Based in Indianapolis, Ind., the GEO Foundation has worked statewide to improve public education since 1998. The foundation helped foster support for Indiana's current charter school law and now sponsors three charter schools in Indiana and Colorado, with a total of more than 1,300 students. In addition, it operates a statewide tutoring program, and its Charter School Service Center assists other leaders in establishing and operating their charter schools.
As the foundation's student body expanded, its computing infrastructure struggled to keep up with the demands of supporting multiple schools. Increasing storage needs, expensive cooling requirements and desktop backups in the datacenter were becoming more difficult and costly to address each year. In addition, the extreme costs of desktop upgrades - more than $75,000 per school every four to five years - added to the organization's IT strain. Finally, GEO needed a storage solution to handle their growing needs, without migrating data or disrupting services.
Desktop and Datacenter Solution
The GEO Foundation selected Citrix System's XenServer™ and XenDesktop™ to address their key concerns of expensive cooling requirements in the datacenter and costly desktop upgrades.
Citrix XenServer™ offered the ability to run multiple virtual servers on each physical server, reducing the number of servers that the Foundation has to power, cool and maintain and creating a more energy efficient datacenter. XenDesktop™ helped the GEO Foundation to centralize their computing functions and reduce associated costs. In addition, Citrix allowed GEO Foundation to deploy thin client workstations - desktops and laptops that access all software and data directly from the datacenter. Thin client computers cost less, last longer and draw less power than traditional desktops.
Because of the money saved in the infrastructure upgrade project, the organization can now provide their students with the academic computing ideal: a one-to-one, computer-to-student ratio. Before the upgrade project, it could afford only one computer for every four students.
"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, 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."
Storage Solution for Desktop Virtualization
For the storage they needed to support this infrastructure upgrade, the GEO Foundation turned to Scale Computing's Intelligent Clustered StorageT (ICS) technology, which provides storage clusters that can grow from three terabytes (TB) to more than 2.2 petabytes (PB), in increments as small as one TB. This gives the foundation the ability to increase their storage as needed by plugging in another node without compromising network speed.
"Desktop virtualization has been debated for quite some time - does it save companies and schools money, is it cheaper to just stick with desktops and how long will it take to see the return on investment?" said Peter Fuller, vice president of marketing, Scale Computing. "Nearly all other storage offerings make it cheaper to just keep buying replacement desktops, but with Scale's cost-effective storage, combined with Citrix's unmatched family of virtualization products, not only do IT staffs benefit from lower costs and greater ease of manageability, but the end-users benefit as well."
By combining virtualization products from Citrix and the storage solution from Scale, GEO transitioned all of their storage, virtualized six existing servers and retired five additional existing file servers - all in one month, in one school. Overall, the foundation has retired or repurposed 14 servers and has condensed 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, GEO 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."
In the first month of implementation, GEO realized $60,000 in savings. "We've already seen our investment pay for itself," Beck added.