District future-proofs for more capacity, safety

The district will no longer need to continue purchasing new servers one-by-one.

Located in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Castro Valley Unified School District’s (CVUSD) new synchronized system allows for a centralized database that is maintained and shared across the district, representing a transition away from ISAM to a client/server model (SQL server) with a variety of front ends.

This requires a robust and high performance infrastructure along with a high speed WAN to be successful.

The district is a 12-school suburban district with two high schools and two middle schools, as well as elementary and special-education campuses. With an eye for incorporating cutting-edge technology into its IT infrastructure, CVUSD was an early adopter of wireless WAN technology, as well as distributed and synchronized student information systems (SIS). Legacy ISAM student information systems involve multiple databases distributed across their districts, with each school maintaining its own data set. Periodically, the data sets would be combined to create a snapshot of the total student population.

Moving forward

Already, CVUSD has centralized most of its critical servers at the district office.

Applications running on the servers include student information systems, state reporting services, library inventory and management, video recording, web servers, content management systems, network monitoring, and eMail and firewall services. Some of these services are virtualized, but the district still relies on several “one-server to one-service” installations.

The district also plans to implement several new technology initiatives, including a food services system and eMail archiving. An important goal in 2010 was to adopt a new student information system based on a SQL server.

A student information system is the life blood of any public school district because it handles all student enrollment and compliance with state regulations. It also maintains accurate average daily attendance figures which are essential for securing state funding for daily operations.

“As we move toward a more centralized system to support our technology initiatives and expand our web site, we have an ever-increasing need for additional capacity,” said Bruce Gidlund, director of technology for CVUSD. “We knew we’d need a solution that would easily facilitate restoration if something went wrong–it had to be bulletproof.”

The solution

Working with Office Information Systems, the school district chose RELDATA to support its expanding IT infrastructure, new technology initiatives, and storage environment which is expected to triple in three to five years.

The RELDATA Unified Storage System gives CVUSD a flexible, easy-to-manage, and reliable SAN solution that offers a faster and more reliable disaster recovery option than its previous tape backup system.

The district’s main concern, and most frequently encountered “disaster,” is the loss of some component of the SIS, or any one of the associated web servers and/or database servers.

A four-phase plan was established to address this concern.

The first was to deploy the RELDATA SAN, which allows the district to create snapshots on a periodic schedule so it can recover from the most likely failure, namely software or operating system failure.

The second phase requires standard nightly backups of critical data, so that any snapshot combined with the most recent data backup will allow the district to reconstruct the database to a time period within 24 hours of the failure.

The third phase involves weekly virtual machine backups to NAS storage, which protects them against the unlikely event of an unrecoverable SAN failure.

The fourth phase ensures business continuity by virtue of “off-site replication,” which is essentially a second RELDATA SAN accessed across a high speed wide area link. The SAN also provides faster restoration of applications and system resources should there be a local emergency.

With virtualization, snapshots, and shared storage, recovery can be completed in just a few hours or, in some cases, within 10 to 15 minutes, versus two days. CVUSD has configured its SAN with eight gigabit network ports attached to a gigabit switch with trunking enabled. The switch currently feeds two MS Windows servers but will soon serve three; each server has four trunked gigabit ports attached to the switch.

VMware’s ESXi hosts the district’s virtualized machines. With the installation of the RELDATA SAN running off of dual quad core VMware servers, the boot time of MS Windows is significantly faster than it was on “standalone” single-processor servers with local storage. The transfer of data from the network to physical storage remains well within the database application’s latency requirements. In addition, RELDATA’s intuitive user interface has enabled the district’s database administrator to assume the added responsibility of managing LUN creation and snapshot scheduling.

“Snapshots is one of the many features that made the RELDATA solution attractive to us, enabling us to have continuous fallback points without overrunning our storage space,” said Gidlund. “This, combined with flexibility, ease of management, simple installation and the company’s reputation for exceptional service and reliability, made RELDATA the right choice for our IT needs.”

“RELDATA addresses several requirements that the Castro Valley Unified School District had, including the ability to easily expand its storage capacity by adding modules to its existing system without additional costs as well as the ability to scale with the needs of the district as it continues to implement innovative technologies,” said Rich Ozer, president of value-added reseller Office Information Systems.

Getting results

With the implementation of RELDATA’s Unified Storage System, the Castro Valley Unified School District has begun to migrate all of its VMware servers to the SAN and to convert its other servers, which will then be available to repurpose at school sites. By repurposing servers, the district will no longer need to continue purchasing new servers one-by-one, allowing the SAN to pay for itself.


Castro Valley Unified School District


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