The National Research Foundation (NRF) has taken a major stride towards achieving its research excellence Vision 2015 goals with the inauguration of an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) virtual platform infrastructure at its Brummeria, Pretoria headquarters.

Midrand-based systems management and infrastructure automation solutions specialist Puleng Technologies undertook and managed the ICT virtualisation project, based on IBM x86 hardware, for the NRF. After evaluating the Foundation’s needs a virtualisation plan was implemented with 12 critical planning steps leading to a scalable, flexible data infrastructure.
An independent government agency, the NRF promotes and supports research in all fields of knowledge, conducts research and provides access to National Research Facilities. It also provides services to the research community at Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and Science Councils to promote high-level human capital development.
NRF executive director ICT, Wojtek Skowronski, in his welcoming address, said the virtualisation project was critical to the NRF aim to double the capacity of the ICT platform in an environmentally-friendly and sustainable manner. It also represented a  giant leap forward for the research community.
Speaking about the NRF’s Vision 2015 plan, President and CEO Dr Albert van Jaarsveld, said the virtualisation project will support the Foundation’s five-year plan that aims to ensure world-class research excellence within a transformed research society with the objective of supporting a sustainable environment  for the benefit  of present  and future generations of South Africans.
Establishment of the virtualisation platform commenced in September last year and was completed after seven months, in line with the assessed time-frame. Puleng Technologies business development director Steve James said the business case for virtualisation lay in the reduction of physical servers, with  40% to 75% savings accruing in once-off and ongoing hardware costs as well as 25-50% monthly recurring savings in related operational maintenance.
“A thought leadership approach was adopted in our presentations to the NRF and focused project management and discipline were applied, well supported by executive buy-in.
12 critical planning steps began with determining the approach, developing the business case, gaining buy-in, capacity planning and benchmarking, hardware and software selection. These were followed by resourcing, application sequencing, centralisation and consolidation, migration of the applications and finally monitoring and expansion.”
James added that the key was to spend some 85% of the project time frame on implementation steps,  comprising 5% on staff training, 40% on testing and 40% on centralisation, consolidation and migration.
“Our close collaboration with vendors IBM and VMWare ensures a deep pool of skills and knowledge for projects such as this,” said James. “The IBM x86 hardware offers increased performance per watt and allows  power usage to be planned and controlled. With consolidation and virtualisation on IBM System-X and BladeCenter servers, hardware utilisation can be significantly increased, reducing the number of servers and associated hardware required.”
The virtualisation platform adds up to a highly productive and efficient ICT environment. “It is considerably more environmentally friendly than the conventional solutions,” added James, “and the technology also releases the stranglehold that inflexible and costly IT infrastructure places on business opportunities. By going with Virtualisation, the NRF is ensuring that it will achieve its Vision 2015 objectives.”