One of the largest Further Education providers in the UK, Leeds City College (LCC) is a vibrant, multicultural learning environment with over 20,000 students. It offers multiple full and part-time academic courses ranging from A levels and foundation degrees, to vocational training and apprenticeships. It has made significant investments over recent years, culminating in the opening of the new £60 million Quarry Hill Campus in the city’s cultural quarter in September 2019.
IT services provision across three campuses
One of the UK’s largest apprenticeship providers
1,000 staff teaching more than 20,000 students
The existing network storage infrastructure LCC relied upon to deliver a range of IT services had been in place for almost a decade. It was becoming increasingly complex to manage and maintain and would struggle to cope with expected future growth in IT service usage. The soon to be opened Quarry Hill Campus would also need resilient datacentre infrastructure and high capacity storage capabilities to ensure LCC could deliver the innovative, state-of-the-art facilities demanded by its Creative Arts, Digital Media and Health Science students.
“Our existing estate was spread across multiple campuses and becoming harder and more time-consuming to manage,” said Dave Newsham, LCC Head of ITSS Service Delivery. “We needed to consolidate what we had, while simultaneously bringing a brand-new campus on stream. It made sense to totally refresh our existing storage infrastructure and house the new systems at Quarry Hill.”
There were a number of specific challenges LCC had to overcome. Any replacement infrastructure would need to be simpler to monitor and manage than the existing system, perform more effectively and provide a comprehensive central oversight of all operations across the IT estate. The team needed to future-proof IT provision to meet both its obligations under the college’s forward-looking strategic 10-year plan, and its requirement to ensure adequate storage flexibility and scalability to cope with expected increases in demand going forward.
Critcal success factors:
- Replace aging storage infrastructure
- Simplify monitoring management of IT operations
- Future-proof datacentre capabilities
Softcat had previously worked with LCC’s IT team on a number of software and Microsoft licensing implementations, so they knew Softcat had the in-house capabilities and specialities needed to make a success of the project. As with any Softcat engagement, a significant amount of groundwork was completed prior to the implementation. Workshops were held to gain a clear understanding of what LCC needed and Softcat was able to recommend suitable technologies based on the understanding gained during initial meetings.
“The range and quality of the professional services Softcat delivers was one of the main drivers for our approach,” said Dave. “Past experience highlighted the knowledge and capabilities on tap from its dedicated specialists and true to form, during this project those qualities were once again on display.”
Softcat proposed a HPE Synergy composable infrastructure and HPE Nimble storage, which would provide the flexibility and scalability needed to cope with expected growth and future demands. To simplify monitoring and management, the solution included the use of both HPE OneView and HPE InfoSight software within the new datacentre infrastructure. The HPE OneView solution would enable a software-defined approach to infrastructure management with efficient workflow automation, data collection and reporting. In addition, the HPE InfoSight software would provide proactive monitoring, using advanced machine learning to predict and automatically resolve most issues before they could impact on system performance.
“A dedicated project management team were always on-hand at every stage of the project,” said Dave. “The professional services Softcat provided helped us make the right technology choices, configure the system to meet our ongoing and future requirements and the support we received with the system implementation and data migration was critical to its success. The solution implementation was completed ahead of schedule too, so the involvement of Softcat’s technology specialists added real value to the project as a whole.”
- Leading-edge HPE technologies and supporting software
- Robust, flexible and scalable storage infrastucture
- High-quality Professional Services
Delivering a memorable student experience lies at the heart of LCC’s mission and the new datacentre infrastructure ensures that its students will benefit from the resilient, performant and reliable on-premise IT services needed for success. Creative Arts and Digital Media studies, for example, are not only extremely popular, but can place significant demand on IT infrastructure due to the massive amounts of data they generate. LCC’s IT team is confident that it has now future-proofed this critical provision, enabling students to store, exchange and back up video, gaming and multimedia content with confidence for years to come.
The newly implemented datacentre infrastructure integrates seamlessly with LCC’s existing Hyper-V virtualisation platform and will enable the IT team to efficiently manage their hardware resources. The Nimble and Synergy elements have enhanced IT resilience across the estate, and the solution delivers the critical central oversight LCC’s IT team specified as essential to the project’s success.
The wide-ranging support provided by Softcat’s specialists ensured the solution was completed ahead of schedule, enabling LCC to use the extra days factored in for the implementation to explore further options for gaining best value from the changes. Its enhanced capabilities will deliver significantly improved performance, clearer oversight and has helped to modernise not just the technology but the way in which it is used.
“Overall, the system will be much simpler to monitor and manage, which in turn, will enable us to deliver evermore innovative services free of the time constraints of managing the existing estate,” said Dave. “We aim to provide the highest levels of service and the solution will help us improve user management, deployment and performance. It’s also more energy efficient and will help contribute to the college’s carbon reduction efforts. It’s a win-win solution.”
Benefits at a glance
- Solution delivered ahead of schedule
- Simplified monitoring and management of IT service provision
- Enhanced student experience
Softcat has established an enviable reputation for delivering leading-edge datacentre and cloud solutions for public sector organisations in recent years. Its comprehensive Professional Services portfolio is underpinned by extensive strategic marketplace knowledge, a commitment to delivering precisely what clients need and a desire to help organisations gain maximum value from IT infrastructure projects.
“Softcat’s team provided all of the support we needed to help the implementation run as smoothly as possible,” said Dave. “Its professional approach, customer focus and technical know-how were critical to the project’s success. It was willing to take on-board our unique requirements, tailor the solution to match our needs and provided great value for money.”