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A Behind-the-Scenes Look Into Keeping UNC Charlotte IT Operations Up and Running

By Jesse Beauman, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Enterprise Infrastructure

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

I oversee the central information technology (IT) infrastructure for UNC Charlotte – the part of the campus that most of the University’s over 28,000 students and 3,500 faculty and staff don’t see. This includes all of the networking, telecommunications, central server, storage and security operations.

Over the past year, we’ve made substantial infrastructure investments and transitioned to an environment that is 95 percent virtual. Nimble has been a key part of that strategy and has made our lives in Information Technology Services (ITS) substantially easier.

Nimble Provides Robust Feature Set

Before Nimble, we had three different storage arrays serving our central needs (HP 3Par, HP EVA and NetApp). These arrays were reaching end-of -life and experiencing major disk failure and controller issues. We needed to invest in infrastructure that would meet our needs for both performance and reliability. As part of our review process, we looked at Dell, HP, NetApp and Pure Storage, but ultimately decided that Nimble provided the most cost-effective and robust feature set.

We migrated all of the data from our previous storage environments onto a pair of CS-Series Adaptive Flash arrays. Using Nimble, we see greater performance and reliability. It ensures our applications as a whole run better, and provides far greater redundancy. Nimble is easier to manage and the learning curve for our staff has been reduced.

Greater Speed, Simplicity and Efficiency in IT Operations

There are many pain points that Nimble has helped us address and the benefits have been fantastic:

  • Improved power, cooling and space efficiencies as a result of replacing three-and-a half 42U racks of storage with a Nimble environment at 12U.
  • Database admins are able to update tasks and development environments in 2 hours or less for Banner clones and data dump processes that previously took 12-14 hours.
  • Code upgrades can be done after business hours during the week, instead of having to spend time doing this over the weekend.

Dramatically Improved Visibility into Performance

Using InfoSight saves our staff time and resources because database and server admins can independently examine performance problems on any of our 500+ virtual machines, Oracle servers or shared drives. This allows us to quickly drill down to determine a root cause without having to alert the storage team.

Flexible Environment for Application Development

Our developers now have the flexibility to experiment, tweak and even destroy virtual environments as part of the application development process, without any negative repercussions to the infrastructure.

Robust Disaster Recovery & Improved Security

Replication ensures that each of the University’s two data centers can support the campus in its entirety for improved redundancy and disaster recovery. ITS has the flexibility to move production systems and data back and forth as needed.

We’ve also experienced a huge benefit from being able to encrypt our entire centralized storage. All systems using Nimble now have their data fully encrypted.

What the ITS team provides at UNC Charlotte remains mostly hidden from the thousands of faculty, staff and students who rely on the University’s technology every day. They may not realize the many ways that Nimble has helped us transform our infrastructure, but we take pride in knowing that our ITS team is providing the best solutions and services available in the industry today.

Written by:
Jesse Beauman