First of Its Kind: AI-Powered Storage Gives Beykent University Plenty of Room to Grow

HPE Storage

Over the course of 2020, remote learning has skyrocketed as schools responded and adapted to the coronavirus pandemic. A year ago, however, many educational institutions found themselves unprepared for this new reality. Especially for schools that emphasized in-person instruction, pivoting to an online model was a herculean task.

For Beykent University in Turkey, however, preparing for remote learning wasn’t about teaching difficulty or front-end collaboration. For us, it was about replacing obsolete infrastructure and updating back-end storage to keep up with new workloads.

Aging Infrastructure Couldn’t Meet Current Needs

Founded in 1997 in Istanbul, Beykent is one of the more famous private universities in Turkey. We have faculties in the arts, sciences and social sciences, engineering, law, and medicine, and there are almost 30,000 students enrolled across our three campuses. I have been with the university for almost 11 years as IT director. In that role, I manage the entire IT team and all remote storage systems, as well as the configuration of those systems. For years, we used Dell EMC storage, but the solution was aging. In fact, it reached end-of-life status back in 2017. In addition to needing a storage refresh, we wanted to consolidate our distributed data center and replace our management infrastructure for hardware, software, and applications. By doing so, we hoped to lower our operational costs. 

Management had become a problem as well. At least once a day, my team encountered another issue, and they were frustrated. We needed an easier way to manage everything.

It was clear we needed an infrastructure overhaul, and the global pandemic gave me the perfect opportunity when all classes moved online and remote learning became a necessity. 

Our Requirements: Resiliency, Agility, Performance

In addition to our existing needs, the top priority for any new solution became its ability to scale and support our remote education system. Dell EMC was an old technology by modern standards, and it didn’t have sufficient storage and performance capacity for the remote education system. I reached out to HPE to learn more about their solutions. I explained our needs to the service manager, Mr Coblatay, and we discussed our options. He offered three choices: HPE Primera, HPE SimpliVity, and HPE Nimble Storage. 

HPE Primera was the newest product—it’s an extreme-performance storage solution for mission-critical apps. The description appealed to us. We cannot afford performance issues during the midterm exam period, for example, so not having to worry about that would be a big plus. 

I also liked what HPE Primera promised in terms of not having to sacrifice resiliency for agility. I was impressed by the statistics of how much time automation and AI could save us in deploying, managing, and scaling storage. What really caught my attention, however, was HPE Primera’s 100% availability guarantee. That was exactly what we needed to support remote learning, and no competitor or solution offered such a guarantee. All of these considerations made it easy to move ahead with HPE Primera.

Automation and AI can save a lot of time in deploying, managing, and scaling storage.

We had help from our IT partner, BVF. They planned the configuration and acted as a liaison between HPE and the university. After configuration was detected, they planned installation training for us with HPE. HPE Primera’s user-friendly, all-in-one dashboard makes it very easy to configure such a high-performance system. In all, it took only two weeks for us to get HPE Primera up and running.

Handling Heavy Workloads and Solving Problems with Ease

In addition to workloads for online and remote education applications, we also have to handle the student information system applications, Oracle database, and the content management system. And in addition to replacing aging infrastructure, Beykent University also needed to run extra workloads for the student information system. The old infrastructure could not have handled the additional CPU/RAM resource and capacity with high I/O for the remote education service. 

When I look at the past 10 years of data on our system, we have never had higher I/O or transaction numbers than we do now with remote learning. Despite that, our new system is running very well. What felt like a big move to HPE Primera has been seamless, and we have seen big benefits. 

Right out of the gate, our disaster recovery (DR) situation improved. Our old DR plan required us to run our virtual machines on our NAS device. When we could not reach the physical or virtual machine, we were returning from these backups. Now, we have data centers in two different locations. They communicate with each other over the MPLS network and virtual machines actively replicate between two locations. 

Self-healing solutions are a big time-saver. They free IT teams to focus on other tasks.

We have also eased our management burden. HPE Primera comes embedded with HPE InfoSight, which is used to manage infrastructure performance and uptime in the data center. HPE InfoSight provides visibility into our infrastructure so we can see any and all problems that arise, and we use HPE InfoSight to manage all mission-critical workloads and infrastructure. The real beauty of HPE InfoSight, however, is its AI capabilities. The solution uses AI to predict and resolve issues automatically. This self-healing aspect is a big time-saver, freeing up our IT team to focus on other tasks. 

Meeting the Challenges of Tomorrow, Today

Beykent University has risen to the challenge of remote learning by implementing a high-performance, state-of-the-art system. Our operational costs have decreased significantly, despite the high workloads of all the apps we need to make remote learning possible for our students. Storage management is now an automatic operation. 

HPE Primera is our primary storage unit now which houses our virtual machines and data. In the future, we plan to position all systems that require performance, security, and high availability on HPE Primera.

With HPE Primera, not only can we serve 3,000 students concurrently on the remote learning system, but Beykent University is the first educational institution in Turkey to make the leap to AI in our IT infrastructure. We have gone from an outdated system to one that sets us up for the future, and that’s a big achievement by any measure.