FETC 2010 News

Charter School Organization Virtualizes Infrastructure

The Greater Educational Opportunities Foundation (GEO Foundation) in Indiana has virtualized its computing infrastructure and upgraded its storage system to reduce costs and energy requirements, expand student access to computers, and improve IT operations. The announcement was made at the FETC 2010 conference, which is going on this week in Orlando, FL.

The foundation said the implementation of technology from Citrix Systems and Scale Computing generated $60,000 in savings in the first month and made possible a 1:1 computer-to-student ratio in some classrooms.

The GEO Foundation, based in Indianapolis, sponsors four charter schools in Indiana and Colorado with 1,300 students. In addition, it operates a statewide tutoring program and charter school service center to provide guidance to other charter schools.

To address a growing number of students, increased storage needs, the rising cost of data center cooling requirements, and the expense of desktop upgrades--$75,000 per school every four to five years--the foundation sought a new approach to IT.

To reduce cooling requirements in the data center and desktop upgrades, the foundation implemented Citrix XenServer and Citrix XenDesktop to virtualize servers and desktops, respectively. In the data center, the foundation has retired or repurposed 14 servers. In the classroom, the foundation has deployed thin-client workstations--desktops and laptops that access all software and data directly from the datacenter. As a result of expected cost savings related to the deployment, the organization has been able to move from a ratio of one computer for every four students to one computer per student.

"When we began this project, we had no idea that we were going to enable some classrooms to provide every student their own computer--something that is nearly unheard of," said Kevin Teasley, president and CEO of the GEO Foundation. "In this scenario, a back-end server room technology directly translated into more technology in the hands of students. It's quite an amazing story."

The foundation implemented Scale's Intelligent Clustered Storage (ICS) technology to provide scalable storage. With the new implementation, the storage clusters can grow from 3 terabytes to 2.2 petabytes in increments as small as one terabyte at a time by plugging in another storage node on the network. The move has enabled the foundation to condense all data storage to a single backup repository.

"The upgrade has been smoother and saved us more money than we had planned," said Brian Beck, CIO of the foundation. "We were able to save a lot of time with setup, free up a great amount of server space, and reduce cooling and electric costs, all without our users ever missing a moment of productivity." With the $60,000 savings, Beck added, "We've already seen our investment pay for itself."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.