Sinclair Community College in Dayton Ohio is widely acclaimed as one of the top community colleges in the nation. Selected for membership in the prestigious League for Innovation in the Community College in 1989, Sinclair was also recognized as one of the League’s 12 elite Vanguard Colleges in 2001. The largest regional provider of online education, with more than 180 different online courses, Sinclair’s enrollment is rapidly approaching 30,000 students.
All that frenetic learning activity generates demands on the school’s IT department that would challenge the capabilities of a major corporation. Most major corporations, in fact, require relatively few applications to keep them running effectively in their industry. Because Sinclair’s curriculum spans a broad array of professions in many industries, Sinclair IT Director Scott McCollum says the IT department has to support as many as 700 applications.
The scope of the school’s IT storage and business continuity requirements, as a result, can be daunting; which is why McCollum turned to Logicalis as his “trusted advisor” when it came time to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the college’s virtualization and disaster recovery options.
McCollum’s team was already proceeding with two key initiatives: It had begun a virtualization initiative a few years before; and it was planning to replace the disaster recovery capability it had through SunGard with its own disaster recovery site on a remote campus 40 miles away.
McCollum recognized that he needed to combine these two projects and develop a comprehensive virtualization strategy that incorporated disaster recovery into a virtualized architecture. He also recognized that, as broad as his own team’s skills were, to accomplish an in-depth virtualization and disaster recovery study, he needed access to skills beyond those required to support the school’s IT operations.
Logicalis has those skills. “Logicalis helped us figure out our alternatives and clear the fog from the hundreds of ways there are of doing any one thing. It takes a lot of research and experience with technologies that we don’t deal with on a regular basis. When we have a complex challenge, we bring Logicalis in and pick their brains to help us figure out where to go.”
There were lots of brains to pick. The Logicalis team included Account Manager Mike Patton, Technical Consultant Mike Henderson, Professional Services Consultant Dan McMahan, Consolidation Architect Mike Valora, Financial Analyst Dave Kurtz and Virtualization Practice Manager Jeff Nessen.
The result of all that study was a suite of documents: An IT Optimization Report that considered a range of virtualization scenarios and their financial implications; and a Business Continuity Program that rated the school’s infrastructure in terms of continuous analysis, risk mitigation, contingency planning, event/outage/disaster management and business continuance.
Absorbing all the information is an ongoing process. “It’s like the old adage,” McCollum says, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. It’s a lot of information and you have to pull out of it the things that you think are the most important.”
“The information and analysis that Logicalis provided gives us real data we can use for planning,” McCollum says. “There are shorter term things, like figuring out how to change disaster recovery processes; and longer term things that tie into the annual budget and planning process.”
A pleasant surprise revealed in the research was the level of consolidation that was possible. McCollum says, “The study showed that we could consolidate our servers by a ratio of 17:1. That was a lot more consolidation than we realized was possible, and will result in significant savings for the school.” The college was also able to provide its own disaster recovery system and cancel an increasingly expensive contract with SunGard.
“A project like this is never really finished,” McCollum says. “You just keep making incremental improvements. And it’s a moving target, too. New technologies will come out next year, and we’ll have to evaluate those against decisions that have been made previously.”
An ongoing relationship with Logicalis is a key resource as McCollum and his team continues to expand and refine the school’s IT infrastructure. “Logicalis has the skills and experience with technologies that we have not used before. They help us determine what’s available and what our alternatives are. And, once we make a decision, they know how to help us implement it. They are a good partner.”