Telecommunication service provider YTL Communications won the contract to deliver a scalable, cost-effective cloud platform for e-learning in schools which will transform the way students are educated in Malaysia. Red Hat® products have enabled YTL Communications to deliver the project on time and within budget while achieving lower cost of ownership and reducing project risk.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- Dell Intel Xeon-based servers Dell Compellent storage
While other software vendors were considered, Red Hat provided a highly scalable, affordable, open source model that was more effective to run a large-scale cloud deployment project.Wing K. Lee, CEO, YTL Communications Sdn Bhd
When YTL Communications won the contract for the 1BestariNet project initiated by the Malaysian Ministry of Education in December 2011, the telecom faced ambitious requirements. The project goals were to:
- Transform the way students are taught in primary and secondary schools by offering flexible learning opportunities that included collaboration on the curriculum from teachers across Malaysia.
- Incorporate IT into the curriculum, exposing students to IT at an earlier age.
- Consolidate and standardize the IT infrastructure and assets to ensure a structured approach to education for students.
Education to be offered anytime, anywhere
With this project, 10,000 primary and secondary public schools across Malaysia would be equipped with high-speed 4G Internet access. A cloud-based virtual learning environment (VLE) would enable learning anytime, anywhere.
The challenge for YTL Communications was to create this virtual learning infrastructure and provide network access for all schools in just 12 months.
YTL Communications goes to the cloud
Meeting the aggressive timeline required a move away from the traditional approach of deploying application servers in schools to a cloud-based approach. All 10,000 VLEs and schools deployed into the 1BestariNet cloud. Each school could then access its individual VLE via 1BestariNet or through any Internet connection.
"Without the cloud-based approach, it would not have been viable to provision for all of the VLEs and associated user accounts and deploy it within the stipulated timeline of less than 12 months," said Wing K. Lee, CEO, YTL Communications Sdn Bhd.
YTL Communications based its search for a cloud solution on the criteria of cost-effectiveness, reliability, support, performance, and scalability. Ideally, the cloud environment hosting the e-learning platform would run on Linux®. System management would be able to rapidly provision and patch Linux systems.
After evaluating solutions from various vendors—including VMware, Citrix, Microsoft, and IBM—YTL Communications selected Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, and Red Hat Satellite Server because the solutions met all of the above requirements.
The Malaysian Ministry of Education set up the 1BestariNet program management office to manage the new system's implementation. As part of the governance process, it established a series of service-level agreements (SLAs) that covered connectivity, system, and overall service performances.
Telecom impressed with Red Hat expertise
"While other software vendors were considered, Red Hat provided a highly scalable, affordable, open source model that was more effective to run a large-scale cloud deployment project," said Wing.
YTL Communications was confident that Red Hat could support the company's entire stack, from the hypervisor to the operating system, with its deep knowledge of Linux environment management. They were also impressed with Red Hat's leadership in the Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) project.
YTL picked Red Hat for cost-efficient platform
"Red Hat was chosen as a key partner for this project due to its ability to provide a cost-efficient platform by leveraging open source software," said Wing.
The Red Hat solution comprises Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, Red Hat Satellite Server, and products previously known as Red Hat Cluster and Global File System (now both included in the Resilient Storage Add-On to Red Hat Enterprise Linux). The system runs on 60 Dell Intel Xeon-based servers with 2,400 cores for virtualization hypervisors to support the distribution of applications to the schools. An additional six servers are used for management purposes. Dell Compellent is the primary storage mechanism.
Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization is used to enable virtualization within the cloud environment while Red Hat Satellite Server is deployed to provision and manage the various Linux instances.
YTL Communications also took advantage of the Red Hat Consulting service. Red Hat representatives mentored YTL Communications' infrastructure operations team and helped them complete the project successfully in six months.
"We wanted the best possible resources to help us implement the solution due to the aggressive time frame," said Wing. "We also wanted to use Red Hat Consulting's best practices knowledge to deliver this solution. With Red Hat Consulting, we were able to deliver innovative services through product customization that helped us cut cost."
Support delivered with confidence
With Red Hat's world-renowned support services, YTL Communications could confidently deliver support for open source software to its public sector customers. "When issues arose any time of day, cases were logged and the Red Hat support team was able to resolve issues in a timely manner," said Wing.
VLEs for 10,000 schools were built and deployed. Today, 5.5 million students, 500,000 teachers, and 5 million parents have access to the cloud-based VLE in 1BestariNet.
Flexible infrastructure offers scalability
"These VLEs are built on a flexible Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization infrastructure that can continue to scale and support additional processing or storage capacity as and when needed," said Wing. "This can be achieved by scaling out horizontally and through adding more physical processing and storage capacity to the virtualization farms."
The use of enterprise open source technology to power the cloud-based architecture and technical infrastructure was key. That ensured a supportable, open, cost-efficient, and scalable structure. "Red Hat provided the operating environment with enterprise-class virtualization management solutions together with a mature operating system to power the e-learning applications," said Wing.
Subscription model provides predictable cost management
YTL Communications is pleased with the value of the Red Hat subscription model. Red Hat products are provided on a subscription basis, and customers benefit from access to Red Hat software, updates, upgrades, technical support, and security fixes.
"Costs would have escalated by using proprietary infrastructure software solutions," said Wing. As this project was designed to last 10 years, costs may have become unpredictable with vendor lock-in. "The cost-efficient Red Hat subscription model provides us with a predictable cost structure for the length of the project."
Cloud environment increases efficiency
Adopting a cloud-based approach has enabled YTL Communications to meet its deployment requirements and budget goals. "With the adoption of a cloud deployment model, we were able to standardize and control our IT infrastructure," said Wing. "We are able to roll out new applications, application modules, updates, and content to schools in an efficient manner."
Success spurs more steps
IT operations were structured to ensure efficient operation of the cloud environment. One of the priorities was to ensure operational readiness of the team supporting the project. Red Hat Consulting played a major role by mentoring YTL Communications engineers and developers, and by participating during the project's implementation phases.
The success of this project has spurred YTL Communications to take the VLE one step further. "We are in the midst of rolling out further applications and promoting the use of mobile devices to access the cloud environment," said Wing.Learn more