Australian National University building ERP private cloud

Major consolidation and virtualisation program will see Australian National University's tier one and two apps running on up to 900 virtual machines.

The Australian National University (ANU) is on the home stretch in its major IT consolidation and deduplication project, aimed at establishing a private cloud to host the education institution's core business applications.

According to the ANU's CIO, Peter Nikoletatos, the project, due for completion mid-2014, is consolidating the IT infrastructure of multiple colleges and the multiple universities which make up the ANU.

"The whole rationale is to provide a consistent, smaller environment to run our ERP (enterprise resource planning) and a more responsible setup in terms of our carbon footprint," he told ZDNet.

"The ANU is a group of eight universities, and it has had a lot of accidental purchases over the last decade where it bought lots of individual solutions. This is a rationalisation into one virtual computing environment, which is orchestrated and is designed to work."

The IT environment will be consolidated into a primary and secondary datacentres running Dell's Compellent storage, blade servers and Force 10 networking switches. The new environment offers up to one petabyte of storage and will also host a backup and recovery facility.

The ANU's tier one applications for HR, student administration, finance and research management — largely based on Oracle PeopleSoft — will be hosted in a virtual environment along with between 600 and 900 virtual machines (VMs).

These VMS will run 30 to 40 tier one and two apps — such as those used in specific research disciplines in engineering and medical — as well for security and identity management. Potentially hundreds of other point solutions could also be run on the new VMs.

Commenting on the cost savings gained as a result of the project, Nikoletatos said he expected a return on investment of between 10 and 30 percent. However, he said the real value of the project would be in setting the university up for the private cloud and improving the management of its IT environment.

"We will have a significant improvement on our orchestration — simplified then automated — so it is easier to provide access to storage and VMs, and on the security of our data as it is backed up and reliably stored," he said.

Despite being a major advocate of the public cloud, Nikoletatos said he had deliberately opted for an on-premise private cloud, and to not outsource the ANU's datacentres or environment to a third party.

"Before you go to the [public] cloud you have to be sure what you take to the cloud is mature," he explained. "Stage one is to aggregate things, get them working in one environment, and make it a managed service — the name 'ANU Private Cloud' is not by accident — then we have the option of having managed services being provided to us or to shift it outside the university campus."

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