At Henrico County Public Schools, with more than 50,000 students and 6,500 staff across 75 sites in central Virginia, IT systems faced tremendous demand every day as schools adopted new digital education tools.
The school’s long-standing data center was housed in a renovated office building, a location not designed to support core technology infrastructure.
In the years leading up to 2017, HCPS worked on options to address its aging infrastructure, which was not scalable or highly available and lacked flexibility and performance.
Eventually, it decided to move to a new data center with an all-new network and hyperconverged infrastructure. Simultaneously, the Henrico County government faced issues with its outdated equipment and infrastructure and was ready to explore new data center options.
The two groups decided to build a single, shared data center, one that would meet both parties’ needs and serve both the schools and government well into the future.
While going through the process of designing and building a single, shared data center, the schools, the county and data center partner, Vertiv, discovered three keys to successfully working together.
1. Schools Must Make a Plan and Stick to It
When a school decides to work with another entity — whether it’s local government or someone else — it’s important to have clearly defined roles and responsibilities.
In this scenario, the county took the lead on the data center facility renovation. Both parties shared their needs and bought in to the idea early, which made the process go smoothly.
Also, make sure everyone involved in the process has a seat at the table for decisions. When you work together, a shared vision for the project can help overcome disagreements, which will undoubtedly occur.
2. Create a List of Important Details to Direct Focus
As the school division and Henrico County government worked together, they agreed the new data center must have three key traits: flexibility, scalability and resilience.
The data center needed to support new technologies, such as cloud and on-premises applications, and no one wanted to worry about power and cooling. It also had to support a focus on design, implementation and optimization. It needed to have electrical infrastructure with modularized components, and it needed to be reliable and available.
Given that wish list, it became clear that separate data center compute and network infrastructures — one for the schools and one for the county government — that would fit within the same footprint were the answer. School and county leaders eventually chose the Vertiv SmartAisle infrastructure solution.
3. Think Ahead to Mitigate Future Problems and Get the Correct Results
From the beginning of the collaboration, both HCPS and the county agreed both parties needed a solution that was future proof, able to grow as either group adopted new technology.
HCPS is currently experimenting with Big Data, machine learning and artificial intelligence. The school’s old data center would not have supported those solutions, but the new space is ready for all of the new technologies. While the school still largely relies on its own IT systems, with only one-third of current applications in the cloud, the new data center makes any future architectures possible.
As a result of the collaboration, HCPS repurposed technical roles supporting the data center to drive improved operational performance, resilience and redundancy. Because the data center is now easier to manage, assigned technical staff have more time to work on important initiatives, implement operational improvements and innovate.