Why K–12 Districts Should Use HCI to Improve Their Data Centers

K–12 schools adopting hyperconverged infrastructures are increasing their data storage, computing and networking efficiency.

K–12 schools need powerful data centers now more than ever as their infrastructures feel the increasing weight of new technology integrations, data analytics initiatives and the rising number of personalized devices. Hyperconverged infrastructure may be the answer.

Across industries, hyperconvergence has seen a marked increase as IT managers look for ways to juggle network speed and security with low infrastructure costs. 

Hyperconvergence has already hit higher education, and is starting to come down the pipeline to K–12 schools as district leaders recognize the financial and physical benefits data center modernization can bring. 

Large technology companies are beginning to see the benefits as well. Windows servers are now optimized for hyperconverged data centers. Such movement around hyperconvergence makes now an opportune time for schools to make the switch. 

MORE FROM EDTECH: How K–12 schools can avoid making data center mistakes.

What Is Hyperconvergence?

Traditional data centers are made up of siloed servers and storage arrays, separating the data computing, storage and networking processes. Hyperconverged infrastructure unites these systems through a combination of hardware and software solutions. 

By centralizing these disparate parts, schools are able to limit the amount of time and resources designated to maintain data centers. 

Additionally, by virtualizing part of the data center, schools can greatly reduce the amount of physical space they need to allocate for their infrastructure. 

HCI can also increase data center productivity for K–12 schools. According to a white paper from CDW, there are seven unique benefits to adopting hyperconvergence:

1. Increased Flexibility:

Incorporating cloud solutions into a data center allows K–12 IT teams to dynamically shift their infrastructure to fit their needs, instead of having to adjust their plans to the limits of their traditional platforms. 

2. Speedy Deployment:

HCI allows teams to grow their data storage and computing capacities more easily. It's easy to scale, so schools can add new classroom technologies (and the data center capacity to support them) without having to increase physical space. 

3. Easier Protection:

For HCI, data is stored in a central location. This means IT teams can plan security strategies that protect the infrastructure as a whole, instead of worrying about each server individually. 

4. Mobile Workload:

The flexibility of HCI means its much easier to migrate workloads across platforms. 

5. High Availability:

Because HCI unites multiple integrated technologies to be managed through one system, IT teams can easily monitor availability through one toolset. 

6. Efficient Data Storage:

HCI allows schools to mix and match their data storage solutions. This means IT teams can find the perfect balance of spinning-disk and solid-state drives to maximize their infrastructure’s performance. 

7. Better Cost Management:

Schools that implement HCI do not need to keep buying more servers as their infrastructure needs increase, nor will they have to invest in servers that sit unused in anticipation of future needs.

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Real-World Examples of Hyperconvergence Deployments

Community Unit School District 300, located northwest of Chicago, needed to make sure its data center could handle the influx of new science, technology, engineering and math labs and one-to-one ASUS Chromebooks.

“We needed to do a forklift upgrade to meet our current and future needs,” says Jayce Bolhous, director of technology, in an EdTech article.

To do this, the district upgraded its primary data center with a hyperconverged infrastructure using Nutanix Acropolis appliances. The short implementation time allowed the IT team to quickly overcome the performance limitations of their legacy infrastructure. 

For example, a spike in demand pushed the infrastructure to run at five times its normal utilization rate, but the school’s IT team wasn’t alarmed. “The Nutanix cluster handled that spike just fine,” says Bolhous. “In the past, that would have caused an operational issue for the district.” In South Carolina, the Clover Park School District turned to hyperconverged data centers after the state mandated all schools adopt Windows-based standards for online testing. 

“We’ve been siphoning off the better computers from those programs as they phase them out, just to keep our regular high school labs running,” explained Matt Hoffman, the district’s executive director of technology, in a VMware case study. “That’s not sustainable.” 

Hoffman and his team integrated VMware Horizon 6 to virtualize the school’s platform. CPSD’s data storage efficiency skyrocketed, while it avoided nearly $1 million in expenses

“We cut costs by 75 percent and don’t need to babysit storage anymore,” said Hoffman. “System resiliency is great – virtual storage area networking allows the show to continue without disruption in case of hardware downtime.”

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Jan 31 2019

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