Introduction

Abertay University recently contracted with CoreAzure to deliver an exciting cloud migration programme, that has seen the majority of IT services transition to Microsoft Azure. The move to a modern cloud platform was a way of strengthening its reputation for delivering leading edge ethical hacking, computer gaming, business and social science degrees as well as enhancing the resilience and efficiency of it’s IT hosting model. 

The Challenge: Eliminating physical data centre

As part of their Digital Strategy, the University wanted to migrate its systems and services to Azure quickly, efficiently and securely. In doing so, the University wanted to reduce or eliminate the need for a physical data centre by minimising the amount of systems remaining on premise after migration. A large proportion of the infrastructure estate was nearing end of life and Abertay wanted to strengthen their cyber security protection given the increasing risk profile experienced by the UK HE organisations. Abertay also recognised the wider benefits of moving to a more modern flexible infrastructure hosting model that had the potential to accelerate improvements and to streamline back office services; increase the resilience of IT, underpin all aspects of teaching, learning and research, as well as supporting the expansion of online and blended learning delivery, not to mention an opportunity to reduce the overall complexity of the University’s application estate.

In summary, exploiting the Microsoft Azure Cloud would help Abertay to; 

• Deliver exemplary digital services and transform teaching, research and other professional services, in a proactive and cost-effective way 

• Develop a resilient and secure digital infrastructure that would ensure that the university continue to be in control of, and be able to respond to, emerging cyber threats and security incidents. 

Swift delivery model approach

One the early deliverables was to run a virtual managed classroom proof of concept to demonstrate how Azure could deliver solutions that benefited students. Azure Lab Services was chosen to support groups of ethical hacking students, allowing them to spin up VMs on demand but within a controlled and managed environment. The joint team implemented an Azure hybrid cloud environment and Landing Zone, that wherever possible utilised native Azure capabilities such as Azure Firewall, Backup, Bastion, Defender for Cloud and Azure Sentinel Threat Monitoring. 

The migration and modernisation of applications and workloads was based upon an Agile approach which structured close collaboration between the Abertay IT, application and business owners. The migration patterns were mainly IaaS-based, but wherever possible the team sought out modernisation opportunities design to right-size and/or benefit from PaaS-based services and architectures. The migration was delivered in a little over 12 months and within an agreed budgetary cap. To do so, the joint team had to be flexible in agreeing specific migration patterns and scope but by not detracting from delivering the project objectives.. 

Why CoreAzure ? 

Turning to CoreAzure for help was the logical choice. CoreAzure was able to demonstrate a successful track record of cloud migration projects for UK universities and strength in depth to provide the required support and delivery skills in a number of key areas. For example, CoreAzure are a Microsoft Advanced specialisms and AMMP partner which made us eligible to apply for funding to support the migration programme. CoreAzure’s agile delivery model had already proven its adaptability to respond to customer’s changing priorities and reinforced the reasons why Abertay selected CoreAzure as its partner of choice. 

CoreAzure was selected for this assignment for the following reasons: 

• Eligibility for Microsoft funding 

• With a successful track record in data centre modernisation we were able to demonstrate relevant experience and expertise

 • We came highly recommended by Microsoft 

• Working in Higher Education has been our primary focus over the past 6 years – we understand the technology landscape and the workloads used

“From the outset CoreAzure used their considerable experience of successfully transitioning universities to the cloud to demonstrate how the use of the Microsoft cloud platform could positively impact our IT services. Improving agility, reducing cybersecurity risk and our carbon footprint by decreasing our campus data centre capacity significantly are key objectives of the programme. At the end of the project, we will have a modern, secure IT infrastructure capable of delivering a wide range of innovative digital services to our students and staff.” 

Frazer Greig - Head of IT and Corporate Services.

Results

  • Application Migration Service In-scope services, including 212 VMware virtual servers running approx. 180 applications and services, were successfully migrated to Azure within a 12 month window and within the project budget that was forecast in the business case. Over the course of the migration there were no service affecting incidents and the in-house team were trained and assumed responsibility for all operational support following a successful transition into service period. Azure Labs (ALS) Service by working with a range of IT, faculty staff and researchers we defined a full and integrated set of requirements.

  • Results were very positive with both faculty staff and students commenting on the agility and the flexibility of the solution provided. The learning curve for both staff and students has been minimal with both groups quickly familiarising themselves with the new ways of working