Xtravirt helps University of Bristol navigate complex digital transformation

6 min read
Xtravirt helps University of Bristol navigate complex digital transformation
University Of Bristol

The customer

The University of Bristol is one of the top-ranking higher education institutions globally, with more than 28,000 students attending every year. It is also renowned for advancing scientific research in many fields that positively influence society, healthcare, industry, and the environment.


Digital transformation is re-shaping businesses around the world and in the fields of education and research, the possibilities that are being unlocked are particularly exciting. Cloud and best in class digital technologies are dissolving geographical boundaries, allowing today’s universities, colleges, and research institutions to be able to deliver and compete on a global scale.

When the University of Bristol selected VMware Cloud Foundation™ as the basis for a strategic transformation program, expertise provided by VMware Principal Partner Xtravirt was critical to its success. Xtravirt’s long record of guiding customers through the complex journey of planning and executing digital transformation ensured the program would deliver the university’s strategic goals.

Reimagining research and education beyond city limits

The University of Bristol has an enviable reputation both within the UK and overseas. Within the physical limits of the city of Bristol, it can provide world-class teaching to around 28,000 students per year. However, with remote learning enabled, the university could extend teaching to a new global cohort of students based all around the world. Not only was this an attractive commercial opportunity for the university, but one which helps it tackle an important issue, educational poverty. University CIO, Keith Woolley, explains: “Our digital vision aims to ensure we bring parity for our students. No matter where they are or what their background is, they will be able to attend the University of Bristol.”

The university also has ambitious plans for its research arm. It recognised how VMware Cloud Foundation could pave the way to even more complex and demanding research projects. “Our partners – global health organisations, international meteorological bodies, and pharmaceutical researchers, to name a few – all have different requirements,” says Woolley. “They look to academia to provide the compute and storage, and integration and manageability to leverage private and public cloud providers.”

Keith Woolley, Chief Digital Information Officer, University Of Bristol

University of Bristol

VMware Cloud Foundation is going to help us compete on the global stage by allowing us to work in environments where we couldn’t work before

CIO, University of Bristol

Partnering for success in the face of a complex journey

With VMware technologies at the core of the university’s transformation strategy, VMware introduced cloud consulting and managed services business Xtravirt to the University of Bristol.

“To bring its business strategy to life, the university was gearing up for a highly complex, multi-year program of digital transformation, underpinned by VMware Cloud Foundation. Having attained six Master Services Competencies, Xtravirt is one of the most highly accredited VMware partners, whose specialist knowledge spans our entire portfolio of solutions. Combine that with its previous successes with other Russell Group Universities and we felt we had found the University of Bristol the best possible partner to assure the success of its project,” says Daniel Welsh, Account Manager at VMware.

Aron Bibby, Senior Network Engineer, University Of Bristol

University of Bristol

Xtravirt has helped us understand the different capabilities and features VMware Cloud Foundation can provide, specifically around the critical areas of automation and managing the platform going forward

Senior Network Engineer, University of Bristol

Xtravirt played a key role in the implementation, working closely with the university’s IT team from the earliest stages of product strategy and proof of concept, through to providing the technical solution design, implementation, training, and early life support and maintenance. “The University of Bristol aspires to become a world leader in providing boundaryless education and supporting global research,” reveals Robin Gardner, Strategic Services Director at Xtravirt. “Xtravirt is proud to be helping the university leverage VMware Cloud Foundation for future growth and the enablement of its student and research bodies.”

Deep expertise and knowledge-sharing from an experienced traveller

The university recognised the value of working with specialist partners who have travelled the transformation journey many times before; those that know both the pitfalls and the roadmap for success. Engaging Xtravirt helped to accelerate and de-risk the sizable and complex digital transformation project while keeping it on time and on budget.

“The expertise Xtravirt brings is critical to the project’s success,” Aron Bibby, Senior Network Engineer at the university, explains: “The Xtravirt team are without doubt world-class subject matter experts on the VMware product suite. Their depth and broad experience – not just in academia but throughout the commercial world – has given us a real competitive advantage.”

Robin Gardner, Strategic Services Director, Xtravirt


Xtravirt is proud to be helping the university leverage VMware Cloud Foundation for future growth and the enablement of its student and research bodies

Strategic Services Director, Xtravirt

Xtravirt is ensuring that this project isn’t just about technology implementation; it’s about delivering early benefits aligned to each of the university’s objectives and providing the organisation with space for future growth and capabilities for innovation. “We are helping the university extend automation and simplify the introduction of self-service, and as the VMware portfolio evolves, we will ensure the platform continues to be robust, secure, and scalable,” Gardner explains.

With VMware Cloud Foundation being new to the university, Xtravirt is upskilling internal teams and assisting in defining a target operating model. This ensures that IT services can run and operate the leading technology deployed on an ongoing basis. “Xtravirt has helped us understand the different capabilities and features VMware Cloud Foundation can provide,” says Bibby, “specifically around the critical areas of automation and managing the platform going forward. Working with Xtravirt consultants, from the senior staff to the individuals designing our solution, has been a fantastic experience.”

Looking ahead

Xtravirt has proved to be the perfect partner to help the University of Bristol realise its ambition of boundaryless education and research. Bibby, for one, is very much looking forward to working with Xtravirt in the future. “I’ve found Xtravirt consultants extremely professional, but also very personable,” he says. “It meant we were able to build a strong relationship, even while working remotely. And that’s what’s made this project a success.”