Virtual training hosted from a single data center had slow lab access, VPN issues, and could not provide on-demand training, frustrating instructors and students.
Infoblox can now offer paid on-demand courses that have increased on-demand training revenue by 40%. Customer complaints about latency and VPN issues have vanished, while virtual labs performance has dramatically improved.
Infoblox helps customers control their networks with solutions that help businesses automate complex network control functions to reduce costs, increase security, and maximize uptime. The company’s technology enables automatic discovery, real-time configuration and change management, and compliance for network infrastructure, as well as critical network control functions such as DNS, DHCP, and IP Address Management (IPAM) for applications and endpoint devices.
To maximize the investment of these solutions, Infoblox customers need and pay for access to training. To drive revenue, Steven Carr, Technical Operations Manager (Education), recognized that the Infoblox eLearning platform must be modernized to deliver on-demand classes to this global audience. Without modernization, Infoblox wouldn’t have the opportunity to provide a new offering that would contribute to top-line revenue.
Carr and his team were responsible for providing a global eLearning program, but the existing platform built on legacy infrastructure on-premise presented a number of challenges:
- Zero ability to provide an on-demand training offering
- Constant customer complaints due to slow lab access and VPN issues
- Single data center for worldwide delivery
- Cumbersome and time-consuming lab setup and tear-down process
The company’s previous provider only had one single data center location in San Jose, which incurred too much latency when delivering course content to students around the world, resulting in a terrible user experience. Also, with Infoblox’s existing platform, students had to access courses via VPN. “So, not only did we have the latency problems, but we also had people who had locked down laptops and couldn’t install the VPN client, which then caused massive headaches for our team,” said Carr.
Infoblox selected Course Manager by Skytap as its eLearning platform because of its stable VMware-based infrastructure and the ability to provide on-demand learning to its customers. The combination of these capabilities enabled Infoblox to modernize its infrastructure as the first step in its journey of modernizing its eLearning platform.
“We’re now operating out of three Skytap data centers. We use US-East, EMEA, and APAC,” said Carr. “Then, depending on where the classes are going to be delivered, we set up the labs in the nearest location.”
Carr and his team start by building a master template, which includes infrastructure, networking, storage, OS, and software in a single environment. Once the master template is configured, Infoblox can copy the entire environment to the regions where it will be used. An Infoblox backend system manages template IDs and uses the Skytap API to deploy the templates to data centers. Simple URLs are then shared via Skytap Sharing Portals, so students can access the complete lab environment in seconds. Infoblox then uses Course Manager’s scheduling functionality to tear down and delete the environments when the class is ended, which helps Infoblox reduce environment capacity.
Use of Skytap has grown in scale since to include development. “Initially we kept two sets of labs running. So, I was keeping a master copy running in our VMware cluster locally at our headquarters, then I took a side image off that and loaded it into Skytap. It’s now to the point where we’re pretty much doing all of our development on Skytap as well.”
Although this was not initially planned, by moving development to Skytap they’ve been able to modernize their development processes as an additional benefit. “We built a central portal where instructors can reserve training labs, and the portal integrates with our LMS to deploy on-demand labs when our customers register for an online class. The portal interfaces with Skytap via the REST API, and deploys lab environments as required,” said Carr.
With Course Manager powering its eLearning program, Infoblox is now able to offer on-demand courses and has increased on-demand revenue by 40%. At the same time, customer complaints about latency and VPN installation issues have stopped.
Carr and his team have also experienced a dramatic increase in speed and agility thanks to Skytap’s templating and cloning abilities. “The ability to create one environment and then be able to deploy it over and over again, or copy it around regions and then deploy it…that saves so much time. To be able to actually manipulate environments and build templates through a web GUI allows us to update lab environments quickly, then redeploy them as needed.”
Infoblox now delivers up to 12 in-person and virtual training classes globally each week with an average of eight students per class. The real focus, however, is on on-demand style learning, and Carr’s team plans to increase Infoblox on-demand training offerings dramatically.
After modernizing its eLearning platform with Course Manager, Carr’s team is using their extra time to focus on bringing additional innovation to the eLearning program. They will start by unbundling course offerings in order to charge for additional classroom environments (extensions) to further increase revenue.
“Skytap has taken a lot of the manual effort away from managing the labs. With our old data center, there was always something that would stick and we would have to then go in and fix it. With Course Manager, it’s a lot more automated and saves us a lot of admin on the back end.Since implementation, our on-demand learning has grown to 22% of our training revenue.”
Steven Carr, Technical Operations Manager (Education), Infoblox