Based in Indianapolis, Indiana, the Greater Educational Opportunity (GEO) Foundation has been making access to quality schools a reality for children since 1998. GEO incubates quality charter schools and then supports their growth, providing students a path from kindergarten all the way through two years of college. Along this path, students benefit from a substantial technology investment supplemented with E-Rate funding, including a 1-to-1 learning environment for every student at all 5 schools under the GEO umbrella.
The GEO Foundation has seen substantial growth since inception in 1998 with an additional school planned for the coming year. Each new addition brought with it a disparate silo of servers and storage resources that required significant time to manage each. Having applications such as the student management package shared between schools caused network bandwidth issues at the hosting location with multiple sites connecting into the network.
With a new school on the horizon and aging hardware at their central location, GEO looked for a solution that could consolidate its servers into a central co-location. Cost for the solution was important, but as an eligible school in the E-Rate program – a federally funded program designed to ensure that eligible schools and libraries have affordable access to modern telecommunications and information services – GEO focused on the simplicity of the solution above all else.
The GEO Foundation fully understood the benefits of consolidating its servers to a single location using virtualization technology, but was challenged with the limited staffing resources it had to commit to the project. A standard Do-it-Yourself virtualization deployment of cobbling together host servers, licensing a hypervisor and deploying shared storage was out of the question. “Supporting 1600+ IT users, we don’t have a lot of time to spin up something that is going to be complex,” said Brian Beck, CTO.
Specifically, Beck and his team would need to navigate through the complex setup of a SAN or NAS, configure the storage subsystem to communicate to a handful of host servers running VMware or another hypervisor in order to have the redundancy GEO required for its environment.
In addition to high availability and simplicity, GEO sought a solution that would also scale alongside the growth plans for the foundation. The ideal solution would need to support the additional school on the horizon and also allow for a secondary site for backup purposes.
The GEO foundation first heard of Scale Computing’s HC3 system – a complete ‘datacenter-in-a-box’ – two years after having deployed Scale Computing Storage Systems at each of their four schools. They were immediately drawn to the simplicity and elegance of the virtualization platform and given their positive experience with the storage system, knew that the HC3 product would deliver on the three tenants of their virtualization search: simplicity, high availability and scalability.
SIMPLE: GEO couldn’t afford to have a complex system, as its organization has limited IT resources. It needed a solution that was scalable and highly automated, that could be managed with existing resources.
“From an ease of use perspective, there is not a product on the market right now that can touch Scale Computing’s HC3 product,” “I literally went from unboxing to spinning up VM’s in a matter of hours. It is just that intuitive,”
AVAILABLE: After the consolidation, GEO now has 15 virtual servers running on HC3 at their main location with plans to deploy a secondary cluster in the coming months at the new school, which has qualified for funds under the eRate program at 90%. Beck is excited by the prospect of utilizing Acronis Backup and Recovery for backing up VMs to the secondary site.
“If I’m in IT at an educational institution, a library or just a small business, this is a solution that I would be happy to see brought into my environment.”
GEO deployed HC3 at their main location and began the process of migrating their physical machines to virtual machines (P2V) as well as migrating several virtual machines (V2V) to HC3 utilizing Acronis Backup and Recovery, a member of Scale Computing’s Technical Alliance Program.
“Acronis did such a great job of interfacing with HC3…adding in the appropriate drivers needed in the migration,”
“The entire migration took less than 3 days and we experienced no downtime in the transition.”
SCALABLE: GEO has been growing within the last few years, and disparate solutions couldn’t scale today, much less in the future. They were looking for a solution that allowed them to pay for what they use now, and be able to scale as the organization grew. No upfront cost or licensing complexities. If they needed to grow, they simply added more nodes. No rip and replace, no expensive complex systems, no headaches.
“We have plans for more schools but are unsure of our needs, and don’t want to make capital investment for resources we won’t be using. HC3 allows us to pay as we grow, and only pay for what we use, simply add more capacity as we need it.”
HC3 integrates servers, storage, and virtualization into a single, highly available, easy-to-use and scalable system, and removes the complexity of a typical virtualization deployment. With no virtualization software to license, no external storage to buy and the hypervisor built in to the system, HC3 radically simplifies the infrastructure needed to keep critical applications running. The architecture and user interface of HC3 makes the deployment and management of a highly available and scalable infrastructure as easy to manage as a single server.
2 x 3 Node HC3 Systems
“We have plans for more schools but are unsure of our needs, and don’t want to make capital investment for resources we won’t be using. HC3 allows us to pay as we grow, and only pay for what we use, simply add more capacity as we need it.” – Brian Beck, CTO
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