Partner helps University of Waterloo into a private cloud

Upgrading to a private cloud infrastructure based on Microsoft System Center 2012 has helped the housing department at the University of Waterloo handle ever-increasing demands on its IT infrastructure and deploy new applications and services to users more quickly, and more efficiently.

The solution was completed with the assistance of Alantex Corp., a Microsoft partner in Toronto that has worked with Waterloo on several Microsoft-related projects over the years.

Greg Parks, an infrastructure analyst with theUniversity of Waterloo’s department of housing, said housing functions as a self-funding business unit of the university, so it has always had a strong focus on customer service.

“We’ve been in the Microsoft virtualization game since they came out with Hyper-V in 2008, so (System Center 2012) is a really natural progression for us,” said Parks.

The department is focused mainly in providing Web services to internal users, such as systems to manage residence accommodations and other applications. One outward-facing application helps match students looking for off-campus housing with landlords. It’s built on a mix of physical and virtual infrastructure, and the department also has its own in-house development shop.

Parks said as the department went down the virtualization road, they found they’d quickly become victims of their own success.

“It made it quicker to deploy more service so we’d just keep deploying more and more services,” said Parks. “We transitioned to new virtual hardware so we’d have more room for new virtual machines.”

And having been satisfied with the Microsoft platform to date, Parks said they didn’t really consider switching when it came time to upgrade their infrastructure.

“Cost would be an issue. If we went down the VMware route it would cost a lot more, and we’d still have to buy Windows licenses,” said Parks.

Working with Alantex has also been a key part of their success, said Parks.

“They’ve been a great partner to work with,” said Parks. “We’ve worked with them on several projects. They have the right knowledge base.”

Having gotten his hands dirty with System Center 2012, Parks said he particularly likes the ability to allocate resources in a more meaningful way, which is making a difference around capacity planning. He seems the new platform allowing the department to bring in more self-service portals using the app controller, which would allow the end-users to deploy more applications on their own, allowing the IT department to focus on other tasks.

Waterloo was part of an early phase deployment of System Centre 2012 said Alantex CEO Vladimir Kryukov. The housing department was already highly virtualized with Hyper-V, but it hadn’t solved all their IT issues.

“They needed better manageability and agility for IT services, and the private cloud allowed them to manage their environment in a better way,” said Kryukov. “They could provide services faster and delegate some tasks to end users and developers.”

The solution Alantex designed was centered around Microsoft System Center and also used blueprint architectures drawing on Alantex’s partnerships with new servers from Cisco Systems and Hewlett-Packard and new storage from NetApp.

“We’re not just building a cloud,” said Kryukov. “We’re building the architecture to support the cloud, with servers and storage.”

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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