VMware NSX Is Raising the Bar in Higher Education
Networking Challenges and the Halls of Academe
University environments are, by nature, decentralized and distributed. There are multiple academic departments that tend to operate by their own rules, with their own support staff, including IT departments. There are also multiple non-academic departments; specialty schools, libraries, and other university resource centers; and, of course, a central administration tasked with managing and supporting all the other operations necessary to run a successful higher education institution.
With so many diverse clients, the central IT organization of most universities often finds it difficult to respond to the specific demands of individual departments in a timely manner. Over time, this led to the individual departments, campuses and schools setting up their own IT departments to handle these requests, outside of central IT. As Tim Merrigan, VMware’s vice president, state and local government and education, explains, “The lack of agility forces the central IT department to cede control to the various individual departments and creates an erosion of trust in central IT. It generates painful cost inefficiencies as well,” he continues. “If you have multiple IT silos on a campus, typically you have an array of assets that are not being utilized.” And, of course, security is also a major challenge.
Creating Order Out of Chaos
Central IT is under tremendous pressure to answer these challenges in the most comprehensive and cost-efficient ways possible. Many university administrations, thankfully, recognize the value of having IT regain control. They want to standardize their networking operations to gain cost efficiencies, enhance security, and improve the stability and agility of their networks so that they can become brokers of IT services for their university, and even university-related communities.
For a comprehensive solution to all these challenges, higher education institutions are increasingly turning to VMware NSX. NSX allows these institutions to address their most important challenges while getting more value out of their prior network investments—a huge benefit given tight, and often competing budget priorities.
Greater Agility and IT as a Broker of IT Services
NSX allows central IT to regain control of provisioning because, as Merrigan points out, “Operationally, it’s significantly more efficient.” In contrast to the weeks, if not months, that it would take central IT to provision new services, with NSX, that new service request can be provisioned in minutes.
The benefits of this vastly improved agility enable NSX to drive down the costs while improving the customer experience. “That builds trust,” Merrigan says. “The more IT responsibilities are transferred to [IT], the more that allows the individual departments to focus on delivering better education. That’s a draw for both students and professors.”
The much greater trust, security, and agility that NSX provides also allows central IT to take on the greater role of a broker of IT services. “Ultimately,” Merrigan says, “NSX allows IT to offer the university community a better level of service, vastly improved security, and significant cost efficiencies.” Until recently, for example, each of the University of New Mexico’s (UNM) 100 departments had its own IT organization. With over 35,000 students and 9,100 faculty and staff on the network, the university decided to deploy a combination of VMware NSX and VMware vRealize Automation to create a new, campus-wide IT program. The combination changed IT’s role from supporting infrastructure to being a broker of IT services across the university. “NSX was a game-changer for us,” says Brian Pietrewicz, Director of Computing Platforms, UNM. “The speed and efficiency benefits are also very tangible.”
It also opens the possibility of allowing the university to extend this capability beyond the (sometimes) ivy-covered walls to educational and other public institutions that do not have the capabilities, or the expertise to create, manage, or upgrade their own networking infrastructures. For example, the Université Laval, in the city of Quebec, Canada, developed a “community cloud” to provide an affordable cloud solution to municipalities, public sector entities, school boards, and government agencies in Quebec. The response was so positive that it is extending this service to more clients, including Quebec’s Ministry of Tourism.
Institutions of higher education are where people go to learn new ways of thinking, question old beliefs, and gain the knowledge they will need to help shape the future. Against this background, it is no accident that NSX is finding such a receptive home. It’s a relationship that looks as good together on campus as a cap and gown.