Necessity is the mother of reinvention for University of Winchester’s IT network management

Editorial Type: Case Study Date: 03-2018 Views: 1,089 Tags: Networking, UPS, Eaton
Sometimes the warning signs of an IT failure only become obvious when there’s a serious problem – not just applications going down, but when you can actually smell that something’s wrong. It’s an IT manager’s worst nightmare when a network failure requires urgent maintenance, especially when the faulty equipment itself is part of a disaster recovery solution.

The University of Winchester came close to an Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) environmental issue when its existing UPS systems failed without warning, the first sign being noticeable fumes coming off the batteries in the UPSs that were housed in student villages across the University and protected the Edge IT infrastructure, which is there to ensure availability of IT services to students around-the-clock. 

The University’s IT team had a seemingly simple decision to make: find a new provider for its UPS requirements. Crucially, the University wanted to avoid any future scenarios where this could happen again so it needed its new UPSs to enable it to monitor the condition of the batteries and provide proactive diagnostics. Alongside this, it wanted to take the opportunity to bring in power management software that could be integrated with its existing virtualised environment, run on VMware, so that it could manage the entire estate through a single pane of glass.

The University of Winchester traces its origins back to 1840, it now caters for approximately 6,500 students, and was ranked 10th for teaching excellence in 2016. Over the last decade it has invested heavily in its facilities and infrastructure, including the development of a new teaching block and three student villages as part of its commitment to building a modern IT infrastructure by way of a virtualised environment.

According to Sean Ashford, Network and Systems Manager at University of Winchester, “The IT network is a really important part of a modern university; we provide a service to students and teaching staff and it’s hugely important that the network gives guaranteed uptime for them to do online research and study whenever they require. We also need to ensure that there’s no risk of data loss that could ultimately impact a student’s grades. But we’re not just a place of study, students live here and we need to ensure quality of service in the network in their downtime too.”

When it came to choosing a new solution, the University had made a conscious decision to avoid like-for-like product replacements, instead wanting to install superior solutions that would bring additional value and reassurance, notably in management and monitoring of the overall solution. The key challenge facing the network upgrade was that a new UPS in the data centre would have to integrate with legacy equipment, while new solutions needed to be compatible with its virtualised environment, managed by VMware’s vCenter, and enable the University to have better predictability around when maintenance should take place, ideally being able to ensure this was always done outside of term time.

Ashford noted that “Eaton’s software was a crucial point of differentiation in the market.” Eaton provided the University with its Intelligent Power Management (IPM) software to support business continuity across its entire estate. The software enables the University’s IT team to manage its mission critical applications across the network from a virtualization dashboard, which decides which ones can be left running, which ones to shed load and stop, or to limit the power to certain applications. Virtual machines in the University’s network can be shut down through Eaton’s IPM, with the restarting controlled by vCenter virtualisation management software, meaning both shut down and restarting are performed in a manner that minimises downtime and eliminates the risk of data loss.

From a hardware perspective, Eaton installed 50 5PX single phase 3kVA units across the campus, each providing a critical runtime of up to 20 minutes in the event of a power failure, long enough for back-up systems to come online to prevent any data loss or corruption or to ride out short power outages with no loss of functionality. Eaton’s 5PX UPS batteries have a design lifetime of five years, and the way it charges batteries enable them to outlive competitor batteries by 50 percent longer.

Alongside the 5PX units, Eaton also installed two 9SX 5000VA UPSs  to support higher power applications at the network edge and a 93PM UPS in the University of Winchester’s data centre. The 93PM is a 50kW power module with an internal battery cabinet, which has an incredibly small footprint to achieve space-saving in the data centre. It ensures long-term, reliable and uninterrupted operation of the University’s IT equipment, protecting it from failures and long power outages, and has an LCD touchscreen display that provides essential status information at a glance in both graphical and numerical formats.

Eaton and the University of Winchester selected products based on how much additional value the University could derive from them. All the UPSs installed at University of Winchester are new products that have been released to market within the last three years, which ensures that they have the best efficiencies in terms of power and running costs, as well as providing as much useable power as possible. On top of that, the University has been able to sweat the value of the Intelligent Power Management software to help it manage its existing systems from a single pane of glass, and help it move towards a virtualised environment.

Considering the previous issues with battery life, decisively for the University’s IT team, Eaton’s UPS units also feature AMB battery management technology that enables proactive diagnostics of battery life, giving the University’s IT team up to 60 days’ warning ahead of a battery’s end of useful life, which is enough time to hot swap the battery without switching off any IT equipment. Given its experience, this gave the University of Winchester’s IT team huge peace of mind.

Ashford said, “We’re a relatively lean IT team and we’ve been able to engage Eaton as an extension of the team through a five-year support plan, which sees Eaton providing remote monitoring and preventative maintenance visits, which give us additional proactive support and reassurance in managing and maintaining our UPSs.” The University of Winchester now has an infrastructure solution across its data centre and network that is more resilient, future-proofed and ready to grow with its needs. Since implementing the Intelligent Power Management software, the University has been able to get greater insights into what’s happening with its IT suite and at a power level – in fact, it has tracked that the UPS units have kept its IT running on a vast number of occasions, despite over 1500 power event. The proactive diagnostics of the ABM technology also enable the University to plan IT maintenance outside of term time, further increasing uptime.

Sean Ashford continued, “Eaton has been a really important partner in helping to bring the university’s IT infrastructure up to standard. The quality of service from the UPS systems was a critical factor in our choice of supplier, but more than that, it’s the support that Eaton brings in enabling us to monitor and manage our systems so that we know exactly what is going on at any point in the network.”