The Batavia School District in Illinois has found a cost-effective way to use outdated, multi-platform computers alongside its new machines. By installing a district wide server running Microsoft Windows NT, Terminal Server Edition along with Citrix Metaframe, Batavia effectively will upgrade each client computer without the expense of buying all new units.

Terminal Server projects the Windows 95 and NT graphical user interface onto legacy machines and Macintosh computers, so users can run Windows applications directly from the server. The older computers in effect become dummy terminals and draw the characteristics of the Terminal Server, a high-powered Pentium III machine.

“Currently, we have over 1,200 computers. We could never afford to make them all Pentium IIIs, but now they can all use and access Pentium III technology,” said Alan McCloud, director of technology for the district.

With Terminal Server, the district’s Macs, Windows-based computers, and older PCs all can run under Windows NT, which lets the district standardize its administrative functions using Microsoft Office. This makes for seamless communication and transfer of files between users. It also makes training new employees easier, because they can learn on a single platform.

To protect its investment in Macintosh software and give the district more flexibility, Batavia added Citrix Metaframe, a thin-client architecture that sits on top of Terminal Server. Besides adding sound support for each desktop unit, the Citrix software lets users run their current network instead of Terminal Server if they want to.

“Citrix adds a multi-platform dimension to the network, so the Macintosh platform isn’t just obsolete,” said Rich Gianacakos, education division manager of ACRUX Integrated Solutions, the Illinois-based company that is supplying Batavia with its server.

When users log on to a workstation, they’ll see two icons—one that sends them to the Terminal Server network and one that connects them to the Citrix software. If a teacher wants to use Macintosh-based curriculum software, he or she can choose the Citrix icon to run the software from a Macintosh computer.

Cost comparison

The cost of replacing Batavia’s old computers would be about $900 per unit, McCloud estimated, and with around 100 computers that need replacement, the total cost would reach $90,000. By contrast, a Terminal Server with Citrix Metaframe will cost the district $40,000.

Because it is a small community with only seven buildings to be connected, Batavia will make do with one new server for now. But the district plans to add another in the coming months.

Each of these high-powered servers can accommodate one hundred simultaneous users. Students and teachers who are used to Macintosh systems will have to be trained in Windows, but McCloud said the benefits of accommodating more users and better software far outweighs the disadvantage of having to train users.

Besides breathing new life into aging technology, the district’s solution will provide all the benefits normally associated with thin-client computing, such as easier security and administration of software. Because applications will be running centrally, for example, administrators will be able to lock down workstations, manage access, and prevent viruses from being introduced via floppy drives.

The solution comes in conjunction with improvements to the district’s connectivity. City technicians recently installed a fiber ring around the city, which the district can tap into and use as a connection for its new high-powered server.

“Hooking into this fiber optics network will mean Batavia is going from a shared network to a switched network, which will drastically increase connection speed, making transmissions nearly instantaneous,” McCloud said.

“The biggest benefit will be at the high school,” he continued. “Our current demands there far exceed usage capacity—timing is extremely delayed—because the computers we have were not designed for this kind of heavy use. Every 90 minutes there is a new user, and the machines take a lot of abuse.”

Batavia expected its first Terminal Server to be up and running before school started this year, assuming there were no problems with the hardware provider or the city-installed fiber cable.

Faced with a dual need to remain within a modest budget and upgrade outdated technology, McCloud says that switching to a Terminal Server solution is the ideal answer.

Batavia School District

http://www.chicago.avenew.com/comnity/ educate/kane.d101/home.htm

ACRUX Integrated Solutions

http://www.acrux.com

Microsoft Corp.

http://www.microsoft.com

Citrix Systems Inc.

http://www.citrix.com