Coventry Uni picks Microsoft over Novell's Netware

Case study: New system to ease administration headaches

Case study: New system to ease administration headaches

Coventry University is replacing its ageing Novell Netware infrastructure with Microsoft products in a £500,000 deal which will also boost the technical skills of its IT staff.

The tech upgrade will give the university's 18,000 students and staff access to shared online calendars and diaries. It will provide faster log-in for users and greater levels of resilience, and puts in place the infrastructure to support single sign-on and remote working by staff and students.

The university is also looking to integrate its student records system with the directory so that when new students or staff join, they are automatically added to the system.

Colin Bruce, IT manager at Coventry University, explained that the existing infrastructure was limited the choice of software available to departments. "It was felt that we were being constrained by the Netware environment," he said.

The university is migrating from Novell Netware to Windows Active Directory and Exchange 2003, with assistance from Lynx Technology, which is providing the university's IT department with consulting and transition management.

The rollout is expected to be completed by the end of August and will be carried out across the university's 4,500 PCs and eventually up to 45 new IBM servers.

The old and new systems will run in parallel for two to three months, after which time the Netware infrastructure will be switched off.

To implement the system the university had to build its Microsoft skills almost from scratch, according to Bruce. "We had no Windows experience at all - people used it on the desktop but that was about it," he said.

In January and February this year around 15 staff attended Microsoft courses arranged by SkillSolve to learn about implementing the system, and then built test environments to help inform its designs.

Bruce was keen for staff to get hands-on with the project and not leave it to the consultants. "We are doing a lot of the work ourselves," he told

He explained: "One of the things we were worried about was that if we [relied entirely on consultants] at the end of the project we would be left with a service that we couldn't run and would have to call them back again if we had problems."

Rather than just sending staff to training courses, Bruce was keen that they got involved with the development as well. "It concentrates the mind if they are faced with a couple of servers and a Microsoft Exchange disk," he said.