Microsoft System Center 2012 R2

The University of Northampton is a higher education establishment based in Northampton, offering students undergraduate and postgraduate courses. The University consists of just under 14,000 students spread across its two campuses, and has a Student-staff ratio of 19:8.

University of Northampton Logo
    Sector: Higher Education
    Users: 16,000

The University offers students exceptional academic experiences, filled with learning and teaching excellence, state-of-the-art facilities ensuring students have access to extensive libraries, IT suites, studios, innovative learning spaces and laboratories.

With such a large number of users (including staff and students) it is imperative for the University to offer a reliable, stable and highly available IT environment for the systems and applications it provides.

The university also extensively utilises cloud services, including Office 365 for all students and staff, and hosts its website on Azure Infrastructure as a Service.

Organisational challenges and impacts

  • The University of Northampton held a number of datacenters at different locations.
  • The University made the decision to migrate away from their on premise infrastructure to a remote virtualised infrastructure in a modern datacentre to improve service reliability.
  • The University planned a concurrent Windows 8.1 upgrade project, to enhance student and staff experience.
  • The University required an upgrade to System Center 2012 R2, to improve their efficiency in remotely deploying desktop builds, security patches and applications.
  • With tight timescales to complete their desktop upgrade rollout, it was clear that automating the process as much as possible would be the best way to achieve this.
  • With resources stretched across several other projects and business as usual demands, it became clear working with a partner would be the best approach to meet their deadlines and service the business needs.

Challenges Summary

  • Infrastructure consolidation from physical Windows Server 2003/2008 to virtual servers on Windows 2012
  • Migrating to new Active Directory infrastructure
  • Virtual Machine Manager and Hyper-V are new technologies to the IT department – required knowledge share and training
  • Could not interrupt service during migration/rollout
  • Client machines with mixed hardware, specifications & uses
  • Existing rollout methods required a lot of manual steps
  • Multiple images and application definitions
  • Little visibility or control over application and configuration changes made by users

The Chosen Solution

The University of Northampton engaged Fuse to manage the implementation of Microsoft System Center 2012 R2.

System Center 2012 R2 delivers unified management across onpremises, service provider, and Microsoft Azure environments, thereby enabling the Microsoft Cloud OS. System Center 2012 R2 offers exciting new features and enhancements across infrastructure provisioning, infrastructure monitoring, application performance monitoring, automation and self-service, and IT service management.

Using a phased approach Fuse implemented and configured Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 for the University, in their new datacentre. The components deployed were:

  • Configuration Manager
    To manage staff and student machines, including the campus-wide upgrade to Windows 8.1 (from Windows XP and 7)
  • Operations Manager
    Providing operational insights to the server infrastructure of the new virtual datacentre, and the legacy on premise physical datacentres, across Windows and Unix platforms.
  • Data Protection Manager
    backing up Windows workloads, including SharePoint on the University’s Azure platform
  • Virtual Machine Manager
    Manages, deploys, and ensures the availability of machines in the new virtual datacentre.
  • App Controller
    Allows the University to move workloads between their private cloud and their public cloud infrastructure (Azure)
  • Orchestrator
    Enables the University to automate common IT processes across platforms and systems
  • Service Manager
    Brings together all the System Center components and information into a single interface for IT and self-service users

Benefits Achieved

  • Windows 8.1 deployed using a single image, as an automated process
  • Application catalogue available to end users for selfservice software
  • Centralised patch, configuration and antivirus management reduces helpdesk calls
  • Full-featured private cloud, with seamless links to public cloud, allowing hybrid solutions that maximise performance with cost efficiency
  • Entire IT estate can now be viewed and managed from a single set of consoles, regardless of platform and location

Results Achieved

After extensive planning, the University now have an integrated system for managing their entire environment. System Center has become a vital part of the Universities IT infrastructure and management, and with the broad training that Fuse has provided to their staff, they are able to exploit the System Center suite to its fullest capabilities.

With improved user experience for their employees and enhanced IT security, System Center has increased efficiency for the University. Reliability and uptime of servers have improved, and helpdesk calls have been reduced.