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On-Demand Computing Streamlines IT

Alabama district moves to centralized computing with Ardence Software Platform

Just over two years ago, Davis Brock took a hard look at the state of his school district’s technology infrastructure and realized he had a big problem.

Brock is technology coordinator for Alabama’s Elmore County School District, the tenth-largest in the state. What he realized from his assessment, he says, was that the district wasn’t meeting modern technology standards. Its computers were too old; its student-to-computer ratio was too high; its network operations center was too small and its technicians were overworked.

Ardence Software-Streaming Platform
delivers applications and operating
systems to desktops from the network.

“Viruses were a very big problem,” he recalled. “We just couldn’t fix the technology. We needed a way to reduce the frustration in the classroom and make our computers work for our teachers and students.”

In late 2004, the Elmore Board of Education approved a $1.2 million overhaul of the district’s technology infrastructure, and the amount was subsequently increased to $1.8 million. The bulk of that funding was spent on a new building to house the district’s network operations center, and another large portion was allocated for new computers, servers and fiber wiring.

But the most innovative use of the funding, Brock says, was for the Ardence Software-Streaming Platform, which delivers both applications and operating systems on-demand to student, teacher and administrative desktops from the district’s network .

The Ardence platform was deployed in September and is cutting costs, improving IT management capabilities and delivering user benefits, according to Brock. The Ardence Platform was developed and deployed by Ardence, Inc., of Waltham, Mass. Ardence is a leading designer and developer of solutions that deliver on-demand streaming of operating systems and software applications to desktops, servers and devices from network storage.

“Of the 1,300 new computers we purchased, not one had a hard drive,” Brock says. The hard drives aren’t needed, he explained, because with the Ardence platform all applications, data and operating systems are centrally stored on the network and streamed to users when they turn on computers.

All software applications the district uses—including the student information system, instructional programs and office-productivity applications—are streamed to desktops on-demand by Ardence. For users, Brock says, the software-streaming approach is invisible because Ardence fully leverages the district’s new advanced network capabilities. “The speed of delivery is such that computer users cannot tell that their programs are being streamed from our servers,” he says.

In addition to preserving the speed, look and feel of each desktop computer, the Ardence Software-Streaming Platform also preserves the ability of each user to log onto programs individually, and it has no negative impact on the district’s software license costs, Brock says.

For Brock’s technology staff, the Ardence platform has created significant savings in time, resources and personnel. “Our maintenance and support work orders are way down, and all the tech support is now done centrally from our operations center,” he says.

Most importantly, he says, the district’s computers are now immune to data loss and other problems associated with viruses, software conflicts and student tinkering. That’s because with Ardence all data is securely hosted on the server and clean versions of the operating systems and all applications are streamed to each computer with every re-boot.

The cost of the Ardence Platform—the company has special pricing for the Ardence Academic Edition—was also attractive, says Brock, who noted that it led to cost savings when the district purchased its diskless computers.

“We’re very pleased with how Ardence has worked out,” Brock says. “Elmore is one of the first districts in the country to implement a district-wide centralized computing solution like this, and we’re already getting inquiries from other districts who are interested in learning about our experience.”

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