Page 38 - Campus Technology, October/November 2019
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38 CAMPUS TECHNOLOGY | Oct/Nov 2019 2019 two other states to get there,” said Mark Van Pelt, who has been MCC’s chief information officer for three years. Van Pelt said he took the position well knowing that the county’s vast size and the college’s limited resources would bring unique challenges, especially in terms of network infrastructure and disaster recovery. For instance, fiber is unavailable in Mojave County, and much of the connectivity comes from low- speed microwave connections. “I came in as the seventh CIO in a five-year period,” he added. “When I arrived, we were averaging about two outages per week in terms of major systems. I wouldn’t say the infrastructure was collapsing, but we were certainly challenged. The youngest equipment on campus was about the same age as most of our students. In terms of networking equipment and most server infrastructure, I knew I had a big job ahead of me when I got here.” Then three months after his arrival in 2016, disaster struck. A systems engineer made a mistake that ended up corrupting the domain databases, and there were no good backups. “The same person who corrupted them was supposed to be backing them up,” Van Pelt said. “One night he was supposed to be doing maintenance. The next morning we came in Network Administrator Brian Massey (left) and Joshua Walters, VMware administrator/team lead (right) Category: IT Infrastructure & Systems Institution: Mohave Community College Project: Disaster Recovery Project lead: Mark Van Pelt, chief information officer Tech lineup: CDW-G, Veeam, VMware and nobody could log in or see anything.” That was a Wednesday. For the next three days, the college was completely down. “I was still getting a handle on what we were or were not doing correctly, but that led to three sleepless nights for our group. Or when we were sleeping, we were sleeping at our desks. We would run a script, knowing it would take an hour, put our heads down and set an alarm to wake up when the script finishes.” The recovery from that outage led Van Pelt and his team on a journey to find a more reliable, yet affordable, disaster recovery solution. Two MCC IT members, Joshua Walters, VMware administrator/team lead, and Brian Massey, network administrator, worked with CDW-G and VMware to implement a solution based on NSX, VMware’s software- defined network virtualization and security platform. The college engineers realized they could use VMware and NSX to establish a “ghost network” to transfer data to a hidden host. If the main host is lost, recovery consists of materializing the ghost network, propagating the DNS (Domain Name System) change locally, and opening a few ports on the host. The system is operational locally in about 12 minutes, and cloud-wide in 49 minutes. “VMware helped us get started implementing NSX,” Walters recalled. “It was a challenge for them to put NSX in place because certain aspects of our environment weren’t quite ready for it,” he said, “but they were brilliant engineers and they helped us get it implemented to work in our environment. 

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