i can see clouds

today we took the first steps in replacing our rack of servers with a much smaller — and much more virtualized — footprint. 

before:

Photo

after:

Photo_1

you’ll notice that our “before” rack has a lot of apple xserves, but i’m happy to say that we started our planning before the xserve was discontinued. what really made us look in this direction was the changing ways we were using our school computers and our network.

there has been a steady shift to using services that we don’t host. google apps was just the first piece to fall into place for us, but earlier in the year, i had thoughts of ditching our entire mac os- and windows-served network home directory setup in favor of a generic computer login, dropbox for files, and evernote for student organization. (bill stites has made me believe even more that this is a fantastic way to go.) i think that we’re even ready and able to ditch adobe products for aviary, at least for our students and faculty — the fact that it integrates with the google apps suite make it even sweeter. we’ve moved to hosting all our various homegrown websites on a cross of google sites and rackspace cloud sites. we don’t need our infrastructure as much as we used to, and we have to be ready to scale back.

the cloud is definitely where it’s at for us, increasingly more so every day. we’re adopting new tools all the time, and we don’t want the environment that we’ve grown very comfortable with to be the reason we don’t move ahead. we’re not a 1:1 school, but our policies allow any student to bring in a laptop or other device and use it at their teachers’ discretion. because of this, web-based tools make a lot of sense, and we have even less of a reason to provide as many computers or services in-house. we’ve got to be ready for the day (maybe tomorrow?) when our students bring in laptops and tablets and phones with their own internet access because the day everybody does that, our infrastructure will cease to matter.

not that we won’t be able to deliver all the same things that we do now with our new setup. we’re taking the mountain of services and virtualizing it all — the fact that apple won’t let us virtualize on vmware just makes it easier to consider other platforms to serve files across our network. we’re looking at expanding our windows use, making use of more linux, and even using novell’s open enterprise server to natively look like either windows or mac os x server, depending on who’s asking. 

we’re simplifying, making better use of our resources and staffing, and even offering more than ever. we just don’t need to host it all and can instead look to collaborate even more in that big cloud, which is a more realistic 21st century skill (i can’t believe i just used that) to model than a closed i-own-it-all attitude.

2 thoughts on “i can see clouds

  1. Alex Ragone

    Basil, I love this idea. My only question is what do you do with large image and video files? So you move everything other than those large files off site? I know in my head that this is the way to go, but I’m feeling a bit hesitant right now. How large is your Internet connection? Have you had any issues there? I know, I know — If you stop spending on servers, you can spend on bandwidth… Alright, starting down this road today:-)

  2. filesdirect

    Hi Basil,Looks like a very well-thought-out and implemented solution. You and your school really seem to be using the “best of the cloud” to best effect. Cheers and good luck!

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