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Sherif Nour, Head of IT and Academic Computing at The Africa Institute
News & Events

Student enrolments drives migration to scale out systems

Established in 2018, The Africa Institute in Sharjah, UAE, is an interdisciplinary academic research institute dedicated to the study, research, and documentation of Africa and the African diaspora. As the only institution of its kind located in the Gulf, The Africa Institute is positioned to expand understanding of African studies as a global enterprise.

The Institute’s curriculum of postgraduate studies is designed to train the next generation of critical thinkers in African and African diaspora studies. Through its programme of international symposia and conferences, visual art exhibitions and artist commissions, film and performance series, community classes and outreach events, the Institute is expanding public understanding of Arab and African exchange.

Legazy IT systems

The Africa Institute used QNAP Systems and HP for their data storage solution. But with the institute’s futuristic plans of expansion, the team realised the system had limited scalability and incapability to guard against threats such as ransomware.

“Education for The Africa Institute is a sensitive area that needs to be preserved. The Institute holds rare and valuable historical documents and material which must be protected for coming generations”, says Sherif Nour, Head of IT and Academic Computing at The Africa Institute.

The IT department includes two server rooms with three racks, two storage units, four physical servers, two hypervisors and a basic network backbone. A team of three ran this IT department.

However, by 2024, the institute planned to move to a bigger campus and enrol a large number of students for its academic programs. As part of this transition, the organisation began to look for an upgraded IT infrastructure to cater to the demanding operational environment.

To modernise its operations, the institute wanted a new data storage technology that was cost-effective, scalable and flexible with data security features. Hiring plans for an ERP consultant and a service desk were already in place to run these new technologies and software.

Scale out systems

Arcserve’s OneXafe was demonstrated at a seminar organised by Looppe Design and Technology, an Arcserve partner. Looppe later helped the Institute install a OneXafe 4412 storage appliance to secure its data.

OneXafe was set up in January 2020 using plug-and-play features. The appliance was configured and needed brief training from Looppe and Arcserve along with troubleshooting at the beginning.

The ability to start with a small storage capacity and grow accordingly made this technology particularly attractive to The Africa Institute. The scale-out storage architecture means that the institute can simply pay-as-you-grow, and the capacity unfolds into the available pool without any configuration changes and without any application downtime.

“Competitive vendors were trying to force us to purchase oversized systems which were not required at this point,” said Nour.

The Institute upgraded from a traditional scale-up storage model to an advanced scale-out object storage technology. All data is now stored in one large repository and distributed across multiple physical storage devices instead of being divided into files or folders as in scale-up systems.

Arcserve’s OneXafe provides scale-out architecture, and ransomware protection to files through snapshots it uses to restore and recover data. OneXafe also requires minimal maintenance as many of its functions are automated. The management console OneSystem makes it easier to manage.

Benefits of migration

With Arcserve’s OneXafe, The Institute has leveraged the platform’s scale-out storage architecture to improve scalability, data resilience, and achieve reduction on storage footprint. OneXafe has delivered reliable performance and has met its objective, especially the IO rate. After 21 months of operations, OneXafe’s return-on-investment and performance are visible.

“We are seeing benefits from its speed when accessing shared folders,” he added.

Enhancing the IT infrastructure at The Africa Institute will continue until the launch of its new campus where the first batch of 200 students will join in September 2023. Apart from the physical systems, the institute plans to introduce an Interlibrary System, a cloud-based academic ERP solution for registration and accounting, and a learning management solution.

Going forward, Nour and his team plan to strengthen security by adding another layer of replication. “We plan to add a second OneXafe storage appliance and have multiple copies of data for optimum data security.”


Snapshot

  • The Institute’s curriculum of postgraduate studies is designed to train thinkers in African and African studies.
  • The Africa Institute previously deployed a traditional scale-up storage model from QNAP and HP as their data storage solution.
  • The system’s limited scalability and inadequate capability to guard against modern threats such as ransomware was a significant drawback.
  • The institute wanted a new data storage technology that was cost-effective, scalable and flexible with data security features.
  • Hiring plans for an ERP consultant and a service desk were already in place.
  • Arcserve partner, Looppe helped the Institute install a OneXafe 4412 storage appliance to secure data.
  • OneXafe was set up in January 2020 using plug-and-play features.
  • The appliance was configured and needed brief training from Looppe and Arcserve along with troubleshooting at the beginning.
  • The Institute upgraded from a traditional scale-up storage model to an advanced scale-out object storage technology.
  • Data is now stored in one large repository and distributed across multiple physical storage devices.
  • Arcserve’s OneXafe provides scale-out architecture, and ransomware protection to files through snapshots.
  • OneXafe also requires minimal maintenance as many of its functions are automated.
  • The management console OneSystem makes it easier to manage.
  • After 21 months of operations, the ROI and overall performance are visible.
  • With the launch of a new campus the first batch of 200 students will join in September 2023.
  • The institute plans to introduce an Interlibrary System, a cloud-based academic ERP solution for registration and accounting, and a learning management solution.

By implementing Arcserve’s OneXafe, The Africa Institute can leverage the platform’s scale-out storage architecture to improve scalability, data management.