Dec 17 2012

Schools Optimize and Prioritize Traffic

Districts tap WAN optimization to handle the load of online testing, video and BYOD.

Florida state mandates to offer online testing drove The School District of Palm Beach County to upgrade its wireless infrastructure.

Chris Persaud, director for technical operations, says administering online tests requires the district to support students’ personal devices, in addition to some 30,000 desktop and notebook computers. Students and teachers also use digital textbooks and other digital courseware.

All of this traffic must be optimized, so that’s where Blue Coat Systems comes in. The School District of Palm Beach County deployed Blue Coat gear to more than 200 sites to perform content filtering and prioritize traffic during online testing sessions.

Bandwidth capacity for the district currently runs between 50 megabits per second to 100Mbps.

Plans are in the works to upgrade to a gigabit network, but that won’t happen until the middle of 2013 when the new fiscal year starts. “In the interim, it’s more important than ever that we optimize traffic to handle all the new applications and computing devices,” Persaud says, adding that even when the district finishes the network upgrade, there will be so much new activity that it will still have to optimize traffic.

30% The percentage of survey respondents who encountered challenges in delivering latency-sensitive applications such as VoIP and video to remote locations

SOURCE: “The Evolution of WAN Optimization” (Enterprise Strategy Group, February 2012)

Bob Laliberte, senior analyst for the Enterprise Strategy Group, says the district’s deployment reflects the growing trend for organizations to manage bring-your-own-device initiatives and the ever-expanding need for computing devices and network bandwidth. “Today, organizations are using WAN optimization technology to ensure a quality experience for mobile devices, video and other cloud applications,” he explains. 

Upgrade and Adjust

Sometimes when school districts upgrade their network pipes, it’s possible to manage and prioritize WAN traffic through the quality of service (QoS) features within routers.

Erik Heinrich, director of infrastructure at San Francisco Unified School District in California, says the district used to rely on a Blue Coat PacketShaper device to manage traffic for the district’s 55,000 students across more than 125 locations. In the past, each school had a T-1 line. Now that the district has upgraded to a 10 Gigabit Ethernet ring, Heinrich says it’s more cost-effective to simply prioritize traffic using the district’s routers.

QoS features enable the IT department to prioritize video and voice traffic, as well as the student information system and other business services.

“I’m just trying to make the greatest use of the existing features within the equipment we already own,” Heinrich says. “We’ve paid for it, so I feel it’s the most responsible way to use the taxpayer’s money.”

For more about WAN optimization product capabilities, see "WAN Optimization Products Change with the Times."