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The demands of IT Infrastructures in Education are being challenged from all sides: budget, staffing, expertise, time to delivery, performance, availability and rapidly changing requirements because of major shifts in student populations.  These all put excessive burdens on the supporting IT staff which can lead to poor performance and lost opportunities to educate your students.

Let’s take a short journey through IT Infrastructure evolution by drawing come comparisons to the audio world.  Audiophiles used to demand the best-of-breed solutions and would purchase separate receivers/tuners, amplifiers, turntables, tape and speaker systems.  This is very similar to the way many of us have built IT Infrastructures.  Then came the first attempt to build simplicity in the form of Converged Infrastructure – but under the covers this was really nothing more than all the individual components wrapped up in a pretty rack with a kludged together management layer and usually out of reach for anyone except larger businesses; rarely even large school districts could play.  In the audio world these were the all-in-one stereo systems.  When they worked they worked, but if one component went down, the whole unit was down.  Then came HyperConverged Infrastructure (HCI).  In the audio analogy, these were the boom boxes.  This HCI technology was introduced by several in 2009.  These were purpose built solutions that could virtualize not only compute but also storage into a granular appliance that would allow customers to start small and scale to fairly large.

Today enters HyperConverged Infrastructure (HCI) “Next Generation” – akin to “streaming audio.”  Now you can not only consolidate compute and storage within the solution, but you are able to additionally consolidate deduplication, compression, optimized replication, backup and other appliances, virtualized with enterprise-class performance and scalability.  Better yet, you have the ability to build your own into your private or public cloud.

This is what we saw at the presentation given by HPE/SimpliVity at a recent K-12 breakfast at PDS Connect and how their solution can aid school districts.  Since the acquisition by HPE, the SimpliVity product has instantaneously become more flexible by introducing extra small (XS) configurations to their portfolio.  This was accomplished because of HPE’s expansive manufacturing and assembly processes whereas they have simplified manufacturing of products by leveraging as many similar components for multiple solutions.  This was not possible when SimpliVity was a standalone company.  This now allows for School Districts of any size to leverage all the functionality provided by SimpliVity, but at smaller starting point, yet with limitless scale.  They are also introducing options for general purpose versus write-intensive storage options within their portfolio.  Both these actions allow for lower cost of entry into what was perceived to be an enterprise business solution – now for School Districts from sizes from XS to XL.

Outside of the budget and scale benefits, administrators at school districts are challenged with delivering world-class IT performance with limited technical resources.  In yesterday’s world, IT departments within businesses were built to have resources who had singular expertise within server, storage, network, or an application – a luxury that many school districts weren’t afforded.  The reality is most districts had to try and hire generalists who could satisfy different areas of data center technology.  This lead to frustration, high turnover, and unfair expectations of IT.  HCI changes all of this.  Now generalists can truly meet those needs by managing a software abstract layer to simply allocate resources for specific workloads or applications.

HCI has made everything simpler!  This goes beyond the consolidation of the physical hardware, but in many cases, it allows for reduction in the surrounding software cost around things like virtualization, backup, replication, WAN optimization and many others.

So in the end, a school district gets more scale, lower cost, lower administrative burden, higher IT employee satisfaction.  This is a recipe that in the end allows more time and money to go back into the classroom and the student and instructor experience!

If you’d like to learn more – reach out to me at or contact your PDS Account Director.  I’d love to talk with you more about this, or grab a whiteboard, or show you the technology at our Midwest Technology Center lab in Madison, Wisconsin.

Steve Tucholka

Steve Tucholka is Director of Product Strategy for PDS, and has spent the last 16 years focused on keeping PDS and its clients on the forefront of virtualization. Over the years, his focus on strategy and service innovation has helped PDS develop an extensive range of server, storage and virtualization solutions that support client business initiatives.

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