Arkansas Tech University greatly speeds enrollment and administration

With IBM Power and IBM XIV Storage Systems for high performance

Published on 16-Jan-2013

"Now, with IBM Power 770 and IBM XIV, student registration time has essentially become a non-issue. It’s made a tremendous difference in the way we can handle those crunch times." - Merrell Shoptaw, Director of Computer Services, Arkansas Tech University

Customer:
Arkansas Tech University

Industry:
Education

Deployment country:
United States

IBM Business Partner:
Fidelity Information Services

Overview

Founded in 1909 in Russellville, Arkansas, Arkansas Tech University is a state-supported, four-year institution that offers a wide range of academic programs to students around the world. Arkansas Tech prides itself on having steady growth in its student population over the last ten years and on its ability to offer reasonable tuition rates for higher education. The university offers liberal arts degree programs, as well as technical degrees in fields such as computer science and engineering.

Business need:
Arkansas Tech University needed a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and supporting hardware to alleviate performance issues due to rapid growth and increasing student enrollment.

Solution:
Arkansas Tech deployed IBM® Power® 770 servers running IBM AIX®, IBM XIV® Storage Systems, IBM System Storage® ProtecTIER® TS7650G Deduplication Gateways, IBM PowerVM® and IBM Tivoli® Storage Manager.

Benefits:
The university boosted IT performance during student registration, enabled an IT staff of 28 to easily support faculty, staff and 11,000 students, and used deduplication to store five times more data.

Case Study

Founded in 1909 in Russellville, Arkansas, Arkansas Tech University is a state-supported, four-year institution that offers a wide range of academic programs to students around the world. Arkansas Tech prides itself on having steady growth in its student population over the last ten years and on its ability to offer reasonable tuition rates for higher education. The university offers liberal arts degree programs, as well as technical degrees in fields such as computer science and engineering.

Assessing administrative challenges in a demanding environment

In response to a steady increase in student enrollment, which put additional strain on the university’s ERP system—an out-of-date solution that was no longer supported by its vendor—Arkansas Tech decided to replace the software. At this point, in 2011, the university also decided to upgrade the IT systems that would support the new, more robust ERP system.

Some of the university’s main priorities for selecting the new ERP system—which would run all of its administration functions—and for selecting the supporting servers and storage systems were to provide improved performance and flexibility to dynamically handle peak processing times. During past student enrollment periods, the university had experienced noticeable performance issues with its systems. According to Merrell Shoptaw, director of computer services at Arkansas Tech, “Registration for students enrolling in classes has always been very processor intensive. In past years, when we would begin registration, everything else pretty much came to a halt on campus.” Also expressing awareness of this issue, Daniel Land, IBM AIX administrator at the university, explains how these issues were impacting students and the university staff: “We needed to keep up with not only the increased demand from students, but also the expanded administrative requirements for the day-to-day business of the university.”

Providing confidence with highly capable technology

After Arkansas Tech identified its business requirements for new ERP and IT systems, the university turned to IBM and IBM Business Partner Fidelity Information Services for help in selecting a new solution. Having been a satisfied IBM customer for more than 25 years, the university wanted to continue using IBM servers and storage systems. Therefore, the university upgraded its ERP system to one that would operate well on its existing AIX platform.

Regarding the need to upgrade the university’s servers to support the new ERP system implementation, Shoptaw says, “We looked for solutions that would give us confidence that we could expand as needed in order to accommodate the student growth we were seeing.”

To meet the need for flexibility and performance, the university deployed two scalable, high-performance IBM Power 770 servers—one for production and one for a redundant backup server—running AIX. For the storage side of the solution, the university installed two IBM XIV Storage Systems—also deployed in a mirrored backup configuration. To support replication between the production and backup storage systems, the university implemented two IBM System Storage TS7650G ProtecTIER Deduplication Gateways, which work with IBM Tivoli Storage Manager to perform data deduplication—a capability that helps to manage the exponential growth of new data by reducing or eliminating duplicate data in traditional and virtual tape backup functions. The university also uses IBM Tivoli Data Protection to back up the ERP system databases and leverages IBM Global Financing to finance its hardware and software components.

Earning top marks for performance and flexibility

After completing the implementation of the new ERP system and its supporting hardware in a relatively short time, the university quickly began to see significant improvements in IT performance, flexibility and reliability. Describing his initial experience with the new IBM solution, Shoptaw says, “We were not particularly concerned about hardware reliability. We knew it was going to work, and it worked just as it was advertised to.” In fact, this resulting productivity boost enabled the university’s IT staff to support the entire student body of 11,000—plus staff and faculty—with only 28 people.

Upon the first registration period after the solution’s implementation, expectations for performance improvement were easily met—and surpassed. “Now, with IBM Power 770 and IBM XIV, student registration time has essentially become a non-issue. It’s made a tremendous difference in the way we can handle those crunch times,” says Shoptaw.

Commenting on the hardware behind the university’s IT performance improvements, Land says, “When we went to XIV and Power 770, we got more memory, more processing power and faster storage. We also saw faster database replication, had fewer problems with backups and shortened our backup window significantly using ProtecTIER.” Implementing ProtecTIER with advanced deduplication functionality also enabled the university to store five times the amount of data compared to its previous storage solution, providing significant infrastructure cost reductions.

Land was also pleased with the adaptability of the new solution. “The flexibility allows us to do what we previously were unable to do, due to the dynamic resource allocation within the servers and the data migration capabilities of XIV. That has given us many more options for how we can do business and run our programs here.”

Staying ahead of the curve with IBM

In the process of overcoming some sizable IT and business challenges by implementing a powerful new solution, Arkansas Tech University has further cemented its relationship with IBM. Shoptaw affirms the status of this partnership, saying, “I’ve been in this position now for 35 years, and I’ve dealt a lot with IBM on different platforms. I continue to be very pleased with the results I get.” The university looks forward to working with IBM on future projects, staying connected to the latest advances in servers and storage.

For more information

Contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit us at: ibm.com/power and ibm.com/storage

For more information about Arkansas Tech University, visit: www.atu.edu

For more information about IBM Business Partner Fidelity Information Services, visit: fisglobal.com

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Hardware:
Power 770, Storage: TS7650G ProtecTIER Deduplication Gateway, Storage: XIV

Software:
AIX, PowerVM, Tivoli Storage Manager

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2013 IBM Corporation Systems and Technology Group Route 100 Somers, NY 10589 Produced in the United States of America January 2013 IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, Power, System Storage, XIV, AIX, PowerVM, ProtecTIER, and Tivoli are trademarks of International Business Machines Corp., registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Other product and service names might be trademarks of IBM or other companies. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at “Copyright and trademark information” at ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml This document is current as of the initial date of publication and may be changed by IBM at any time. Not all offerings are available in every country in which IBM operates. The client examples cited are presented for illustrative purposes only. Actual performance results may vary depending on specific configurations and operating conditions. THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT IS PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND ANY WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF NON-INFRINGEMENT. IBM products are warranted according to the terms and conditions of the agreements under which they are provided.