Modernizing IT on a budget

Modernizing IT on a budget

The College of Idaho uses VDI to update its infrastructure and enhance the student experience.

As a student who spent a lot of time in The College of Idaho’s IT department, Alan Price knew the network and infrastructure quite well. But becoming system administrator at the college was an eye-opening experience. In a position to affect change, Price prioritized storage, performance, and capacity to modernize the infrastructure and position IT as a true enabler and partner of the faculty.

“We’re a small, four-year liberal arts college with budget and resource constraints,” comments Price. “But we still need to pay attention to industry trends and how students consume content. It’s my job to figure out how to deliver a modern education experience in a budget-conscious way. My vision is to modernize—deliver more performance and a different way of doing things.”

A need for flexibility and scale
While Price, who has a background in Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), was under no illusion that the college required the infrastructure investments of a large corporation, he did want to figure out a way to apply enterprise fluidity and flexibility on a smaller scale. He wanted cloud-like expandability without the on-demand capabilities.

  • The College of Idaho selected an infrastructure solution from Cisco and a storage solution from Nimble Storage.
  • Implementing the Intel® Xeon® processor-based Cisco Unified Computing System™ (Cisco UCS®) delivered the capacity, power, and performance needed for future application-oriented innovations.
  • The college also gained an efficient storage solution that offers high performance and speed, which meets the “click and it’s there” expectations of both faculty and students.

Less IT, more innovation
Price had several goals associated with modernization. First, he wanted to tackle the business necessities by upgrading:

  • To a file server that was more than 10 years old with virtual drives to expand space
  • To a newer version of Exchange server
  • From Windows 2003 to Windows 2012
  • Moodle Course Management System
  • ERP system
  • The student portal

“With more storage and compute capability, people won’t have to involve me as much in the process of IT anymore, and business applications will start working as expected because they won’t have to fight for resources,” says Price. “Our IT team is only seven professionals, and on the network and infrastructure side, I’m the only one. By using virtual resources the way that they were meant to be used, we have faster, more responsive IT with fewer issues. So now, IT is about anticipating needs and trying to stay ahead of them instead of just responding to them after the fact.”

The Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) phenomenon is exploding on campus, mostly in the form of students bringing laptops and faculty starting to leverage tablets in a more sophisticated manner. As a result, professors are asking for an IT-enabled way to support students in doing their work wherever they have access to a computer or mobile device.

Price is also exploring how to:

  • Deliver VDI capabilities to laptops so students can have the lab experience off campus or in their dorm rooms.
  • Foster experimentation and innovation among faculty members.

“We needed to align the support function of IT more closely with the frontlines of educating students,” says Price. “With infrastructure and storage modernization, IT can mesh its subject matter expertise and enablement to create a culture where faculty can strategize and IT can implement. Our face forward now is ‘How can I help you?’ instead of ‘We need to focus on our stuff to make this happen, so you have to wait.’ There is a new spirit of collaboration between faculty and IT that’s serving to advance the college’s mission and student learning.”

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