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Saginaw ISD, Vendors Tout Cloud Project

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Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based DataCore Software Corp. announced today that the Saginaw Intermediate School District has replaced a legacy storage area network and fully embraced virtualization in its centralized data center built on DataCore, VMware and Xiotech.

Saginaw ISD’s VMware- DataCore-based cloud for servers and storage serves as both a centralized data center and a hosting service for the majority of school districts in the county.

The implementation at Saginaw ISD is one that incorporates DataCore for storage virtualization, VMware for server virtualization, and Xiotech as the hardware platform providing the actual storage.
DataCore’s SANmelody storage virtualization software powers two storage area networks that comprise DataCore software and Xiotech servers at two separate data centers, five miles apart, which are configured to mirror to each other. The data pool consists of 10 terabytes (trillion bytes) on each end of the remote configuration.

“Our goal was to virtualize everything and have that supported by storage,” said Jeff Johnson, Director of Technical Services, Saginaw Intermediate School District.

Saginaw ISD has deployed seven VMware ESX boxes in the VMware farm, all running on HP servers. These hosts service 35-40 virtual machines, which span everything from a utility machine running Windows XP to five SQL servers. For replication purposes, the mirrored site has three ESX boxes that also make up the VMware cloud between the two sites. DataCore is at the heart of the virtualized infrastructure, powering the VMware cloud in Saginaw ISD’s virtual, private data center.

“At this point we are currently serving 30-40 percent of the county by way of staff and students, and that number continues to grow,” Johnson said. “Recently, we had a meeting with another school district, and, within one hour of talking about server costs and replacement costs, the district made the bold decision to move everything out of their data center this summer and into ours. They see that costs are just so much less when we can consolidate and put all the servers in our VMware, DataCore and Xiotech environment for them.”

The solution at Saginaw ISD encompasses local high-availability and fault-tolerance, as well as offsite disaster recovery capabilities. In terms of delivering high-availability, Saginaw ISD serves as the central hub for most of the school districts in Saginaw County, and Saginaw Township Community Schools serves as a “sister site” for remote replication — ensuring redundancy and uptime.

Thirteen local school districts in the county currently rely on Saginaw ISD for Internet services and other technical services needs — for instance, maintaining back-ups for other school districts on Saginaw ISD’s system, as well as desktop imaging and housing utility servers.  Moreover, five of these districts now rely on Saginaw ISD for all of their tech-services needs.

Including their own, Saginaw ISD is the “Tech Department” for six data centers. In addition to serving as the centralized data center for five districts, whereby their data assets are now being run out of Saginaw ISD’s data center as part of its VMware cloud, Saginaw also hosts the servers of three additional districts that are still providing their own technical services, but are not hosting their own servers. Because the school districts are connected via fiber, Saginaw ISD can provide storage to all of the schools, simply by presenting storage domain servers to the fiber connections.

Added Johnson: “The bottom line is that we do not have to deploy multiple copies of SANs at each individual school. Instead, our virtualized infrastructure serves as the central hub and we provide the IT services other district schools need.”

When DataCore partner Red Level Networks of Novi engaged with the customer, Saginaw ISD was a legacy Xiotech customer, with a five-year-old Xiotech Magnitude SAN. Looking to expand its storage capacity and IT services countywide, Saginaw ISD put out an RFP looking for a Xiotech upgrade. However, it received multiple responses from vendors offering hardware SANs, as well as those offering storage virtualization appliances.

“We saw an opportunity to introduce storage virtualization through DataCore Software, while building on Xiotech’s appliances and high-performance disks, which are part of their back-end storage solution,” explains David King, president & CEO, Red Level Networks. “It seemed like a good fit and was ideal for Saginaw ISD’s requirements.” 

Because the existing Xiotech SAN had become one that was unsupported by the vendor, and because Saginaw ISD was facing both server sprawl (the Xiotech SAN had 14 servers attached to it) and capacity constraints, the path of virtualization made sense to both partner and customer, alike.

Both school employees and students are now benefiting from the system, meaning that roughly 10,000 students and 2,000 school staffers are using the virtualized infrastructure, without even knowing it. 

For a complete Case Study on Saginaw ISD, please go to www.datacore.com/saginaw.

Educational leaders from across Michigan will gather on Thursday, July 29 at 1 p.m. for an informational seminar and networking opportunity with Saginaw ISD to learn cost-effective ways of managing their IT needs. Red Level Networks will host the event in an effort to provide educators and IT technicians the knowledge needed to increase performance, eliminate downtime and discover cost saving initiatives.

The event is also sponsored by DataCore Software and Xiotech and will feature Johnson, discussing how his team transformed Saginaw ISD into a private cloud for the school district. Working with Red Level, DataCore and Xiotech enabled Johnson to create cost efficient practices for Saginaw’s schools.

The event, which will feature prizes such as iPads and netbooks along with a cocktail hour, will be held at Four Points by Sheraton at 4960 Towne Centre Road in Saginaw. As seats are limited, please register at www.redlevelnetworks.com/saginaw.

DataCore Software develops the storage virtualization software needed to get the highest availability, fastest performance and maximum utilization from storage resources in physical and virtual IT environments. It provides the critical 3rd dimension on which the success of server and desktop virtualization projects hinge, regardless of the models and brands of storage devices used. For more information, call (877) 780-5111 or visit www.datacore.com.

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