Gilbert Colvin School enters the World of Virtualisation

Gilbert Colvin is a 2-form entry Primary School in the London Borough of Redbridge. Joskos Solutions was one of a number of companies invited to tender for the upgrade of ICT provision within the school.

Gilbert Colvin’s requirements were clear in that the solution needed to embrace the latest technology, such as Virtualisation, and ultimately deliver a service that would extend and enrich every child’s learning opportunities by providing a fast, stable learning infrastructure without limitations.

Overview of Gilbert Colvin’s requirements:

Joskos understood Gilbert Colvin’s requirement for management and curriculum servers which would need to host multiple services and perform an array of different functions with high availability and uptime, so improving reliability whilst keeping costs down.

Joskos are highly experienced in working with schools to implement virtualisation solutions, and we proposed a solution to Gilbert Colvin that would:

  • Reduce expenditure in terms of servers, hardware & support, and address issues of sustainability & renewal
  • Extend the useful life of equipment where possible (without sacrificing the quality of the experience for users)
  • Contribute to the school’s green targets by reducing consumption of electricity and other materials
  • Make cutting edge technology available to the school
  • Provide a stable infrastructure to allow teachers to concentrate on what they do best – teach!
  • How does Virtualisation work?

Virtualisation is a proven software technology which is rapidly transforming the ICT landscape and fundamentally changing the way that schools use computers. The two most common and stable virtualisation solutions make use of software produced by either VMware or Microsoft's Hyper-V. (Joskos is both a VMWare partner and a Microsoft Hyper-V specialist).

The computer hardware in the vast majority of schools today was designed to run a single operating system and a single application. In fact this leaves most machines vastly underutilised. Virtualisation lets you run multiple virtual machines on a single physical machine, sharing the resources of that single computer across multiple
environments. Different virtual machines can run different operating systems and multiple applications on the same physical computer.

Implementation and configuration

Joskos’ solution was based on two powerful Dell servers. Each server works in a failsafe capacity in that it is capable of seamlessly (zero downtime) taking the role of the other server in the unlikely event that any of the servers go down. The servers Joskos supplied and installed have been configured to meet both current and future demands, and have ample scope for future upgrades.

Along with these servers Joskos provided a reliable supply of clean network grade power via the use of an APC UPS. With any server-based solution it is essential to protect servers against surges and spikes, and allow a graceful shutdown to occur in the event of an extended power outage.

The two physical servers were configured in such a way that it could host 4 Virtual servers running Windows Server 2008 facilitating all the requirements the school had including: DNS, DHCP, RRAS, Terminal services and Active Directory.

Benefits

  • Server consolidation (Running multiple virtual servers on a single piece of physical hardware.) This results in reduced equipment and running costs.
  • Reduced downtime - virtual servers can be moved in a matter of seconds from one physical server to another without any worries about compatibility or drivers.
  • Easier backup and improved recovery.
  • Cost-effective High Availability for all network services.
  • Increased speed of deployment.
  • Reduced cost
  • The ability to introduce new servers to the network without having to spend money buying new physical hardware.
  • Greener - fewer physical servers improves the school’s green footprint

Other products and services supplied by Joskos for the school

Netbooks and Trolleys:

The Netbooks Joskos installed were designed with education in mind - light, easy to use and thanks to their ruggedized outer shell, very durable.

Netbooks, paired with a suitable Netbook trolley, offer great flexibility for schools because of their ultra-mobile nature. Netbooks essentially enable Gilbert Colvin to possess mobile ICT suites, allowing teachers to take ICT to the children, wherever they may be situated. Joskos recommended the use of 6-cell batteries to ensure that these units can last as long as possible between recharges.

Joskos also initially supplied a demo netbook unit to the school so that the children could test it and teachers draw their own conclusions as to its value and usability.