The University of Sunshine Coast (UniSC) was experiencing a number of hardware and software issues and outages due to their aging data centre. Having been deployed in 2014, the existing data centre technology was nearing the end of its life and a full upgrade was required to power the university’s growing workload.
Working closely with RIOT, there was a strong desire to adopt a policy-driven, automated, and orchestrated architecture to support both current and future data centre hosting requirements. As these types of updates are generally only made every five or more years, it was critical to develop a forward-thinking strategy that would future-proof the data centre.
The data centre upgrade project had the following key objectives:
- Adoption of automation, orchestration, and segmentation
- Increased bandwidth capacity
- Increased visibility and integrated management
- Support for off-site data centre migration
- Integration with the cloud
- Improved reliability
- Reduced operational cost (long-term)
- Reduced cost for future maintenance renewals.
This challenging job across a large, dynamic network required a seamless transition and no downtime. With hundreds of systems running across the university, careful planning was critical. RIOT worked closely with the university team to stage out the migration and build trust in the process.
As with any project of this size and scope, there were a range of challenges that needed to be addressed.
Overall, the procurement process required was lengthy and created additional delays to the project delivery.
Detailed planning and documentation were required to ensure the process was as smooth as possible, and all procurement requirements were met.
The project also required a lot of coordination and communication between cross function teams regarding their unique network, server, storage and application requirements.
Delivering the project during the Covid-19 pandemic meant there were restrictions on attending the campus in person, travel in general, and team members on sick leave throughout the delivery of the project.
The global shortage of semiconductors or ‘chips’ also impacted the data centre migration, with delays in accessing
the hardware necessary to complete the rollout.
Preparation was key to ensuring the new data centre was implemented seamlessly. RIOT developed a detailed strategy, supported by documentation and rigorous testing, to ensure a smooth rollout of the new data centre. The project was phased out over four separate stages:
- Stage 1 – Planning services to design an upgrade solution for data centre switch environment, including ongoing maintenance, and confirmation of a full Bill of Materials (BOM) for the project, planning the implementation of the data centre infrastructure, and the adoption of advanced data centre features.
- Stage 2 – Equipment procurement of the Bill of Materials and the services to manage equipment delivery.
- Stage 3 – Implementation services to stage and configure the equipment prior to data centre installation. Equipment configuration included base routing, switching and a proof of concept of advanced features. Upon completion of successful configuration and testing the equipment were deployed in the data centres in a standalone state.
- Stage 4 – Migration services split into two phases. Phase 1 included the migration of UniSC workloads to the data centre new infrastructure with all traffic traversing the new switches. Phase 2 included the adoption of advanced data centre features for three UniSC applications. Migration services also included the decommissioning of the existing data centre switches.
It has been said that a good partnership is how you deal with things when a project is not going well. RIOT was always upfront about any issues to mitigate problems as early as possible. Combining the technical and project management level communications in a central way gave greater transparency throughout the project delivery.
Not only was RIOT very clear in their communication with the UniSC team and the vendors on the project, they were highly responsive throughout the process. Relationships are key to success and RIOT brought strong vendor, integrator and manufacture relationships to the table. Coupled with the well documented and tested solution, this resulted in a lack of major issues, and overall the project was a very positive experience for the USC team.
Being local was also a real benefit to the project team, as it helped foster a deeper partnership and meant the RIOT team was very accessible. Throughout the project, RIOT was also able to provide insights into what similar organisations were doing, understand unique pain points, and apply that expertise to get the best possible outcome for the university.
Since the finalisation of the project, the new data centre has proven to be more than simply effective. UniSC has seen reduced outages and now enjoys significantly improved visibility with real-time analytics and monitoring of the data centre environment. RIOT was extremely cognisant of the need for genuine transformation, not just replacing like for like, and has provided the university with a further proofed next-generation data centre