E-learning nous for DMC

Dubai Men’s College has revamped its IT infrastructure to provide students with e-learning capabilities. The project was managed in partnership with IBM, which also provided the solution.

  • E-Mail
By  Sarah Gain Published  April 25, 2005

Dubai Men's College (DMC) has revamped its IT architecture so that the institution could embrace e-learning. In order to continue to attract bright students and to ease the burden of its IT administration, DMC took the decision to completely overhaul its IT practices, installing a state-of-the-art infrastructure at its new campus in Dubai. The college teamed up with IBM to develop and deliver a total infrastructure, from servers and storage equipment to information management software and a comprehensive suite of IBM Tivoli systems management applications. The new DMC campus now features some of the latest technologies that enable radical and new methods of learning, with campus-wide wireless connectivity, voice over internet protocol (VoIP) and the availability of online video lectures, library archives and video conferencing enabled by advanced digital media solutions. DMC's previous IT solutions were disparate and outdated. The organisation was unable to support a flexible environment. The school's server solutions consisted of aging HP, Sun Microsystems and Dell machines with local storage capability reliant on two Novell servers. The infrastructure was patched with home-grown fixes, conceived with little regard for future projects. The school had no true storage management methods and was edging towards its storage capacity limits. Indeed, DMC's deficient and infrequent backup efforts were resulting in a 25% loss of data. In addition, the limited wireless networking solution that the school was operating was far from secure. According to Imad Ramadan, DMC’s ITS Supervisor, the legacy systems made administration difficult and as a result, he says, DMC's IT department spent most of its time involved in reactionary tasks. “Network and systems were managed as separate entities and were lacking the necessary enterprise platform characterisation,” he explains. After evaluating several potential providers, DMC selected IBM’s Integrated Technology Services, to manage the school's IT project. The IBM team was joined not only by the five members of DMC’s IT department, but also by several students, all of whom gained valuable work experience by observing and assisting with the venture. The project incorporated the deployment of a multitude of diverse solutions, which was broken down into six subprojects, involving both wired and wireless networking, network and host security, server, storage and backup upgrades, enterprise management solutions (EMS), help desk, and video-on-demand (VOD). Ramadan believes the successful and timely delivery of the implementation was due to the careful planning and expert project management that IBM was able to provide. “We were able to implement the critical components and most of the infrastructure within the first seven weeks. The college’s basic IT infrastructure was operational three weeks before the start of the new semester,” he says. Creating a state-of-the-art wired and wireless network infrastructure and establishing a solid security configuration to protect it were the first two steps of the project. “We used a heterogeneous approach to implement the most advanced technology from several leading providers. The networking environment is primarily Nortel-based and we deployed Blue Coat virus checking proxy appliances to make sure web browsing is fast, while still being safe from internet threats,” explains Greg Kelaart-Courtney, the IBM-certified senior project manager in charge of the implementation. To protect critical servers, IBM deployed three layers of security within the network. En route to the servers, data first passes through four Nortel connectivity 5000 firewalls, Juniper’s IDP-1000 intrusion detection and prevention devices, and finally, the servers themselves were loaded with RealSecure software from Internet Security Solutions (ISS). A centralised management platform provides DMC’s IT staff with a single entry point for network management and students with access to the college's network from remote locations. As for the storage capabilities, the IBM team installed a TotalStorage SAN, along with a network attached storage (NAS) solution and an UltraScalable Tape Library with five linear tape drives. Having replaced its legacy servers, it was then necessary for DMC to migrate all of its existing data. “We had more than half a terabyte worth of data residing in the old servers, however once we had the SAN and tape library in place, information migration was an easy task; data from the older servers was backed up to the tape library and SAN flash copies through the Tivoli storage manager before being restored back to the new servers,” explains Ramadan. “The migration operations were speedy due to the gigabit links between the servers, SAN and tape library,” he adds. In order to effectively manage and monitor the complex new network, server and storage architecture, DMC standardised the IBM Tivoli product suite. The suite provided the college with an active map of DMC's network, allowing it to oversee the entire arrangement remotely. One of the most significant advances involved in this deployment is the pioneering video on demand (VOD) solution, which relies on digital media technologies that incorporate an open-standards based framework to digitally manage, store, protect and distribute video, audio and still images across the DMC network. IBM implemented the realproducer and media asset management tools to enable users to create, manage and distribute streaming media from a variety of sources. “This framework is making it possible for students to produce short video clips for projects, and faculty are using the system to record and play back lectures. The school has also digitised approximately 1,000 video hours of pre-existing media using the VOD solution,” Ramadan enthuses. The project team spent five months onsite at DMC, guiding the school through the design, development and implementation phases. A team of IBM-trained staff still work at the on-campus help desk to provide year-round assistance to students and staff as they transition to the high-technology environment. “With all the new technologies that were implemented in the new campus, we are making sure that there is professional training for all systems in the delivered solution for the entire IT team,” says Ramadan. DMC now has the capabilities to handle its state-of-the-art equipment, and all 2,300 students and 400 faculty and staff benefit from high-speed network. The robust storage configuration means that data loss is a thing of the past for DMC, and the faculty and staff can feel reassured that the new networks are virtually hacker-proof, ensuring that only approved users have access to school files. “The infrastructure has improved security mechanisms ensuring uninterrupted uptime for our network and educational resources,” says Ramadan. The transformation of DMC's IT environment will undoubtedly help the school to attract a larger pool of students who are looking for cutting-edge technology in their higher education. In turn, the opportunity for hands-on experience available to DMC students, both with the set-up of the infrastructure and on an on-going basis, means that students will be better prepared for the region's increasingly technology-rich job market when they graduate. DMC had a two-fold goal when the project was first conceived a year ago. Firstly, the college wanted to ensure that it was in a firm position to pioneer e-learning initiatives and provide its administration with a flexible and effectively integrated environment. Secondly, the school’s board of directors saw the advanced infrastructure as a means of training students on the latest technologies and building a national skills force that would lessen the UAE’s dependency on imported expertise. Bill Vega, the director of DMC believes that today, the college is one step closer to accomplishing these goals. "This is an exciting project for us, as the possibilities are endless. With this superior infrastructure, DMC is set to be a premier choice for students; with educational facilities that will allow them to experience the significant benefits of e-learning, this solution will transform the way our students learn and work with each other," he says.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code