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Blue Skies Thread, Life after BSF...... what would you do about hardware replacement? in General; If possible I would like to keep this thread focussed on the technology behind BSF , not the politics or ...
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    broc's Avatar
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    Life after BSF...... what would you do about hardware replacement?

    If possible I would like to keep this thread focussed on the technology behind BSF, not the politics or rights & wrongs of TUPE, Managed Services, contracts, or money wasted........which has been done to death elsewhere.

    Let's suppose you work in a BSF school; a year or two ago you had all new equipment & infrastructure installed & everything is running sweetly, life is good..... (remember this is blue sky territory here)..... your environment is traditional fat client/Server, Windows 7 & Server 2008. You have around 600-800 clients (2:1 ratio laptops to desktops), your servers are all virtualised with top quality hardware including state of the art managed wireless network & switches & CAT6 cabling.....

    But, there's this little nagging voice in the back of your head that keeps on interrupting.... saying "what happens when the 5 years is up....."

    After 5 years, all your kit is out of warranty & you have little or no prospect of significant capital funding. What do you do? In the past, you got capital funding in dribs & drabs & this allowed you to implement a rolling program of equipment replacement. Since BSF you have been unable to follow this strategy.

    What technology changes might you envisage that could make a difference in the next few years? For example, might we see iPad levels of technology available at Kindle prices that would allow you to divert spending on textbooks into ebooks & tablet devices with a bit of virtualisation & remote desktop access for the applications that tablets don't handle?

    Would you consider investing what limited funds you might see into beefing up the server environment to allow the use of VDI across the site to extend the life of the existing clients?

    Move to the Cloud?

    Or do you retire or change jobs before the 5 years is up & leave it to someone else to worry about?

    Any other ideas or suggestions?
    Last edited by broc; 12th January 2012 at 10:07 AM.

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    3s-gtech's Avatar
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    Like it or not, things to seem to be trending more towards online services (calling it the Cloud just annoys me - it's just data stored online in the same way as it has been for years). We're old-school client/server here, and my plans revolve around sticking with that model. However, as our net connection gets better (hopefully very soon) we will be using more and more online resources, and more data will be stored off site. I'm not spending massive money on servers here as a result - maybe a new VM host but no more, and that'll be for consolidation.

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    A mix of cloud and linux would tide you over and keep kit working until the money started to trickle back in. Try and work out a 5 year plan of rolling replacements and it will all be back to normal.

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    the technical difference betwen 'online' and 'in the cloud' is the level of abstraction through virtualisation of CPU OS and Storage that your data and access is provided.

    In general the end user doesn't care, however as a technologist I would much rather have my online services hosted in a cloud, than on a rack of servers rented by whoever was my provider's provider.

    So if your LEP ICT Service actually stops in 5 years and you have made no investments or refresh during year 1-5... we'll you will be in a difficult position, but also be faced with the oportunity to start again. Things could be very very different. Incidently the way they LEPs are built this should not happen.

    So, what to do in five years: If you are in a metropolitan area where 1GB symetric links are a viable option, then a fully cloud hosted infrastructure would seem to be the obvious way to go.

    However if there is really no investment in your current solution for 5 years then the sudden transition will be very challenging for your staff.

    Personally I am currently convinced that the decendant of ATV, ipads and webdav/icloud compatable storage is the future. Management of devices may have migrated fully to the cloud by then, but if not a couple of in house servers ought to be enough to manage a school-full. Mind you, BYOD is where many of the LAN/WLAN vendors are looking at the moment - so I wonder whether the expectation will be that school will provide the connectivity and users will bring the tools.

    To really replace text books you do need multi-screen devices with touch interfaces, or multiple devices per user - something to do with multisensory and kinesetic learning probably.

