The EMC Hybrid Cloud and the University of North Texas Making the Grade in Student Services

As CTO at the University of North Texas System, I lead an IT Shared Services organization mandated to provide rich and expansive IT services across three campuses; UNT Denton, UNT Dallas and UNT Health Science Center in Ft. Worth. UNTS ITSS serves more than 41,000 students and 5,000 faculty members.

Until recently, these services were siloed, expensive, and inefficient. Each operating unit such as colleges and departments operated their own IT systems: some a decade old. This hodgepodge of infrastructures created a collection of storage and backup systems that were costly and growing more expensive.

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While each group had its own IT infrastructure, they didn’t have their own IT department. That responsibility—that immense challenge—fell to my organization. The demand on us grew right along with the growth of systems and storage. It was significant and hard to control. It hit hard on our IT budget and resources—and delayed the rollout of new services.

Maintaining the expertise to manage different systems was no longer practical. It became clear that the road forward had to move us beyond silos and into providing Converged Infrastructure, Platform and Software as a Service to everyone.

To achieve this, ITSS implemented the EMC Federation Hybrid Cloud solution that provides a catalog of 60 services through a self-service portal, ranging from provisioning raw servers and storage to creating and hosting mobile applications for students. Now when a stakeholder or organization requests services, they come through the self-service portal. At one time, a range of disconnected systems and eclectic, individual processes handled those services. Today, they all come into and are provided by a single hybrid cloud infrastructure.

UNT System did a rigorous analysis of the vendors that could build our hybrid cloud. We chose EMC for their cloud experience, maturity, and product portfolio. We jumped in with both feet, deploying the entire EMC stack and we got exactly what we wanted. In fact, with EMC, we implemented the hybrid cloud in just 28 days.

Providing services through this single, hybrid cloud infrastructure gives us significant strategic advantage in student recruiting. The higher the level of services a university provides, the more attractive it is to students.

We’re reaping very positive benefits. I mentioned above that one of the services we offer is server provisioning. Today we complete that request in 30 minutes as opposed to the days it would take us —and I devote zero IT team resources to it. I estimate that our maintenance time will be reduced by 30 percent and costs reduced by 27 percent in future budgets. That’s because we manage patches better, scale effortlessly, and add new services so quickly. I should also mention that we’re seeing far fewer support calls. And performance improvements are substantial. What used to take 32 minutes to execute now takes less than three minutes.

What’s down the road? More of the same: reduce IT’s cost growth curve, more student and administrative services, and more satisfied stakeholders. Over the next three to four years we will have created a highly consolidated and highly virtual environment: we’re already 63 percent virtualized and we’ll hit 90 percent by 2018.

That’s going to save us money in nearly every corner of our IT service offerings. We’ll continue to reduce the number of resources we need to handle these services, freeing them up for more strategic projects. We’ll dramatically lower the raw capital costs of maintaining and expanding that infrastructure. We’ll continue to decrease the number of service calls to handle routine tasks. And more importantly, we’ll expand our Shared Services catalog from the 60 offerings we have today.

About the Author: Rama Dhuwaraha