School IT managers must plan their virtualization deployments carefully in order to maximize its advantages. Those who have successfully virtualized cite simplified IT management, infrastructure efficiencies and reduced operating costs as key benefits.
How can your school make the most of this technology? Consider these strategies:
1. Use servers 24x7.
Pair applications that run during the day with those that run at night. That way, servers aren’t overtaxed at any given point but are always utilized. Ferndale (Mich.) Public Schools’ IT department pairs file and print servers that are used during the school day with a virtual private network (VPN) application, which allows administrators, teachers and staff to log in and access district resources at night.
2. Fine-tune your implementation.
Virtualization is a constant work in progress, so look for ways to improve your implementation to increase efficiencies. While attending a Citrix conference recently, Jason Willis learned that his servers would still run smoothly if he decreased the virtual CPUs (VCPUs) per server. “The speaker said four virtual CPUs on a Windows 2003 server running Citrix XenApp 5 was overkill, so I immediately logged on to the servers remotely and switched all of them from four to two VCPUs, which allowed me to go from four XenApp virtual servers per physical box to eight per physical box,” says Willis, network manager for Minooka Community Consolidated School District 201 in Illinois.
3. Virtualize clients too.
Server and client virtualization work hand in hand. With VMware View virtual desktop software and Wyse Technology thin clients, Byron (Calif.) Unified School District is providing 600 virtual clients to its students at a fraction of the cost of regular PCs. Virtual clients consume less power, are more secure and reliable, and can be centrally managed, says Willie Marlin, the district’s network and student data technician. “Students are able to log on in under a minute and begin working on projects, instead of waiting for a PC to boot up,” he explains.
4. Solidify your infrastructure.
The underlying infrastructure — servers, storage and the network — must be strengthened before implementing virtualization. That’s why the planning and assessment process is important, Marlin says. For example, if you don’t purchase enough server power or storage initially, you may have to spend more later to bring your equipment up to speed. The more onboard server memory you can afford, the better performance you will get in the end, he adds.