Barnwell School has replaced its legacy server estate with a highly virtualised environment, helping to support a ‘bring your own device’ strategy for staff and students and pave the way for shared services with other schools.
Hertfordshire school Barnwell has approximately 1,300 students and 200 across its three campuses, and is currently in the process of consolidating this down to two premises, a middle school and an upper school.
Over a number of years Barnwell had built up a “hotch-potch” of 32 legacy servers from a number of different vendors across its various sites. This increasingly complex set-up was part of a ICT network which had become cumbersome to manage, often creating disruption to classroom lessons due to relatively frequent outages.
“The servers were all different makes and different ages, the network wasn’t stable, and it was hard to upgrade anything – it was hard to even keep things like antivirus running on the network,” said head teacher Tony Fitzpatrick.
“It was certainly a system which didn’t meet our needs and we limped along, but it was at a point where it wasn’t going to last a lot longer.”
Move to virtualised environment
As part of a project to refresh its IT systems, Barnwell introduced four HP ProLiant DL380 rack-mounted servers, with 30 virtual machines running on Microsoft Hyper-V and a capacity for up to 60 VMs in the future. The school also has 30 terabytes of HP StoreVirtual 4500 storage, and 10 gigabit switches.
The new infrastructure has enabled Barnwell to upgrade its legacy software, replacing Windows Server 2003 and 2008 with the 2012 version, and the school also now upgraded its 1,000 PCs from Windows XP to Windows 7. Plans are also being made to introduce a number of tablet and notebook devices once more funding becomes available, connecting to the new wireless network.
The new infrastructure, which went live this September, has already improved the level of service to students and staff, reducing outages and slow load times which had previously caused disruption.
“We have always got peaks throughout the day, typically at the end of classroom periods when lots of people are logging on. It used to take up to ten minutes to log on, now it is less than a minute a lot of the time,” said Karen Palin, IT project manager, at Barnwell School.
The project has had a number of benefits for the school, one of which has been to enable a bring your own device policy for many of the school's students.
“We can get into new technologies now, such as students bringing in their own devices. Previously we had no facility for them using their own devices, because we didn’t have a wireless network in the school,” said Fitzpatrick.
“We now have bring your own device policy for staff and sixth form students, and are considering putting it in place for GCSE students.”
Long-held plans to introduce remote access have also been made possible, said Palin: “I would like students to have remote access to enable them to use applications like Adobe Dreamweaver at home, and so they can have access to all of their lesson materials which are set up in a drive at school.”
Data centre sharing
The new infrastructure has also meant that Barnwell could supply its excess capacity to other local schools as part of a shared services programme, potentially generating additional revenue for the school.
“One of the other aspects is that, because we are actually a small data centre, we are looking at providing our data centre for other local schools to use,” said Fitzpatrick.
“We have a school that is next door to us and they are currently enquiring about whether we can provide their data storage and network facility off the back of our network. So I think there are opportunities that are presenting themselves there.”