IBM Systems and Technology EducationCase Study Fairleigh Dickinson University makes the grade with IBM System x How do you achieve solutions to technical problems as affordably as pos- Overview sible while still pushing the technology envelope? At Fairleigh Dickinson University, the answer involved some forward-looking thinking from the The need school’s IT leaders and some IBM know-how. Fairleigh Dickinson University needed an affordable and ﬂexible computing platform to support disaster recovery Founded in 1942, Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) has grown into and virtualization while running the largest private university in New Jersey. FDU has two main campuses resource-intensive administrative in New Jersey—one in Teaneck and another located in Madison—and software platform. additional locations as far away as Vancouver, British Columbia, and The solution Wroxton, England. FDU presently serves more than 12,000 students FDU worked with IBM to deploy three from 32 states and 72 countries with over 100 degree programs in a IBM System x® 3850 X5 servers running diverse array of academic concentrations at the associate, baccalaureate, Linux to support a production server for master’s and doctoral levels. administrative functions, as well as a failover system and a disaster recovery system. Achieving new capabilities while confronting The beneﬁt constraints The solution delivers the high- Over time, the school began exploring options to perform software performance needed to support the upgrades on its legacy Sun systems. But it rapidly became clear that FDU school’s robust administrative software, needed more than a simple software upgrade to deliver what was needed, and virtualization enables consolidation says Brian Domenick, University Director of Information Systems and and the implementation of new servers on demand. Technology. FDU’s checklist of requirements included a modern platform that supported virtualization and allowed for disaster recovery between campuses. Any new solution would also need plenty of processing performance to run the school’s administrative systems, which include custom higher education enterprise software from vendors including Datatel, Inc. FDU found the answer it was looking for in the form of IBM System x3850 X5 servers.
IBM Systems and Technology EducationCase Study “We said, ‘Rather than just do upgrading, why don’t we change plat- forms?’” recalls Domenick. “We had this vision that we wanted to do “IBM really did a good disaster recovery between our campuses. And so the question became, job of proving to us this ‘How can we accomplish DR, move the system over to one that is more modern, and do the necessary upgrading?’” would work. They really stepped up to the plate Processing power fulﬁlls expectations for us.” Among FDU’s requirements, the top priority was making sure any new solution could handle the school’s Datatel program. The Datatel —Brian Domenick, University Director of software essentially handles all aspects of the school’s business workloads, Information Systems and Technology, from student recruiting and class registration to purchase order tracking Fairleigh Dickinson University and other operations functions. Because the program is extremely resource intensive, Domenick admits he was initially skeptical that the System x3850 X5 servers, featuring Intel® Xeon® multicore processors, would have enough horsepower. But after conducting performance tests on an evaluation system, his concerns were quickly assuaged. “From a performance standpoint, everything is good,” Domenick says. “Certain test applications actually ran much quicker, and we were impressed by how quickly we were able to run certain reports compared to the previous solution.” Ultimately, the IBM System x3850 X5 met all of FDU’s criteria. Domenick says the resulting platform migration, which included adopting Linux and implementing VMware virtualization technology, has been transformational. System x delivers features, ﬂexibility The complete infrastructure includes three System x3850 X5 servers, including the primary production system, and failover/shadow system that is currently in testing, and a disaster recovery system that enables real-time replication. “We deployed a solution for disaster recovery between the campuses so we can to bring up our whole administrative system at the other campus if we have to,” says Domenick. “And we basically replicate there in real time constantly. This is all possible because of the IBM System x 3850 X5, because it has more than enough horsepower compared to our previous platform.” 2
IBM Systems and Technology EducationCase Study One of Domenick’s favorite features of the x3850 X5 is the ability to bind Solution components multiple Intel chassis together as one. This aspect of the IBM solution meant Domenick and his team were able to effectively create a 64 CPU ● IBM System x® 3850 X5 ● Intel® Xeon® multicore processors system the handle the processor- and memory-intensive workloads at ● Linux the school. ● VMware “We’ve seen the Datatel application grow over time and its demand for resources with each version, so we wanted something that was going to have a signiﬁcant amount of headway. This solution essentially gave us almost double of what we could get with anybody else at the time.” Virtualization paves the way for consolidation Beyond performance and added convenience, the solution is providing FDU with other beneﬁts. With the shift to VMware and virtualization, the school has been able to consolidate many of its previous hardware servers onto the production x3850 X5 server. Beyond the space-saving beneﬁt of having fewer physical systems, Domenick and his colleagues now have the ﬂexibility to try new things before going live. “If we want to go and experiment with something, we can actually just clone a copy of our administrative system and then play around with it without bothering the production server,” says Domenick. “We’re really starting to enjoy the ﬂexibility of virtualization because you can do things you could never do with just an operating system running on the physical machine.” Looking ahead, Domenick says the scalability of the IBM solution has already impressed him. “I’m surprised that we haven’t hit the limits of capacity already with what we initially bought,” says Domenick. “IBM is really onto something with this technology. It’s still taking more and more systems, and we’re not having any performance difficulties. We’re all really impressed with the product overall and feel it was a good decision.” Achieving success with a helping hand from IBM Throughout the evaluation and implementation process, Domenick says IBM provided a guiding hand whenever needed, including the support and resources necessary to make the overall project a success. “It’s a big deal to move your administrative system,” says Domenick. “But IBM really bent over backwards on the whole endeavor to make us feel comfortable in making this change. They did a good job of proving to us this would work, and really stepped up to the plate for us.” 3