EDUCATION Case Study – Nimble Adaptive Flash Array

NETprotocol deliver exceptional ‘value and performance’ with Nimble’s Adaptive Flash Array.

“The difference in both value and performance offered by Nimble was pretty staggering and appears to be completely unmatched in this marketplace.” Paul Kernohan, IT Manager, Kenton School

About Kenton

Kenton School in Newcastle upon Tyne, part of the Kenton Schools Multi Academy Trust, is one of the largest academies in the United Kingdom, educating around 2,500 pupils from 11 to 18. The school has a groundbreaking approach to technology. Other schools look to Kenton School as a model for the effective application of IT in delivering the curriculum.

Kenton’s Challenges and Priorities

As one of the UK’s largest schools and having recently formed a Multi-Academy Trust, Kenton School’s IT Infrastructure supports around 2500 users, running 30TB of data in a mixed workload environment to meet the diverse needs of teachers, students and admin staff across three sites in Newcastle.

NETprotocol has worked with Kenton’s IT Manager Paul Kernohan since 2013, who oversees its entire IT operation and is responsible for managing the networks, security, storage, disaster recovery and overall performance. A principal part of his role is to continuously monitor and report on network performance and usage, as well as design and implement preventative maintenance schedules which maximise productivity across the school.

Unique Demands on Storage

As technology has become an integral part of effective learning in the Education sector, coupled with their need to retain large volumes of data for prolonged periods of time, this has placed unique demands on storage capacity and access speed in schools UK-wide.

From basic file system storage for students and teachers to save their work, to Database servers, Exchange servers and Virtual Desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployed at classroom level, it is fair to say that the over-riding strain of such a highly diverse workload was causing noticeable downtime across the entire school at Kenton.

With the production life of their storage systems approaching its end, there was a need for NETprotocol to help Paul consolidate a mix of SAN, NAS and SSD deployments. These were running pretty much ‘flat-out’ and causing huge bottle-necks, triggering an urgency to find a long-term and efficient solution to fit within budgetary constraints.

The Solution

Kenton’s core requirement – as will be at most secondary schools and Academies – was ‘optimum performance’. In other words, the ability to deliver large amounts of data with speed across the entire school network and to a broad range of users.

With a strong knowledge of the Education sector and its operational needs, NETprotocol discussed a range of solutions with Paul and his team, including Nimble Storage which offers an adaptive Hybrid solution (a mix of SSD’s and more traditional disk) in one single array.

Nimble CS Array

“It quickly became apparent that the other storage vendors we were considering offered us less storage and required a complex multi-tiered deployment, at a far greater cost than that which Nimble’s Adaptive Flash Array would bring. The difference in both value and performance offered by Nimble was pretty staggering and appears to be completely unmatched in this marketplace.” Kenton’s IT Manager, Paul Kernohan explains.

It was agreed that Nimble’s CS300 Array was the most suitable fit for Kenton’s needs – an ideal platform for mid-sized organisations with distributed sites, which offers far greater capacity per cost for the specific infrastructure needs of secondary schools and Academies.

Proven Benefits of Nimble’s CS-Series Adaptive Flash Array include:

  • A single consolidation architecture with up to 66% lower TCO than ALL other Flash Arrays
  • Performance & capacity can be scaled seamlessly & independently to meet on-going needs
  • Unmatched Data Velocity of up to 50,000 IOPs per second
  • Tiny device footprint with rackspace reduced by a third.
  • Includes Infosight’s deep-data analytics to identify problems & establish remedies before they happen
  • Absolute Resilience & Proven Uptime of 99.999928% with Proactive Monitoring 24/7
  • All inclusive features – including Encryption, Replication & Predictive Analytics

Streamlined Planning, Design, Installation & Transition

As a Managed Service and Infrastructure specialist with a deep understanding of how storage integrates with the network, NETprotocol’s careful planning and design process led to a streamlined installation and transition, without any form of disruption. In all, this took place over the course of just under a week which included training and transfer of the necessary skills to the team at Kenton.

Paul and his team then began the migration of data over a two week period, with significant performance benefits – including data accessibility and system stability – being noticed by end-users almost instantly.

The Results

“The speed with which end-users can access data and applications across the school directly impacts on productivity and ultimately, the success of our organisation. We have seen impressive results in a very short period of time from the storage solution NETprotocol have deployed, which I genuinely believe would not have been possible without their skills and input”, Paul adds.

To have carried out a like-for-like replacement of their previous multi-tiered storage deployment, Kenton would have had to spend double what they spent on the Nimble solution and wouldn’t have got anywhere near the performance, ROI or management capabilities they can now achieve.

“Through deploying Nimble’s Adaptive Flash Array, we have moved Kenton from a previous 4-tiered storage system to just one unified platform, which is operating at just 2% of its workload capability rather than a previous 100% capacity. This solution is so efficient, you could increase its workload by x5 and you would not notice any difference,” says NETprotocol’s Technical Director, Mike Batters.

Achieving Flash-like performance at non-flash costs, Kenton now also benefits from a range of all-inclusive features such as encryption and replication which are built in to Nimble’s platform, without additional charge. Non-stop availability is now also guaranteed through its intelligent Predictive Analytics interface called Infosight, which detects nine out of ten issues before you even know about them – and with the on-going support of NETprotocol at hand, this enables Kenton to accurately plan maintenance and budgets in the long-term.

Kenton’s Measurable ROI

NETprotocol were able to apply their technical knowledge to design a bespoke solution for Kenton School and its partner sites, which maximises their ROI and offers an adaptable, upgradeable solution, which can grow with ongoing needs, eradicating any need for large capital spend in the future.

With budgets becoming ever more stretched in the Education sector, it is essential that Paul can justify where he is spending money. Fortunately, ROI has been very visible since the new Storage solution went live at Kenton including:

  • IOPS performance has been raised by between 10 and 15 times
  • Storage has peaked at 1200 IOPS which is 10-15% of capacity rather than a former 100%
  • Storage latency has reduced by >96%, from its previous 50-300 milliseconds for delivering data back to the application, to a current average of 1 millisecond across the board
  • Storage can be increased significantly with no need to ‘rip & replace’
  • With Nimble’s timeless storage guarantee, future features developed will be made available to the Academy and proactive support and ongoing maintenance will be included through Infosight
  • Previous operational costs associated with system management, maintenance, operational downtime and forward-planning have been eliminated
  • Productivity of staff and the learning experience of students have been dramatically raised
  • Rackspace and associated costs have been reduced by 60%+  for greater storage capacity

Kenton School Image

“I have worked with Mike Batters and his team at NETprotocol for several years now on projects including our Network infrastructure, Virtualisation, Desktop Estate, Telephony, Unified Communications and recently our Storage. Their skills and technical knowledge are mightily impressive and their commitment to ensuring we make the best use of all aspects of our budget is invaluable,” Paul concludes.

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