"We’re talking minutes now, compared with what used to take days,” Munford says. HC3 also made sense as the district outgrew its data center.
“We had 40 or 50 bare-metal servers operating in that environment at any given time,” Munford says. “We had terrible cable sprawl, and there were a lot of switches to connect all of the devices together. It was becoming a nightmare. Based on the growth we were seeing, we would have outgrown it within a year.”
Meanwhile, much of the district’s equipment was nearing its end of life. “We didn’t want to spend that time and money on such a huge system,” Lunt says. Today, the district runs two hyperconverged clusters: The primary one has seven nodes, and the other, a DR site cluster, has five nodes.
The two appliances communicate with each other and replicate virtual machines and their corresponding snapshots onto each other, so in the event of a cluster failure, IT can clone a replicated VM or activate a replicated VM snapshot on the other cluster. There’s no more cable sprawl, no more overheating.
“We went from four 7-foot 42U racks chock-full of servers and SAN storage to a measly 8U of rack space,” Munford says. “We’re a lot more efficient.”
Hyperconverged Infrastructures Are a One-Stop Shop
The storage area network and servers at Wisconsin’s Kiel Area School District predated Dustin Goebel’s decade-long tenure — and even those had been refurbished.
“They’ve been great units,” says Goebel, the district’s technology director and network administrator. “But it was time to upgrade.” When pricing new storage arrays, he included hyperconverged solutions in the mix, primarily as an academic exercise. “I never thought it would come in at our price,” he says, but he was stunned to learn that HCI was in line with his budget.
Iron County School District’s Troy Lunt (left) and Ken Munford gained time, space and cost savings when they replaced the district’s old data center with a hyperconverged infrastructure.. Photography by: Louis Arevalo.
“The biggest plus is that it’s a one-stop shop,” he says. “If I have a problem with a drive or the software, it’s just one call to Nutanix. There’s no finger-pointing between vendors.”
The district installed the new system in 2018, and implementation was straightforward. A user-friendly interface and a single login allow Goebel to see the storage, processing power, inputs/outputs and all virtual machines.
“We have 1,500 end users and just about that many devices, so anytime we can streamline management, it’s always a good thing for us,” he says of his two-man IT team.
“Most school districts are just like us, so if HCI fits within the budget, it’s definitely worth taking a long look at. I think the benefits outweigh that little bit of extra cost.”
K–12 Schools Replace Legacy Systems for a Fresh Start
When the Janesville School District set out to replace its aging legacy systems in 2017, all of the bids it received were for hyperconverged infrastructures. “It just made sense because everything was being replaced at one time,” says Cassandra Anderson, systems administrator for the Wisconsin school district. “We were in a good situation to just lift it out and start fresh with hyperconverged.”
She didn’t know much about the technology, so she did some research before the presentations to keep her from going in blind. Her first surprises were the amount of storage the district could save, and how much it could shrink its data center footprint.