‘Data center in a box’ could ease virtual computing

He noted that schools not only save money because they don’t need to buy as many components, but “on top of it, the ease of management of that deployment goes up by orders of magnitude.”

Because HC3 runs multiple servers but only requires the administration responsibilities of a single-server network, “you don’t need to hire people; you don’t need to take classes; you don’t need to become an expert in virtualization technology, storage subsystems, and clustering,” Ready said. “You just stick to IT fundamentals that any administrator knows how to do.”

From the main user interface, an IT administrator can see an overview of all the nodes in the school’s cluster. By clicking on a single node, he or she can see more detailed information about which applications that node is running and how much memory it is using.

As Scale Computing CTO Jason Collier demonstrated in an online presentation, installing and provisioning a virtual server can take under ten minutes. The newly created server goes on whichever node in the cluster has the most available RAM. The administrator also can rearrange which applications go into which particular storage pools in the cluster.

Using the HC3 cluster “hasn’t required a huge knowledge upgrade for myself and my staff,” Beck said. “Monitoring the server is basically just an extension of the interface we’re already using.”

He added: “Normally we would log into the [storage area network] just to manage the SAN, but now I can manage the SAN or manage the virtual server. I don’t have to launch a different tool or go to a different interface.”

Now that managing his schools’ virtual infrastructure is much simpler, Beck said he and his staff can increase the amount of support they give to users, because the time it takes to manage the system has been halved.

For more news about virtual computing, see:

Virtual Computing: Saving Time, Money, and Headaches

In a standard scenario, it could take several days for a school to set up virtualization infrastructure. But to deploy an HC3 cluster, schools merely need to stack the devices on a server rack and configure an individual IP address for each node.

“Within 15 minutes of getting them racked and stacked and configured, you’re copying data on there, so you can actually start creating virtual machines,” said Collier.

Davis noted that although everyone wants to improve technology in schools, “the question is, how do we get there? How do we afford it? And how do we sustain it once we buy it? It’s kind of like nailing Jell-O to the wall.”

But with HC3, “I really believe in the technology,” he said. “It makes the architecture—for storage, for virtualization—much simpler than … what everyone else is doing.”

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