School District Solves Outdated PCs, Budget Cut Problems with Desktop Virtualization

Doing
more with less is a challenge for every IT department, but for the organization
facing a huge budget cut while being forced to continue operating with 2,500 out-of-date
PCs, there’s an even greater challenge to overcome. This scenario was put in
front of Presidio, a Greenbelt, Maryland-based solutions provider with offices
and staff around the country, when it was approached by Tyler Independent
School District of Tyler, Texas.

Tyler’s
goal was to put in place an infrastructure capable of taking it through the
next several years. With an aging Dell solution and a four-to-one ratio of
users (including students and staff) to computers, Tyler’s computing needs were
well beyond the capabilities of the hardware deployed across the various
schools under its care. To make matters worse, the IT budget cuts it was facing
meant it really was going to have to do more with less. IT projects across the
board were being put on the back-burner, but for Tyler, a complete refresh was
in order if it was to offer the kinds of multimedia capabilities and
applications it required.

According
to Steve Kaplan, vice president of data center virtualization practice and
cloud computing at Presidio, Tyler had several challenges it needed to solve.
Budget cuts, too many students for the number of PCs available, many computers
more than eight years old, an inability to migrate to Windows 7 or even run
modern applications, as well as high management and security costs were making
it an increasingly greater challenge to operate efficiently and effectively.

The
solution was to switch to a virtual desktop environment. A Cisco Gold partner
with more than 1,800 IT staff across the country, Presidio was vying with
another solutions provider for the business, and what helped to win Tyler’s
trust was the return on investment it was able to demonstrate to the district’s
superintendent. With a VCE Vblock-based deployment, Presidio demonstrated
potential significant cost savings to the school district, and even though IT
projects had been put on hold, the Presidio project was given the green light
because of the projected ROI, Kaplan explained.

Kaplan
noted that Presidio projected the $1.9 million project to quickly provide
operating savings of $687,000. He added that Tyler saved almost $400,000 up
front from operational expenditure savings alone.

“They
were in a situation where they were going to have to buy a significant number
of desktops, so status quo for them was going to be very expensive just due to
the age of their fleet of PCs,” said Mark Vaughn, the Presidio architect who
designed the Tyler solution. “We were able to show them a very good ROI,
showing them the significant savings, but also enabling them to take the older
PCs that may have had a year or two left in their life that were not keeping up
with technology very well and breathe new life even into those older PCs.”

Using
technology that’s part of VCE Vblock, including Cisco UCS, EMC storage and
VMware virtualization capabilities, Presidio designed an infrastructure that
would provide a virtual desktop environment for the students, in part solving
the problem of having too few PCs per user. With a virtual desktop environment,
students and staff are able to log onto any PC within the four walls of their
schools and bring up their own desktop and files. For the tech-savvy students
coming up through Tyler’s educational system, this enabled them to gain accept
to multimedia and new applications that they may have been used to using at
home but had previously been unable to use at school.

According
to Vaughn, Tyler Independent School District was planning for multimedia
applications to become an important element of classroom work. With an upgrade
to Windows 7 and the deployment of a virtual desktop infrastructure, Tyler’s
technology became centralized because of the Vblock and enabled the district to
get some extra life out of its aging fleet of PCs, he said.

An
additional challenge had to overcome. The entire project, from delivery of the
products to launch, had to be conducted between the end of June when school let
out for the summer and August when the students were about to return, Vaughn
explained. Although small changes and tweaks to the system could be made during
the school year, it was critical to get the deployment up and running within
the confines of the summer vacation.

The
solution consisted of three racks’ worth of equipment with the Vblock
appliance, 32 Cisco UCS blades, approximately 20TB of EMC storage and Cisco
networking infrastructure. Deployment was quick, Vaughn said. The hardware
arrived just after 2:00 within a few days after the school year ended, and the
racks and hardware were set up and connected less than four hours later.

The
first power on didn’t happen until the next morning. Seeing as it was the
middle of summer in Texas, the equipment was hot when it arrived, and it needed
to sit overnight to acclimate to the data center’s temperatures and ensure no
moisture would get in.

Since
the initial deployment, Tyler’s IT department has seen their trouble ticket
numbers drop dramatically. According to Vaughn, the beginning of the school
year keeps the IT professionals busy with password resets and reminders, but
the new system automated password resets. In the end, there were only a handful
of students and teachers that needed their passwords reset manually.

With
only a small number of IT staff serving the entire school district, the changes
have not only provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in operating costs, but
it has also enabled the IT department to focus less on break/fix problems and
more on adding value to the data center, Vaughn said.

 

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