    Right now I'd be looking at trialling ipads (or alternatives) alongside laptops/desktops, so when you've got to make the desion 'refresh' or change, you are best informed. Do not stand still - otherwise you will loose at least 18 months as you tranistion from year 1-5 to year 6-10, whether that 6-10 is in a managed Service contract or not. One element that the LEP's were supposed to bring is maintaining SMT focus on ongoing ICT developments so funds should already be in effect ring-fenced for at least partial refresh.
    .
    I know that today I can run a school on a virtualised platform with a two physical server + iscsi san set up. If I maxed out the RAM and added another storage shelf it could run four secondary schools. If you want reliability you can't go less than that (in box count). With Gig links they don't have to be onsite. With Live@Edu and GoogleApps and possibly iCloud there is even less need for servers and services ononsite.... The harware for LAN services could be shared and leased between schools forming their own partnerships. Client device and software mix would then be a local choice.

    oops that sounds like BSF.

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    broc (14th January 2012)

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    Critical self evaluation: Typos, strange sentence construction, and incoherent flow. Must try harder, and use spell check.

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    Quote Originally Posted by psydii View Post
    the technical difference betwen 'online' and 'in the cloud' is the level of abstraction through virtualisation of CPU OS and Storage that your data and access is provided.

    In general the end user doesn't care, however as a technologist I would much rather have my online services hosted in a cloud, than on a rack of servers rented by whoever was my provider's provider.
    The cloud isn't a specification [yet], it's something salesmen made to help sell products. It's confusing to a numpty to be told your e-mail will be hosted in a data center with replication to another data center, to the end user they care that the e-mail has high availability and what it costs them. :-)

    People are selling cloud solutions as HA services, it is more to do with the service they provide over how it is provided - it is certainly easier to deploy a VM but it isn't necessarily a stipulation to provide something in the cloud. Some cloud services (or Software as a service, a new name that spawned soon after the cloud was conceived) are now things that were sold as managed services before.

    The abstraction is that a user knows that he/she will type mail.school.sch.uk and even if the local data center goes down, it'll automatically point to another place that is ready to go (e.g, load balancing with failover or centralised, replicated data and a dumb install that points to these stores) with no noticeable effect on the user - they don't need to know or care, potentially an IT guy might want to know and log a ticket for the data center that is in trouble to be looked at... or you'd hope they've let you know because of the internal monitoring they have.

    Hosting data in the cloud is one that would upset some people (including me), if someone is providing you a service you need to know the accountability from the service provider - if your data is lost or stolen who is liable and what controls does the SP have in place to ensure this doesn't happen? You'd need to then consider the impact of getting to the data to end users and the decrease in performance, you wouldn't VPN into your LAN to get data from the MIS... it'd be on your LAN so it could cause a bit of a slowdown in comparison. Of course the favourite question 'what if the 100mb fiber connection goes down and we all have to fight over the backup 4mb broadband connection?' needs to be considered, before you'd just be without YouTube, MyMaths and Brainbox... now you're effectively fully offline, or online and running very slowly!

    Just my 2p!

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    broc (14th January 2012)

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    The TMG/ISA MVP's have been banging the drum for a while about the need to beef up the edge as previously local services move cloudwards. It's a valid point, and if you live in an area serviced by Virgin and BT fibre then it becomes more feasible.

    On Cloud vs Remote Hosted managed service, one has to make some evaluation on products/services by their marketing. I know I will judge harshly if I feel they are trying to oversell or misrepresent what they are capable of buy dropping in trendy words into their presentations.

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    If you're school isn't already saving some budget to cover this then they are being a bit short sighted.

    I'd be working out a time line of when equipment needs to be replaced (whether that's more PCs, tablet devices, servers, switches, wifi, etc).

    Then present this to your SMT as they, and you, need to start planning now. If they aren't going to save now, the other options are lease agreements (as on other threads - read the small print) or loans. This would help spread the costs over the life of the kit and not require the school to have to cash up front.

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    i personally think the good news is that in that 5-year timescale, most if not all of what is put in from an infrastructure point of view is good for atleast that long if not considerably longer. I can't see a need for more than gigabit to the desktop, and 802.11n with MIMO does seem to do a good job in providing the higher wlan bandwidth to not reduce things to a crawl due to the shared medium.

