and low productivity aren't acceptable. With the NetApp storage infrastructure underpinning the rest of our network, we are happy in the knowledge that we are operating in the most efficient, flexible option available. We are in a great position to move into the future stages of technology requirements for GGS."

Next steps
David Witcombe's ongoing plan for GGS's IT infrastructure is to continually upgrade the storage system to introduce an even higher level of flexibility and efficiency across the school's five campuses.

"Our next stage will involve expanding the capacity of the existing NetApp FAS units, as well as install a couple of others at different locations to provide our remote sites at Timbertop and Toorak with full access to disaster recovery and the SAN.

"The cloud is also a possible future option for us for archiving, so we don't have to look after the physical equipment related to old information.

"No matter which steps we choose to take when further developing our IT offering, we have implemented the foundations and building blocks for a much more flexible, scalable IT environment, so we are future ready," David Witcombe concluded.

Solution components

  • NetApp FAS2020 x 1 (DS 1414 x2)
  • NetApp FAS2040 (Clustered - DS 4243 x 2)
  • NetApp Flexclone
  • NetApp SnapVault
  • NetApp Snap Mirror and SnapMirror for Virtual Infrastructure
  • Deduplication
  • NFS
  • CIFS

Media Contact:
Rachel York
Max Australia
+61 29469 5740