University of São Paulo

The University of São Paulo (USP) is one of the largest institutions of higher education in Latin America, with approximately 105,000 enrolled students and eight campuses in the state of São Paulo. It is the largest Brazilian university and the country’s most prestigious educational institution. SIR World Report 2013 from SCImago Institutions Rankings classified the university in 12th place in the world.

Before moving services to the cloud, the university experienced challenges such as rising IT costs, lengthy delivery times for IT projects, and difficulty meeting performance, availability, and data security requirements. Maintaining 150 separate, distributed IT infrastructures, including approximately 100 separate e-mail systems organization wide, was no longer practical. Because IT resources were not centralized, it was not feasible to provide enterprise-class performance, reliable failover, and regular backup for all systems. The university was not able to leverage economies of scale to gain better pricing, and the average cost for a new IT project was BRL200,000 (US$85,100).

New systems and services took as long as one year to budget, approve, and deploy, making it difficult for departments to undertake new research and generate results. Today, USP is responsible for 30% of all scientific research published in Latin America. As a major research university, it competes with other top-tier educational institutions and must provide fast access to IT resources to be first to market with research findings.

The university wanted to consolidate services in the cloud for performance, availability, security, centralized data protection, and cost savings. The resulting initiative, called Cloud USP, is allowing the university to evolve to a secure cloud computing model at its own pace, gaining greater flexibility and efficiency without needing to replace its entire existing infrastructure.

Cloud USP services are divided into three areas:

  • Corporate: E-mail services, payroll, human resources, management of fields of study and grades for students, issuing diplomas and certificates, and managing agreements and contracts. The services can be deployed on mobile devices and computer terminals (thin-clients) at branch offices and campuses.
  • Educational: Services focused on undergraduate, postgraduate, research, and extension education, including digital content management.
  • Scientific: Services to enable activities related to scientific research, with an emphasis on mass storage (data instrumentation, collections of work, and so on) and computational-intensive processing. Cloud USP will allow for more flexible information gathering and faster time to science.

New Infrastructure: A Flexible Foundation for Learning

Compute Environment
The university wanted the best technology available in the global market for cloud solutions, including storage, processing, and data management.

Cloud USP is deployed across six data centers in a FlexPod® environment, a solution bundle prepackaged and tested by Cisco and NetApp that includes Cisco Unified Computing System™ (Cisco UCS®) blade servers and Cisco Nexus® switches., all of which are powered by Intel® Xeon® processors. All told, Cloud USP is comprised of 576 physical servers with a total of 10,752 Intel processing cores, 386,640 graphic processing cores, and 268TB of memory.

Citrix CloudPlatform powered by Apache CloudStack provides application-centric cloud orchestration for all Cloud USP workloads, including the university’s Zimbra® e-mail platform, internally developed ERP and payment systems, Microsoft® SharePoint®, Sybase, unified communications, and Java® tools.

The university wanted a storage platform that would help it maintain security, accommodate growth, and provide 24/7 availability for Cloud USP data and services. It deployed 16 NetApp FAS6240 and 8 FAS3270 storage systems with Intel Xeon processors E5500 series with a mixture of SAS, SATA, and solid-state drives (SSDs) at six data centers. The university also deployed a NetApp MetroCluster™ configuration with two NetApp FAS3270 storage systems for synchronous replication between the six data centers on the main USP campus. The NetApp systems run the Data ONTAP® operating system, designed to enable the software-defined data center.

With current storage capacity at around 15PB, Cloud USP can support 1.5 million IOPS, providing the necessary storage I/O for performance-intensive applications. NetApp also provides multiprotocol support, allowing USP to use CIFS, NFS, Fibre Channel (FC), and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) to meet varying workload requirements.


FlexPod Components

  • NetApp FAS6240 and FAS3270 storage systems with Intel Xeon processors E5500 series
  • Cisco Unified Computing System with Cisco UCS Blade Servers
  • Cisco Nexus Switches

Virtualization Components

  • Citrix CloudPlatform powered by Apache CloudStack

NetApp Software

  • NetApp Data ONTAP 8.1.2 operating in 7 Mode
  • NetApp MetroCluster
  • NetApp OnCommand® System Manager
  • NetApp Flash Cache™
  • NetApp Flash Pool™
  • NetApp Virtual Storage Tier
  • NetApp deduplication
  • NetApp Snapshot™ and SnapRestore® technology
  • NetApp SnapMirror® replication technology
  • NetApp thin provisioning

The Cloud USP infrastructure enables/supports:

  • Cost savings of at least BRL200,000 per IT project. It is less expensive for the university to provide services in the cloud because a separate infrastructure for each project is not needed.
  • Reduced data center energy consumption. The energy efficiency of NetApp storage and Intel processors is helping the university be better stewards of the environment while saving money at the same time.
  • Centralized management for data protection, security, antivirus, software upgrades, and license compliance. Cloud USP provides a platform to consolidate all the university’s computational systems within a structured, organized infrastructure.
  • Improved performance, availability, and security. Users notice and appreciate the performance and stability of Cloud USP. Previously, redundancy for applications and any failure made them unavailable. The IT team is now offering higher quality services.
  • Enhanced collaboration and file sharing with academic “briefcase,” integrated calendars, and task lists. Faculty can easily book rooms, reserve audiovisual equipment, and access resource schedules. Periodic activities such as staff or department council meetings can be entered and updated, and automatically appear on the calendars of the faculty, staff, and students involved. Teachers can share files with students without the use of e-mail attachments.
  • E-mail access from any device, with full search capabilities. The Cloud USP Zimbra e-mail service offers tenfold greater mailbox sizes and includes modern antispam tools, user customization, and backup and recovery mechanisms.
  • Digital IPTV channel to share and stream lectures and other content in real time. Now able to broadcast to anywhere in the world with an Internet connection, helps the university offer more online classes and distance learning alternatives.
  • Easy access to social networks and file preview utilities. Users no longer have to switch between tools to view content, saving them time.
  • Virtual servers and storage on demand, enabling timely deployment of new services. Rather than asking departments and faculty to wait up to a year for deployment, they can get the resources they need right away.