    You'd hope that products and new technologies become more efficient for something like VDI to be a really killer app in five years, and not require more and more resources for which there isn't the money to implement. With the server side compenents hopefully able to do more with fewer processor cores, able to more efficiently use available WLAN bandwidth, but most importantly overall the cost of VDI does need to come down for it to be a more cost effective solution to PC referesh cycle or making do for 8 years rather than 5, with the now old hardware. If all that were true highly portable remote access of email and apps with days long battery life at current netbook prices could be the norm. i think the hardware will definitely get there, it's whether the licensing comes down sufficiently.

    For example, might we see iPad levels of technology available at Kindle prices that would allow you to divert spending on textbooks into ebooks & tablet devices with a bit of virtualisation & remote desktop access for the applications that tablets don't handle?
    so yes, i think the above is exactly where things are headed,.. might be also the justification for equipping and selling kit with the new 802.11ac wireless standard....the sheer proliferation of wireless devices that can be used anywhere around the school throughout the day, and not just for web surfing. Wireless vendors, thin client vendors, and others will have a vested interest in making sure this stuff works. It presents new sales opportunities that i don't think exist by targeting the traditional desktop refresh model.
    Last edited by alttab; 14th January 2012 at 03:12 PM.

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    localzuk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by steve View Post
    If you're school isn't already saving some budget to cover this then they are being a bit short sighted.
    Schools aren't allowed to save more than a small percentage of their funding each year. If they save any more than that amount, it is taken back (I think it is 5%).

    To the OP: We are actually in the situation you describe. The school was a BSF school, managed service and all. The MSP pulled out of the contract and we now have 3 year old equipment so are trying to plan for that '5 year' mark. Until then, we're tiding over with memory upgrades and migrating to Windows 7 etc...

    After then, there is a high possibility that we will go down some form of desktop virtualisation route. The thing is, our building is only 3 years old, yet they put Cat5e in, 100Mbit switches etc... And if we want any cabling done, we have to do it through the building owner at a high cost.

    So, for us, the school is going to have to make the best use of what we have for as long as we have, unless someone comes along and hands us a large chunk of capital to spend again.

    I also discussed leasing with our business manager and it seems like an ideal solution until you start hearing things like 'falling rolls' and 'funding uncertainty'. So, if we were to sign up to a leasing agreement, we'd end up having a fixed cost for our IT provision, with the potential that our funding won't be fixed.

    Somehow, we have to combine this with a desire for more mobile devices within the school.

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    Quote Originally Posted by localzuk View Post
    Schools aren't allowed to save more than a small percentage of their funding each year. If they save any more than that amount, it is taken back (I think it is 5%).
    I'm well aware of that figure, but I believe schools can save if a specific capital project has been agreed up front - we did this for 2 new buildings.

    If they haven't had the foresight to do this, then modifying the budgets to bring forward other expenses may be an option to free up the money required at the time its required. Although as this is a BSF school, I'm unsure as to what the likely large capital expenditures could be.

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    Quote Originally Posted by steve View Post
    I'm well aware of that figure, but I believe schools can save if a specific capital project has been agreed up front - we did this for 2 new buildings.

    If they haven't had the foresight to do this, then modifying the budgets to bring forward other expenses may be an option to free up the money required at the time its required. Although as this is a BSF school, I'm unsure as to what the likely large capital expenditures could be.
    The amount of money paid to the BSF building owner is significant. Taking that into account, combined with staffing costs, and there really just isn't a lot left over. Capital costs in a BSF school are themselves expensive too. Infrastructure having to be done via the building owner, any changes to room usage etc... The price paid is very high.

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    Just goes to show what a mess BSF can get you into. It pretty much traps you into continuing paying the service provider to take on the replacement / updates to the infrastructure.

    If you want to opt out then it pretty much leaves your with leasing or loans.

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    CLOUD = Own nothing, Pay Forever.... Simples.

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    @m25man... i guess you can look it this way though - every cloud service you buy you get something value added. If a school pays for 'cloud' e-mail, yes they pay forever but they never then worry about the hardware the e-mail server sits on, the maintenance and support and therefore the technical skills to manage it in-house. They have the added bonus of just knowing the SLA/uptime agreement with the provider and shout and scream at them when it is not up and running.

    Personally, I think it's great for SME who don't have a lot of initial capital, not sold on schools and the use of it yet - then again, I no longer work in a school - when I did it'd have certainly made my job redundant!



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