An interview with Tim Pinnock, ICT Manager, Inaburra School
Background: Inaburra School is an independent, co-educational K-12 school in Sydney, NSW. Inaburra exists to be a Christ-centred learning community pursuing excellence in education with every individual known and loved. As ICT Manager, Tim Pinnock is responsible for ensuring that the school’s ICT resources effectively serve and enhance learning and all aspects of the School’s operation. We recently spoke with Tim regarding Inaburra’s transition to a Nutanix-powered data centre which has eliminated former challenges and allowed the school to pursue exciting new projects. Here are the highlights:
Q: What challenges did Inaburra School face with its previous IT infrastructure?
Before Nutanix, our data centre was completely physical – it was made up of independent servers and direct-attached SAS drives, all of which had different backup and restore architectures. We could not share resources, which made management very time-consuming and difficult.
We were also very over-provisioned in terms of the amount of hardware that we have provided for our applications; the majority of servers would have run at under 10 per cent utilisation most of the time, which was a waste of money. Fortunately we didn’t experience a major failure, but it was a risk – if it did happen, it would have taken days to restore an individual server, which could bring down the various applications our students and teachers use each day.
Q: Why did you select Nutanix?
We learned about Nutanix through BEarena, who recommended the technology when we decided to move to a virtualised infrastructure. It was mainly the simplicity that attracted me – the simplicity of being able to manage server and storage through one interface solved many of the issues we faced with our former gear. Every other virtual architecture that was proposed to us included SAN, which is notoriously difficult to manage – our time is better spent introducing new tools for students rather than keeping the lights on.
With Nutanix, it’s very easy to ensure applications are running as they should, whether it’s our student management systems, the learning management system used by our students, network services, active directory, and so on. This means students and teachers are never interrupted and can make the most of their time at school.
Q: What benefits has Nutanix brought to the school?
As well as making our data centre easier to manage and much more reliable, Nutanix gives us the ability to scale up as we need it. This is important because it means we can deliver services to students and staff much faster.
A good example of this would be when we started to use Minecraft as an educational tool for our students. Before Nutanix we would have needed to find an old box that wasn’t being used to begin experimenting with and testing Minecraft. When it came to moving into production, we would have faced the inevitable dilemma of having to provision and purchase new hardware, then implement that hardware into the infrastructure. That would have taken quite some time. However, with Nutanix, the creation of a virtual server for testing was easy, and turning it into a production server simply took a few clicks.
Q: What projects are you looking to explore in the future?
Nutanix provides a critical stepping stone for our long-term goal of providing students access to high-end applications like Photoshop and VectorWorks on their own devices. We have a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) program in place, but it is limited to web-based applications. If we can provide these full software suits to students without requiring them to go out and buy expensive computers, it will have a major impact on their education.