Small Town School District Saves Big Money With VMware

The town of Clover is located in the Piedmont area of South Carolina, close to the North Carolina border. The Clover School District, which serves more than 7,500 students, is known across the state for its strong academic reputation.

Years ago, the district began to take steps to empower students and teachers through technology. Today, every student receives a mobile device: Apple iPads for elementary and middle school pupils, and MacBook Air laptops for high school students. As the district transitioned to personal devices for students, it gradually stopped investing in existing computer labs, believing they would soon become obsolete.

Unexpected Policy Changes IT Requirements

That all changed when South Carolina announced new requirements for standardized online testing, with penalties for noncompliance. The catch? The testing had to be administered on a locked web browser, preferably running on a Windows personal computer. The test would not run reliably—or at all—on Apple devices. The district’s neglected computer labs were suddenly in critical demand.

“We hadn’t replaced a single desktop in the past six years, except for some high-performance machines in our high school career tech programs,” says Matt Hoffman, the district’s executive director of technology.

Instead of a massive capital investment in new PCs, Hoffman and his team settled on a virtual desktop platform to centralize all processing and storage in the district’s data center and to convert the existing desktops to thin clients. Because Clover School District already used VMware vSphere® as its cloud computing virtualization platform, the team opted for a virtual desktop environment based on the VMware Horizon® 6 platform.

Finally, in a departure from its standard use of Fibre Channel SAN storage, the district also installed VMware vSAN™ hyper-converged storage, which delivered both financial and operational benefits.

Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Delivers Huge Savings

The performance and efficiency of VMware Horizon allowed the district to avoid nearly $1 million in capital expenses needed to replace 800 desktop PCs. The Horizon environment also enabled the district to comply with testing requirements and easily impose strict security during testing.

On the storage side, vSAN allowed the district to save more than $150,000. “I think we spent about $49,000 for our initial 20TB of storage, which included some solid-state drives,” says Hoffman. “Our server vendor wanted more than $200,000 for a Fibre Channel array with the same amount of storage.”

“I am a huge fan of Virtual SAN,” continues Hoffman. “Traditional SANs require a lot of babysitting. We noticed we had terabytes of over-provisioned storage. With Virtual SAN, we were able to buy just what we need. We cut costs by 75 percent and don’t need to babysit storage anymore. System resiliency is great. Virtual SAN allows the show to continue without disruption in case of hardware downtime.”

And what that ultimately means for the district’s IT team, says Hoffman, is that “network administrators no longer have to camp out half the night until everything is 100 percent stable.” In no longer needing to babysit their storage, the IT team can now devote the time deserved to meaningful tasks that improve and enhance the educational experience for students of the Clover School District.