Case Study

How One School District Accelerated IT Modernization and Reduced IT Project Time by 75%

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic intensified the pressure to accelerate IT modernization initiatives, there was an overwhelming demand for technical tools and resources in our nation's public schools.

Yet — then and now — the path to digital transformation is fraught with hurdles. This is especially true for districts with limited resources, budget constraints, lengthy procurement processes, and legacy systems which can be cumbersome and challenging to update.

It's a predicament Alum Rock Union School District (ARUSD) in San Jose, California, knew all too well.

ARUSD operates 22 elementary and middle schools with almost 500 teachers and faculty. The district is committed to providing its nearly 8,000 students with high quality, 21st century learning, so they’re ready for the future in a diverse and competitive world.

To achieve this mission, Alum Rock schools are supported by a small but dedicated IT team charged with transforming the aging ARUSD technical infrastructure into a modern network capable of meeting the future needs of students and staff — in the classroom, remotely, or in hybrid environments.

For ARUSD, this path would be forgoing a legacy system and adopting an observability approach. The goal would be onboarding infrastructure, apps, and services into your monitoring ecosystem in order to reduce IT silos, enable cross-domain correlation, and increase collaboration — all while automating visualization, analytics, management, troubleshooting, and compliance tasks.

A patchwork of on-premises, cloud, and out-of-the-box systems creates challenges

But modernizing the ARUSD infrastructure presented myriad challenges for network administrators. Like many K–12 schools, the district’s IT infrastructure consisted of a patchwork collection of legacy on-premises systems, cloud services, and out-of-the-box applications. The district also had limited financial resources and needed to achieve digital transformation without exhausting its already over-stretched IT team.

A key challenge for ARUSD CTO Brett Littrell was achieving visibility and control across the school district’s entire network — from legacy hardware performance data to cloud-based application and service management. Littrell’s team couldn’t risk a single server or switch failure taking out the entire system. Device management, user authentication, security, and compliance were also important factors.

Avoiding toolset creep with end-to-end hybrid IT management

Any number of toolsets could help ARUSD check each of these boxes. But as many CTOs know, as a school district’s digital environment expands — on-premises and in the cloud — toolset creep can set in, and costs grow.

Instead of relying on traditional piecemeal approaches, Littrell chose an observability strategy, which provided for cost-effective and holistic end-to-end hybrid IT management. Investing in an observability solution allowed ARUSD to consolidate tools, automates critical tasks, speed up troubleshooting, and help ensure full visibility into their IT infrastructure.

Adopting observability across ARUSD's on-premises and cloud environments have simplified and automated critical network monitoring and management tasks — all while reducing costs, saving work hours, staying one step ahead of security threats, and remaining compliant.

A 75% reduction in time spent on IT projects

The result? A more standard and secure architecture and a drastically reduced implementation time. “From pushing virtual LAN (VLAN) definitions to switches and changing local credentials network-wide, we can do all this in a fraction of the time,” said Littrell. “The exponential increase in efficiency has allowed us to accelerate projects, reducing time spent by up to 75%.”

A path to operational efficiency

Technology is critical to advancing the learning process. But as the team at ARUSD discovered, the key to making IT modernization initiatives a success is to first establish a path toward operational efficiency.

About the Author

Brandon Shopp is the group vice president of product at SolarWinds. Shopp has spent more than 10 years with SolarWinds and has a proven success record in product delivery and revenue growth, with a wide variety of software product, business model, M&A and go-to-market strategies experience.