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Tips from IT professionals on how to handle virtual desktops, wireless, network performance issues

Ellen Messmer | Jan. 5, 2012
Schools are for learning, and the information technology and security professionals who support networks and applications in the nation's K-12 and university systems are discovering new tactics in what can be challenging IT environments. Here we talk to four professionals in the education realm to get a sense for their top IT issues and what they do to handle them.

In another case where a decision was made to switch, New York City-based Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School, which supports about 450 Apple Macintosh computers for use in classrooms, had not been happy with the performance of its Apple servers over a considerable period. So it switched to Windows servers over the past summer, which has shown better performance than the Apple servers in support of the Macintosh computers, according to Adam Gerson, co-director of technology at the independent college prep school. Though he's a self-professed "Mac lover" at a "Mac school," he didn't let that stop him from trying something other than Apple for servers.

Fix it frugally

Like many school systems in the country today, teachers are doing more routine procedures online rather than with paper, and that's the case at Belchertown School District in Massachusetts which consists of five schools. There, teachers and students go online to get class material and log attendance, among other things. An application called PowerSchool the school district began using is configured with Cisco UCS running VMware virtual-desktop VMware View connected to data stores residing on NetApp FAS2020 storage. But according to Scott Karen, the school district's director of technology, it became apparent last year year that there were excessive latency issues with the desktop virtual-machine setup when many students tried to log on and use the system at the same time. In addition, teachers in their classrooms all taking attendance at the same time found the system not only slow but leading to file errors.

The lack of caching in the older NetApp FAS 2020 was a problem, Karen says, but he adds that going to a bigger and newer NetApp was not appealing from the school district's budgetary standpoint. However, as a regular attendee at the local VMware user group meetings, where problems are shared and yes, vendors show up to pitch their wares, Karen found what he says was an economical fix for the school district's VM boot storm problems. And that was adding the Avere FXT Series two-node cluster to optimize the read/write capabilities of the system. It was up and going quickly, brought latency to a tolerable point, and it all was a lesson learned about desktop virtualization.


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