By JUDY SHERIDAN
Faced with a shrinking budget but a growing need, Aledo ISD technology director Brooks Moore looked inside the box and pulled out a virtual solution.
“We had to get creative and stretch our dollars and not compromise the experience our students are getting,” Moore told trustees during a monthly board meeting. “We were able to come to a new era in our department.”
Moore, who directs a seven-member staff that manages 7,000 devices and 20 to 30 different major applications, said before 2010 the district used a number of PCs that soaked up electricity and were chock full of items that could fail: fans, hard drives and others.
“So we decided to virtualize,” he said. “At our network operations center we took thousands of computers and virtualized them into a single rack of servers.”
Ironically, the network operating center is reminiscent of the main frames of decades ago.
In fact, the concept of having a central computer with distributed terminals used to be commonplace, so desktop virtualization is a reinvention of sorts.
When computers are virtualized, Moore explained later, they exist programmatically, not physically. Monitors and keyboards remain, but the central processing units, which contain the processing power and storage space, are replaced by servers, which are stored in the district’s data center.
Their department has taken hundreds of CPUs out of classrooms, Moore said, replacing them with smaller devices called thin clients that plug into existing monitors or are built into others.
The solid-state thin clients, which act only as conduits, are less prone to failure and use much less power.
“The technology has come far enough that we can now do 3-D video on a thin client and have a rich graphical interface for the student at a fraction of the price,” Moore said.
He said the annual savings for every 1,000 computers virtualized is $150,000 in electricity consumption alone — enough to pay three teachers.
Another cost-saving strategy has been to repurpose 10-year-old PCs, Moore said, converting them to thin clients so they can access a much faster computer in the cloud.
“We can use them until they fall dead,” Moore said, “or we can find a breaking point where it makes sense to replace them.”
The desktop virtualization process is about a quarter of the way finished, he said, but might be complete in about five years.
When Aledo ISD rolled out the new technology in 2010, it was on the leading edge, Moore said.
“The district is getting a lot of attention for this from other K-12 institutions, even universities,” he said. “I’ve spoken at tons of forums, roundtables and conferences.”
The next step, he said, will be a system that will let students access their virtual computers from any compatible device in the world,
“We are in the beginning stages of that,” Moore said. “We have done a few with special needs kids who are homebound and don’t have access to the PCs and applications located here. We have found ways to give kids an Ipad to access those applications.”
Desktop virtualization has also resulted in lower maintenance costs and fewer user problems, Moore said.
IT staff manage PCs in their office, he said, rather than sending people out, saving gas and time.
“We’re also reducing the amount of help desk tickets — the problems submitted by teachers and staff — because we can manage everything from our end and provide a very stable environment,” Moore said.
In 2009, Moore said, teachers put in 5,600 help desk tickets; in the “post-PC era,” they are at the 4,000 level.
Trustee Johnny Campbell asked if schools could go further and take advantage of “cloud service.”
“Large providers are farming out their virtual servers; they have this sky-drive kind of model,” Campbell said. It takes away the need to purchase, keep up and carry the capital need at the local level for even the virtual servers.”
Moore said some things — like the website, hosted in Denver — and the finance system, hosted at Region 11 — were already in the cloud, and others would follow.
“Every year we look at different things,” he said, “and if it makes sense technically and financially we do it. Slowly but surely we’re knocking these things off the list and hosting them in the cloud.
“We’re a hybrid. We have an internal private cloud, and we dabble in the external as well.”
- Aledo ExtrA
Lower rating should result in lower insurance rates for city’s property owners
WILLOW PARK – Willow Park’s fire protection rating has improved and should lead to insurance coverage savings for property owners in the city, Fire Chief Brent Sauble announced Tuesday night.
ESD public hearing set for June 18
ANNETTA – A public hearing is set for Tuesday, June 18, at Annetta City Hall concerning a petition by the Annettas seeking annexation into Emergency Services District No. 3.
East Parker County Library to host big book sale June 28
The East Parker County Library will host a giant book sale from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, June 28.
East Parker County curbside recycling making an impact
A recent report compiled by Republic Services shows that the cities of Hudson Oaks, Annetta, Annetta North and Annetta South are each recycling about 15 percent of their waste some two years after the start of curbside recycling service.
Aledo 4-H competes during Frontier Days
A small band of Aledo 4-Hers, led by Lisa Scott, competed in livestock judging events planned for Parker County Frontier Days, which took place on the Parker County Sheriff’s Posse Grounds in Weatherford June 12-15.
Barton not calling for Starbucks boycott
Aledo resident David Barton, a well-known proponent of morally conservative causes, denies that he is advocating that Christians boycott Starbucks due to the company’s support for legalizing gay marriage, as Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy reported in a June 12 column.
King gives update on Legislative session
State Rep. Phil King on Thursday discussed the latest legislative session and current special session during a meeting of the Parker County Republican Women.
Aledo High School Band brings home the gold
The Aledo High School Band competed at the UIL Texas State Solo and Ensemble Contest on Memorial weekend, bringing home 30 gold ensemble medals, four gold soloist medals and 20 silver soloist medals.
Aledo Pinto Orange tops tournament play
Aledo Pinto Orange were crowned champions of the 26th Annual Benbrook Roy Woolsey Tournament June 3-7 and then emerged as winners once again in the Granbury All-Star Tournament June 7-9 after a decisive 17-2 championship game victory over Granbury Purple.
Firefighters limit home damage in Annetta North
A house in the 2700 block of Annetta Centerpoint Road in Annetta North sustained significant smoke and water damage June 10 after a fire spread from the kitchen to the attic.
- More Aledo ExtrA Headlines
- Lower rating should result in lower insurance rates for city’s property owners