Apr 23 2013
Data Center

Turnkey Appliances Pass the Test

Districts save time and improve IT performance with integrated data center and email archiving appliances.

For Sean Waddell, systems administrator for the Indianapolis Public Schools, implementing a Cisco Systems Unified Computing System (UCS) enables him to work more efficiently.

Indianapolis Public Schools deployed a Cisco UCS configuration that integrates servers and switches into one centrally managed appliance, which is a big help for a district with 31,000 students and 6,000 staff spread across 70 locations.   

“From an information management perspective, it’s a one-stop shop,” Waddell says. “Now, performing a firmware upgrade on 24 blades turns what used to be two days of work into a six-hour job.”

Luther Bowens, IPS manager of operations, says the district began modernizing its infrastructure about three years ago with server virtualization. The district gradually consolidated 325 physical machines to 17, a move that has saved $1 million in hardware replacement costs.

“One big advantage is that we’re able to get more virtual machine instances on a single blade on the Cisco gear versus any of the other products,” says Wayne Hawkins, IPS supervisor of IT operations. “And the load on our UPS system is roughly 60 percent of capacity, so we’re also saving money on energy costs.”

44% The percentage of IT managers who say ease of management is the leading benefit of an integrated computing platform

SOURCE: “Virtual Computing Infrastructure” (Enterprise Strategy Group, January 2012)

Mark Bowker, a senior analyst for Enterprise Strategy Group, says these types of management efficiencies move IT departments toward turnkey systems such as Exinda WAN optimization devices.

“Data centers are expensive and complex, so anything that can take out the guesswork and save time is most welcome,” Bowker says. “Put all of that together, and it becomes very compelling for IT managers.”

A Focused Appliance

In addition to unified computing systems, there’s an array of appliances that integrate software and management to help make life easier for IT managers.

At the School District of Pickens County in Easley, S.C., a Barracuda Networks Message Archiver device solved the problem of an older device bogging down the network when it archived emails.

“The Barracuda Message Archiver was practically plug and play,” says Andy Coleman, director of accountability, information and technology services. “All I had to do was turn it on, bring up the IP address and walk through the setup. I had it up and running in an hour.”

Coleman expects the Barracuda appliance to last roughly five to seven years because the district currently uses only 20 percent of the device’s available storage. The Message Archiver also prepares the district for any compliance changes. The district currently saves emails for two years, but Coleman anticipates the state mandating a five- to seven-year retention period.

Where Turnkey Works

ESG Senior Analyst Mark Bowker says turnkey appliances have gained the most traction in these three IT areas:

  • Line-of-business applications: Organizations that have large deployments of specific business applications can benefit from a solution that’s designed to optimize those applications. These optimized systems apply hardware and software patches and revisions, leaving the IT department to focus on monitoring infrastructure.
  • Virtual desktop infrastructure: Many fully integrated systems now come deployed with VDI. Preconfigured solutions remove the burden of maintaining, tuning and troubleshooting the desktop delivery technology.
  • Private cloud: A fully integrated turnkey system also suits IT organizations that have a clear, well-defined cloud computing strategy. Deploying this type of back-end appliance can boost service levels and efficiency, and improve resiliency and scalability.

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