South Africa’s Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) is the only university of technology in the Western Cape and is also the largest university in the province. Ranked among the top 12 universities in South Africa in 2020, it is home to more than 30,000 students and over 70 programs, spread across 13 campuses and service points.
Rewind to January 1, 2005, and CPUT began life with the merger of Cape Technikon and Peninsula Technikon. (In South Africa, technikons are tertiary level institutions that offer technical and vocational education.) This merger was, in fact, part of a wider, national transformation process that aimed to reshape the landscape of higher education in South Africa. Announced in March 2001 by the then Minister of Education, Kader Asmal, this National Plan on Higher Education included, not only the merger of higher education institutions, but also the formation of universities of technology, an acknowledgement of the direction the future was going to take.
Focusing on Innovation and Efficiency: Harnessing Technology
CPUT’s vision is to be at the heart of education and innovation in technology, across Africa. To achieve this, of course, it needs to have a university campus that is ultra-efficient and environmentally sustainable. Indeed, with the university is always looking for ways to enhance the quality of its teaching, it sees ongoing digital transformation as an imperative to build improved teaching environments.
With technology developing at pace, CPUT knew that it needed to upgrade its overall Information Technology (IT) infrastructure. Aged legacy infrastructure was suffering from bottlenecks that were seriously impacting efficiency. In addition, the IT systems deployed across CPUT’s 13 campuses were distributed and silo’ d, meaning that they couldn’t communicate with each other. In addition, storage resource utilization was extremely high, with some systems reaching end of support. Total storage utilization was anywhere between 85 and 95% and required continuous management. When problems arose — and they did — IT engineers had to waste valuable time doing manual interventions, moving workloads around to ensure business continuity. This led to inefficient use of university human and IT infrastructure resources. With a challenged service offering because of the strained environment, traffic spikes that happen at the start of every new term, were not handled well. This occurred when students rushed to register for courses, causing systems to be compromised.
Cooperating with CPUT on its digital transformation journey, Huawei first began workshopping with the university’s IT Operations and Maintenance (O&M) team back in June 2019, ultimately recommending OceanStor Dorado all-flash storage to replace the legacy system. In October 2019 CPUT conducted a Proof of Concept (PoC) test, which convinced the team to include Huawei in their RFP process. After a vigorous procurement process managed by CPUT’s Procurement Services Department, Huawei was awarded the contract. This was because Huawei met both the technical and commercial requirements set out by CPUT.
High Performance, High Availability, and Easy to Use
Huawei OceanStor Dorado all-flash storage uses proprietary hardware, End to End (E2E) Non-Volatile Memory express (NVMe) architecture, and Huawei’s intelligent FlashLink algorithm, which optimizes communication between controllers and Solid-State Drives (SSDs). Backed up by RAID Triple-Parity (RAID-TP) technology, the smart SSD enclosure can tolerate the simultaneous failures of three SSDs and reconstruct 1 TB of data within 25 minutes. In addition, the storage system offers comprehensive enterprise-grade features, such as 3 second periodic snapshots, setting a new standard for storage product reliability.
OceanStor Dorado all-flash storage systems also employ a next generation hardware platform and ultra-stable SmartMatrix full-mesh architecture, to enhance data reliability and service continuity, ensuring always-on storage services. With a fully interconnected design at both the front- and back-ends, SmartMatrix tolerates seven out of eight controller failures, without disrupting services. In the event of a controller fault, services are switched to a functioning alternative within a single second, creating an uninterrupted link.
With OceanStor Dorado in place, CPUT now enjoys superior performance, millisecond-level latency, and extremely high reliability. Performance bottlenecks have been eliminated and the course registration system works smoothly, even during peak times, significantly improving the university experience for faculty, staff, and students alike, effectively supporting the development of teaching and scientific research. In addition, OceanStor Dorado’s intelligent O&M provides a unified storage resource pool to manage storage resources across all campuses, helping the university identify performance peak hours in advance. It proactively looks for potential component faults — endangering everything from ventilation fans and the power supply to the flash disks themselves — preparing in advance to mitigate and even avoid any impact on services. As a result, the university enjoys better maintenance efficiency, up by 30%, and improved IT resource utilization of up to 70%.
Fostering a New Generation of Technology Talent
“OceanStor Dorado’s high levels of performance have significantly improved application performance, providing us with a far more stable environment across the entire university,”
said Jerome Corns, CPUT’s IT Director.
“We’ve had a very positive experience with Huawei. The local service team quickly responds to problems on the live network, ensuring the stable running of our systems.”
Now, with Huawei OceanStor Dorado all-flash storage system in place, CPUT is well positioned to continue its transformation journey, supporting innovation in technology and education in Africa. It’s also fully equipped to focus on its most important mission and what it does best: fostering a new generation of technology talent.