Hong Kong school deploys unified storage system for continuous operations

The Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd), a university dedicated to the education and training of teachers in Hong Kong, is faced with an increasing user demand for continuous operation and disaster recovery. The school also has to deal with the rising demand for storage and escalating cost of ownership.

Funded by the University Grants Committee, the Institute provides doctoral, master and bachelor degrees, postgraduate diploma, higher diploma and a range of in-service programmes.

The Office of Information Technologies and Services (ITS) is responsible for providing a reliable and effective IT infrastructure to the Institute. Currently, there are around 30 ITS personnel serving 8,900 students and 1,300 staff.

To meet the increasing business needs with minimal overhead, the school has resorted to using virtual machine technologies as the capacity of the existing storage area networking has been used up. “We desperately needed to beef up our SAN provision to provide better reliability and availability.”

The Challenges

The proliferation of mobile devices and Wi-Fi technologies enables teachers to use new pedagogies and allows students to access learning materials anytime and anywhere.

“The system is handling a total volume of 70TB, with increasing emails. Virtual Machines in virtualized environments, video contents and materials on eLearning servers, took up most of the storage space. The office is very keen on improving the IT services. Meanwhile backup windows are getting smaller and smaller,” said Morris Ng, Head of ITS, HKIEd. 

There is an increasing demand for continuous operation and disaster recovery. Power outages would prevent students from accessing learning materials or submitting their assignments online. “Ensuring reliable and effective IT services to support teaching and learning is one of the priorities of our senior management,” said Ng.

The Solution

Faced with these challenges, HKIEd called for tenders and turned to GTI (Global Technology Integrator Limited) for their recommendation on NetApp FAS3240 storage arrays with MetroCluster, SnapManager for Microsoft Exchange and Single Mailbox Restore.

While human resources and enterprise resource planning (ERP) data remained stored in the existing SAN, most of the data were transported to the new system. Considering an annual growth of 15 per cent, the NetApp unified storage system is expected to scale for future needs in the next five years.

NetApp MetroCluster solution combines array-based clustering with synchronous mirroring to deliver continuous availability and zero data loss at a low cost.

“Its graphic user interface (GUI) is more user-friendly and the management is simpler than the existing SAN,” explains Wilson Chan, Head of Sales, Enterprise Team of GTI. “MetroCluster immediately duplicates all of a company’s business-critical data on a transaction-by-transaction basis onto the disks, providing uninterrupted access to applications and data. Unlike standard data mirroring solutions, MetroCluster works seamlessly with customer’s host environment while eliminating the need to create and maintain complicated failover scripts.”