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I am Justin Yau, Associate Director of IT Operations at Langara College in Vancouver, British Columbia, where I manage the entire IT infrastructure supporting the College. We are proud to be Nimble Storage’s first Canadian customer.Langara College Logo

Our decision to use Nimble Storage really started a few years ago when we issued an RFP for a new storage vendor. We were an EqualLogic shop, but were not happy with its snapshot capabilities. At the time, my predecessor had read about the Nimble Storage solution in an analyst research article, so he reached out to Nimble to have it participate in the RFP. After a rigorous evaluation process and detailed analysis, Nimble Storage emerged as the winner.

Since that time we have deployed several different applications on our Nimble Storage array, really hammering its products – the results have brought us confidence in working with them. We are using them for most of our production environment. We have also discovered its snapshot and replication capabilities work as advertised. We are now using it to replicate our data for disaster recovery.

We have also been investing in deploying Citrix because of our challenges in managing computers and applications on a campus with:

  • 1,200 employees (staff and faculty)
  • 20,000 to 30,000 students per annum
  • 20+ computer labs with about a hundred different software applications
  • 2,000 workstations (including 800 in computer labs)

A key mandate for us is consistency across-the-board in our lab capabilities: students must be able to move from one lab to the other and still have access to all the same software. This means that if one lab is updated, all the other labs must be updated, too. And, as each new semester approaches, instructors ask for new software in the labs. Such continual updates meant that we had to update each of 800 computers, individually – a very manual, time consuming, tedious process and not something we could do overnight. And, if something was not installed correctly or the instructor decided to make a change, IT staff was forced to go back to each and every one of those machines to update or fix it.

Langara College

The new library at Langara College is LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design), and uses innovative wind towers instead of traditional heating and cooling.

As for faculty and staff, it was the same story. Each and every computer was tied to a user. The College does a lot of shuffling of offices and instructors from one area to another, which meant their computers had to go with them, creating a tremendous amount of work for the IT staff: on occasion tying up our IT service desk people for weeks at a time, just moving computers around. Not a very efficient use of time!

At a Synergy conference we were warned by presenters that the SAN (storage area network) was going to be one of the biggest challenges when implementing a Citrix solution, especially when deploying XenDesktop. They all talked “IOPS” (input / output operations per second) and how you need to design the SAN properly. We took these warnings to heart and through an extensive exercise determined that we had an extremely high IOPS requirement.

As a part of the evaluation process, we discovered that the solutions from incumbent storage companies ranged from $500,000 to $1,000,000 to deliver the IOPs we needed for our Citrix environment.

Working at a college, we must stretch our budgets as far as we can so we went back to the team at Nimble and asked, “Is this something that your array can handle?” We were confident because of the way Nimble Storage has architected the CS-Series, but needed to be sure.

Nimble Storage was the only vendor willing to work with us to really test our numbers: shipping us two arrays, enabling us to build out a PoC (Proof of Concept) environment for Citrix, and proving the arrays could handle the workload cost-effectively. Our Citrix consultant remarked that the numbers coming from the Nimble Storage solution were quite impressive.

Now, with Nimble Storage and Citrix, we are transitioning to a virtualized environment that decouples everything from the physical workstations: a very different delivery model from what we had before and one which saves many staff hours that used to go into moving, updating and managing machines. All labs and all computers can quickly and easily be updated simultaneously. Users are no longer tied to physical machines: they can go to any room where there is a thin client and access their desktops. They can even access their desktops from home.

With full deployment of virtualization right down to the desktop level, I foresee my IT resources will be freed up to do more, with my staff being able to help students and employees at a much higher level, rather than just fixing computers.

Overall, we have found the Nimble Storage team to be very responsive and very willing to help us achieve what we needed to achieve – the folks at Nimble, whether technicians or VPs, are truly exceptional. Over the years, the bond has strengthened between the College and Nimble, making it into a true partnership.

Written by:
Erin Simmons