Illinois districts get low-cost cloud services

F5 Networks, Inc., announced that IlliniCloud, a non-profit cloud computing organization, has deployed F5 solutions to help deliver cost-effective cloud services for public and private schools in Illinois.

Formed in 2007, IlliniCloud provides cloud services that help Illinois schools run critical applications ranging from school administration and disaster-recovery services to student-performance tracking and video hosting. Because it is a non-profit organization, IlliniCloud can focus on delivering low-cost services to schools. Its use of F5 solutions has reduced application delivery services costs for school districts by as much as 70 percent compared to the cost of providing capabilities in-house, and has cut their need for expensive Tier 1 storage by as much as 85 percent.

Building a cloud environment that can scale to meet the needs of 860 public school districts (as well as any private or parochial schools choosing to participate) required capable, cost-effective management tools. That’s why IlliniCloud turned to F5 solutions, including BIG-IP products for application delivery services and server load balancing, and ARX products to virtualize storage resources and provide policy-based file management for added efficiency.

“The BIG-IP devices provide the server redundancy we need, and they have been very easy to set up, maintain, and support,” said Jason Radford, System Administrator of the Bloomington, Illinois school district where one of the IlliniCloud data centers is located. “And ARX provides such cost savings, I wouldn’t run a data center without it. It’s allowed us to really hold down storage costs by automatically moving files to lower cost storage tiers as the data ages or otherwise becomes less critical.”

IlliniCloud’s infrastructure as a service (IaaS) solution runs dozens of specialty applications for school districts. Districts use IlliniCloud’s software as a service (SaaS) capabilities to run email as well as data collection, retention, and analysis applications to track student performance and perform other academic and administrative services. The organization’s backup and data storage services have helped school districts address data growth of up to 200 percent per year, and its disaster recovery services now provide schools with reliable data protection and recovery capabilities.

As IlliniCloud continues to provide more services throughout Illinois’ 860 school districts, it hopes to expand its use of F5 solutions to provide statewide network load balancing, data optimization, and storage tiering capabilities. “IlliniCloud provides the unique opportunity to address many of the existing distinctions or funding inequalities between districts by providing low cost, vendor-neutral cloud services to any district that wants them,” added Radford. “With F5, we have a solution partner who can help us provide the highest level of services at the lowest cost, and who will be there with us for the long haul as our needs evolve.”