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Virtualized network OK'd for Grandview School District

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Network specialist James Howard (left) discusses the current network limitations with the Grandview School Board. Also pictured is Brad Shreeve, the school district's superintendent for finance and operations, as well as the technology director.

GRANDVIEW - Plans are now in the works to update and modernize the Grandview School District's electronic information network.

In a presentation delivered by James Howard, the district's network specialist, and Brad Shreeve, the assistant superintendent for finance and operations and the technology director, the Grandview School Board learned about the options for improving the network.

Howard addressed the board to discuss the current situation and the cost to merely upgrade its current network.

The district currently has 40 servers with four terabytes of storage. With video surveillance, staff usage, electronic records and student space, the district is running low on space. Howard estimated that in the next five years, the district will need at least 20 terabytes of space.

In order to upgrade this system, the district will need to replace the servers at a cost of approximately $120,000. The estimated cost of increasing the storage capacity to the recommended 20 terabytes would total $40,875.

With a combined total of $160,875, Shreeve informed the board the district will have to spend at least this much to update the system for the district's needs. However, the district does have the funds and plans to implement a virtualized network, with opportunities to save money down the road.

A virtualized network was described by Shreeve as a "super computer." This central resource is designed to utilize processing, memory and storage effectively and efficiently.

Howard revealed that the district currently has six servers that are running at 5 to 10 percent utilization.

"That means they're pretty much doing nothing," Howard said. However, under a virtualized system, "underutilized resources are redirected to an over utilized operation."

The benefits of a server virtualization includes lowering the number of physical servers, which will reduce the hardware maintenance cost and ultimately reduce cooling costs in the server room as there is less to keep cool.

Server virtualization also allows the district to securely manage Windows 7, iPads, iPhones, Android phones, older computer systems, personal laptops and netbooks, and thin clients.

Thin clients, Shreeve revealed, are an option for the district that can be used instead of desktops. The device connects directly to the server but still has ports for network cables, keyboards, a mouse and other devices to plug into. However, thin clients have no moving parts and do not process anything on their own. As a result, a thin client device uses only 7 watts of power, while a traditional computer uses 350 watts of power.

Shreeve estimated the total savings in power by using thin clients to be around $104,058 over three years.

The presentation estimated a total 56 percent reduction in power consumption should the district elect to move forward with virtualization.

Finally, Shreeve revealed that the virtualization process will take storage capacity well beyond the needed 20 terabytes the district will need in the next five years. In fact, they estimate the storage capacity in a virtualized network to exceed 300 terabytes.

The total cost of virtualization was estimated at $241,451, but with the apparent savings over the years (including power savings for both servers and thin clients, as well as the lower cost of purchasing thin clients than desktops) the total cost over three years totals only $56,168.

The money for this project is already available in the budget, Shreeve revealed, but in addition to the savings, virtualization is simply a faster and more efficient network.

Grandview School Board Director Tim Grow moved to endorse the expenditure while Director Lydia Moreno seconded the motion. It passed unanimously.

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