Nutanix and IMPEX Technologies Help University Make High-Performance Applications and Services Available to Students, Instructors, and Administrators Everywhere
California State University, Long Beach is a 322-acre campus that’s home to top-notch professors, successful alumni, and a student population of more than 39,000 students ready to succeed with a highly regarded education. Like every university, Cal State Long Beach relies on its infrastructure to give instructors, administrators, and students access to the tools and applications they need every day. When its three-tier architecture began showing its age, the university turned to IMPEX Technologies. IMPEX recommended the flexible Nutanix Hybrid Cloud Platform to support its enrollment systems, identity management, building security, and powers access to the Student Virtual Lab that gives students 24x7 access to the latest learning applications from anywhere. The solution is not only easier to maintain, but flexible to support students studying off-campus during the global pandemic.
|Enhanced performance and availability of student, and administrative services with flexible hyperconverged infrastructure||Provided unified view for checking network health and automating upgrades via Nutanix Prism management solution||Scaled solution to quickly expand from 300 to 1000 VDI student learning sessions per day
Nutanix let us scale up fast and run applications that were historically run in on-premises labs throughout the campus. We are now hosting the majority of those applications virtually, so that students can access them during Covid. In the past, these labs had limited hours, but now we can make the environment available to them on a 24x7 basis.
When the pandemic emerged, Cal State Long Beach had to scale their VDI environment dramatically in a short period of time. The Nutanix solution made it much easier to provide additional resources for staff and students.
Since 1949, Cal State Long Beach has offered rich educational opportunities to a highly diverse array of students. IT is responsible for supporting the environment that powers teaching, research, and administration at the institution, from identity management, enrollment services, business intelligence and analytics, and physical security.
“We're tasked with running the infrastructure for the university, and we also have some additional environments that are used to house our Student Virtual Lab, a VDI environment that we've made available to our students,” said Jesse Santana, Director of System Servers and Websites, California State University, Long Beach.
The university was running its solution on a traditional three-tier on-premises infrastructure that provided adequate performance, but as it neared end of life, performance began to suffer. IT was faced with a choice. It could simply renew the existing components in its environment, or move to a more future-proof infrastructure that delivered better performance in the short term, and more flexibility to grow in the future.
“We had been running into issues at times with databases and disk operations where the IOPs numbers were not where we needed them to be,” said Mig Gomez, Lead of the Systems Support Group at California State University, Long Beach. “We wanted to make sure that the environment that we were moving to could outperform the environment we were coming from.”
Cal State Long Beach looked to its technology partner IMPEX Technologies, a leader in digital transformation with 25 years of experience. After thorough testing, IMPEX advised migrating the university’s key applications and services to an HCI solution from Nutanix.
“We ran a lot of tests against the environment using some custom scripts that would hammer SQL databases and other resources,” said Gomez. “The numbers we saw were very impressive, and much better than the performance that we were seeing on our previous hardware.”
The Nutanix Hybrid Cloud Platform lets Cal State Long Beach bring all the scattered pieces of its infrastructure together on a single virtualized platform. Nutanix AOS delivers applications with the fastest possible performance, lets the university manage all of its data, and self heals for dependable operation.
Nutanix supports more than 500 VMs running in university’s environment on two clusters, to support all the key administrative and instructional applications for the campus.
“We host all kinds of VMs running applications from Oracle to Microsoft SQL, document imaging applications, as various applications to support the classroom learning environment.” said Santana.
This solution also provides nonstop 24x7 access to Student Virtual Labs, with university-licensed software for classroom instruction and assignments. Student Virtual Labs offer no-cost, convenient access from nearly any common device to what would otherwise be expensive software.
With its Nutanix solution in place, Cal State Long Beach has dramatically simplified administration of the infrastructure, storage, and the applications it supports. Nutanix streamlines the process of setting up and managing the services the university needs, so IT can respond to its customer requests faster.
“Previously, putting a node online required a lot of coordination of storage and networking resources,” said Gomez. “Now it's a lot easier, because our team controls most of the storage, and we can set up a node without a lot of additional configuration required.”
The scalability of the environment was especially useful when the global pandemic emerged. The IT team was able to rapidly increase the capacity of its Student Virtual Labs, so students do not need to physically visit a campus computer lab to access Computer Aided Design (CAD) applications, data sequencing tools, math and statistics, programming languages, and more.
“When the pandemic first hit, we were told that many courses were going online practically overnight,” said Santana. “We had to scale out our VDI environment from about 300 to 1000 sessions. We worked closely with the Student Virtual Labs team to quickly scale up our Nutanix solution and the applications it supports.”
The availability of the solution has improved as well, because Nutanix Prism management console provides centralized visibility into the new HCI, which helps IT save time solving potential issues.
“Nutanix has enabled us to troubleshoot much more effectively,” said Gomez. “In the past, if we had performance issues with a particular application, it was a nightmare trying to figure out where it was coming from, whether it was the system, the network, or backend components like overloaded router blades. Submitting a trouble ticket to a vendor often led to finger-pointing. With Nutanix, we don’t have to worry about that anymore, and life is much easier.”
Upgrades and maintenance are a snap, thanks to the built-in automation and one-click update capabilities.
“We recently performed an AOS upgrade, and everything throughout the process was pretty much automated,” said Gomez. “Just had to confirm that things were running properly afterwards. It's much, much better now than it was before.”
The Cal State Long Beach IT team is constantly seeking ways to improve its operations and service availability, and the Nutanix solution offers a variety of paths to extend its capabilities.
“We’re looking for a solution we can use for disaster recovery (DR), and Xi Leap is one solution we are testing,” said Santana. “I also want to examine Nutanix Files storage solutions, which could help us sidestep the need for maintaining a separate storage array. Nutanix did a good job helping us collapse the separate tiers in our previous infrastructure, so we’d like to use them to consolidate storage as well. Bringing all this functionality together in a single environment that would make it a lot easier for us to maintain internally with limited staff.”
The university is also testing Nutanix Frame, a Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) solution that provides access to apps on any device and from any location, while saving IT time on updates for GPU drivers and other application maintenance tasks. The flexible, scalable Nutanix solution offers plenty of options to explore.