Edinburgh Napier University delivers the skills and experience that matter to over 19,500 students from more than 140 countries. With 1,500 staff, it combines professional know-how with an academic approach and continual investment in teaching and learning facilities to help its students succeed beyond university. The 2017 Guardian University Guide, which compares entry requirements with final degree awards, ranks Edinburgh Napier University top in the UK for adding value to students.
As one of Scotland’s leading higher education institutions, Edinburgh Napier University is dedicated to giving students and academics the best learning and research opportunities. That means providing a seamless IT experience, with continuous access to the relevant applications, regardless of any disruption or upgrade work the IT team is carrying out behind the scenes.
Iain Russell, Head of Infrastructure for the University’s Information Services Department, says, “the IT team has to manage disruptions that are both in and out of our control, but we can’t let that affect the student experience. Whether we’re running patches for a product upgrade or, if our energy company needs to take down the power of one of our buildings, we can’t let it have an impact on students or staff.”
Strict security protocols across the University meant that the IT team used to spend up to a week when infrastructure was needed for a new service or application. Vigorous tests were also required to ensure it was both compliant and could protect the institution’s valuable research data. The time delay could frustrate members of staff, holding up delivery of new applications – or risking shadow IT, with their circumventing the IT team to deploy unapproved cloud services.
As Edinburgh Napier is home to one of the country’s leading cyber academies, the IT team wanted a solution that could help enrich the learning of these students. “Our Cyber Academy students need to develop skills to help businesses and governments defend against the cybercriminals of tomorrow. Our environment needs to support their running tests to see how or why breaches would occur, but in a secure way. We have certain systems, such as finance and HR, that need to be off-limits, so wanted to strike a balance between providing an environment for students to learn in, while protecting the rest of the network.”
The University realised the incumbent solution could not deliver the micro-segmentation capabilities required, and came to consider VMware as a solution having seen NSX demonstrated at a VMware event. “NSX stood out to us as it was the only solution we’d seen that could help us seamlessly migrate different workloads with minimal disruption, while delivering the levels of micro-segmentation needed to ensure different departments would only have access to the data and infrastructure they needed,” explains Russell. “NSX couples security directly to the workload, so when a new server is needed to support a new application, its policies are automatically attached to it. That’s what we needed.”
After approaching Phoenix Software for the solution, Edinburgh Napier opted to deploy VMware NSX with the support of Phoenix and VMware’s Professional Services (PSO) team. “The support of the PSO team was great. They got everything to market swiftly and smoothly, ensuring our team had the skills to establish and maintain a good working deployment. It was a big job, but they helped us do it with no impact to the students. It would have taken us twice as long to implement on our own without the expertise from Professional Services.”