Plainedge Union Free School District IT team meets all objectives with high availability and high throughput

In our recent customer success story covering the education vertical, Colby Sawyer College Delivers Continuous Data Availability with DataCore Software, we touched on how system downtime from storage-related bottlenecks shouldn’t put a damper on students’ education.

However, some educational institutions are struggling to not let their IT problems interfere with shaping the minds of our youth, and you’ll see how this also applies to the following K-12 Public School system scenario.

The Storage Infrastructure Complexity at Plainedge Union Free School District 

The Plainedge Union Free School District, or Plainedge, is located in North Massapequa in Long Island, New York. Plainedge is a K-12 public school systemcomprised of five schools with approximately 700 employees and 3,000 students.

Plainedge is like most school districts in that it is facing shrinking budgets. It also needs to reduce the complexity of its IT infrastructure. The schools within Plainedge UFSD have everything from interactive projectors, to wireless document cameras, to tablets. And the district has a large “1-to-1” initiative, whereby all students in grades 4-10 currently take home an iPad.

In the past, before Plainedge virtualized, every year they had to reimage thousands of PC’s – and even with antivirus software running, the PC’s would get corrupted, icons would disappear, hard drives would fail, updates would not install properly, and there was always something to do to get the PC back to a functional state. PC’s would run slowly and take forever to log-in. They wouldn’t last very long. So IT was constantly dispatching people and using up manpower to solve issues with the desktops. Not only was this inefficient and costly from an operational standpoint, but it was far from delivering a positive experience to its users. According to Dr. Guy J. Le Vaillant, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources & Instructional Technology, “teachers and students today just want technology to work and they expect it to work 24 hours a day and seven days a week, In fact, our goal is that IT resources should be like running water to the endpoint user – it should just be available when they need it, always on and reliable.”

Creating High Availability for Teachers & Students

Working with CSDNET, a DataCore-authorized partner and IT solutions provider, Plainedge started its work with VMware and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) initiatives. Once implemented, Plainedge had a complete zero-client VDI implementation, using Dell Wyse P25 and P45 devices. “We have no PC’s and teachers love it,” noted Dr. Le Vaillant. The zero-client devices have no hard drives, no moving parts, and they contain no software image that can be altered or corrupted. Teachers and students have the same experience no matter where they login and logins are fast.

Once the server and network infrastructure was built out, it became evident to the IT team that storage was the next frontier to make data highly available. Due to historical reasons, Plainedge had quite a few storage devices. Among them were a legacy EMC device, HP legacy storage arrays and some Dell EqualLogic arrays with SSDs to support VDI. Dr. Le Vaillant knew the school district needed a highly available infrastructure split over two data centers to maintain high availability even when one site was temporarily out of commission. This, coupled with the fact that Plainedge had a number of storage devices from multiple manufacturers, left Plainedge facing a decision as to whether abandon (or re-task in an efficient manner) the EqualLogic devices (which was not really an option) and go all-in for EMC to get the functionality it needed for high availability, redundancy and auto-tiering – or abandon EMC outright and go with an all-EqualLogic solution. “We kept looking at costs, and we really did not feel good about either way forward until we found DataCore,” noted Dr. Le Vaillant.

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We are thrilled with what DataCore does on the storage side of the virtual infrastructure, and from a cost-perspective it is a complete home run…

Plainedge Achieves Faster Response Times, Vendor-Agnostic Savings, and More!

It was CSDNET that suggested the DataCore solution, which sounded like a great software-defined storage platform that could do for Plainedge on the storage side what virtual servers do on the server side. Most importantly, the DataCore solution delivered high availability to the overall data infrastructure. “We are thrilled with what DataCore does on the storage side of the virtual infrastructure, and from a cost-perspective it is a complete home run in that it is vendor-agnostic,” commented Dr. Le Vaillant. “I can take any storage that I have, run it behind the DataCore solution and that storage comes online, provides extra storage and is super-charged with the intelligence, performance and single management interface.”

Plainedge did not have to abandon its investment in EqualLogic or EMC. And it is not trapped in an expensive, proprietary, storage hardware solution that becomes problematic later on. When necessary, Plainedge can rotate in and out different storage products. Plus, the DataCore software-defined storage environment can leverage Plainedge’s flash storage – aggregating them into the virtualized pool.

Currently, Plainedge splits its network load by using two network centers – the high school and the middle school. There are several hosts and 85 virtual machines. For VDI, Plainedge is running 14 hosts and 1,400 clients. All of the storage installations are mirrored via two redundant DataCore nodes, one located at the high school and the other in the middle school. The nodes run on Dell PowerEdge R730 XD servers. All of the storage banks are filled with SSDs, totaling to 18TB SSD storage associated with each DataCore node, which is mirrored.

DataCore has also enabled Plainedge to save on costs in both short and long term. “DataCore has allowed us to leverage our existing storage devices – no matter what vendor,” stated Dr. Le Vaillant. “The ability to be vendor agnostic really empowers us to drive down costs. Because of DataCore, I did not have to go out and buy new EMC arrays for each site, and new EqualLogic arrays for each site.” The team at Plainedge was able to utilize the storage they had and set DataCore on top of those as a virtualization and integrated management layer that delivers unified storage services. Dr. Le Vaillant added, “Even more savings will come in future years when it is time to replace the storage we have. We have yet to have a cycle of replacing existing storage. When we do, we just need robust physical devices that can handle the transactions. So we will be able to purchase new, replacement storage devices very economically without being tied to one hardware vendor.”


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