Forget bake sales. These days, if a school district needs to make a major IT investment, it asks voters to approve...
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a bond. "We don't have any trouble buying hardware; there's such a big push for technology for education right now," says Steve Rickard, open-systems manager for Garland Independent Schools, a school district serving 57,000 students outside Dallas.
"In some ways," he says, "there's more money than in the private sector." That's not to say that budgetary issues don't figure into the equation; "they're just different," he says.
Budgetary constraints came into play last year when it came time to choose a SAN array to go with Garland's new data center equipment. The district had just approved the purchase of three new Unisys ES7000 servers, which Rickard divided into 10 hard partitions running Windows and UnixWare. To support clustering applications, Rickard also knew he needed a SAN, but he wasn't married to any one vendor.
Three vendors chose to bid on Garland's request for proposals: EMC with a Clariion, IBM with a FAStT and Xiotech with a Magnitude 3D. In terms of actual hardware, "they were all relatively close," Rickard says, "but the big kicker was maintenance, which blew EMC right out of the water."
To wit: Over five years, EMC would have charged $600,000 in maintenance fees on $1 million worth of storage and switching hardware, with $218,000 of that coming in the fifth year, Rickard says. Xiotech, meanwhile, offered free maintenance for the first three years as part of its extended warranty, and then maintenance of approximately $14,000 for years four and five. IBM's bid was "closer to Xiotech's," but still not competitive, he adds.
"What's hard for us is the operational budget," Rickard says, under which maintenance falls. Xiotech's three-year warranty, therefore, was music to his ears.
Garland hasn't had to compromise functionality or reliability for the cost savings, as Rickard reports that everything is working fine, and service and support have been flawless. The district purchased two Magnitude 3Ds, one with 12TB of capacity and a second 4TB unit that the district will use with Xiotech's GeoReplication feature next year, once the district has completed upgrading to a Fibre network infrastructure.