Little Rock School District’s (LRSD) main focus is college preparation for its 25,000 students. With 3,700 faculty at 50 schools, LRSD offers the most Advanced Placement (AP) and Pre-AP courses in the state. LRSD also pursues a 1:1 initiative, meaning they strive to match each student with a computer. Project Lead the Way (PLTW) is a nonprofit organization that aims to provide K-12 schools with top-notch STEM curriculum. To aid in more effective learning, PLTW awards grants for schools to purchase computer hardware and software. When LRSD became a recipient of a PLTW grant, they turned to Logical Front to help them optimize their funding.
The PLTW grant came just in time. Most of the current desktop PC’s in LRSD’s three STEM labs were approaching the end of their utility. With old age came almost unmanageable amounts of work orders. Additionally, IT support had to update each computer’s software individually, which took weeks. This prevented LRSD from keeping up with the latest educational IT. LRSD pursues a 1:1 initiative, which meant BYOD capacity to the VDI was a must. The new system also needed to be able to support graphic intense programs, such as Autodesk Inventor and the RobotC robotics language, as well as over one hundred software titles. The system also needed to serve tens of thousands of devices spanning over 40 locations. To meet this tall order, the decline of the desktop PC’s called for an upgrade from the traditional desktop configuration and the addition of BYOD capability.
The system consists of three Dell PowerEdge R720 servers with two NVIDIA GRID K2 cards per server that are connected to Dell storage and networking. VMware vSphere and Horizon View provide the hypervisor and virtual desktop broker, respectively. Students access virtual desktops using Dell Wyse P25 zero clients and/or Dell Chromebooks. LRSD’s 1:1 initiative was seen as a significant hurdle, but with the installation of virtual desktop infrastructure, this can be achieved in a more affordable way.
The system provides flexibility that creates incredible potential for LRSD’s educational tech. LRSD now has the ability to support 50x more users than they currently support. Additionally, LRSD can increase the ram allocated to each user by 4x, or up to 2 GB per user. Through the virtual desktop infrastructure, any application can be accessed from any location. Therefore, LRSD is able to push towards full BYOD access. With almost no restraints, the sky’s the limit for how far LRSD can advance with new and expanded use of educational IT for many years to come.
Aside from the increased possibilities, the new system helps the bottom line. Cost savings flow in from the dramatically decreased maintenance demands and the extended lifespan. The system is vandalism resistant to prevent problems before they happen. If a problem does arise, reboot and refresh solves roughly 90 percent of software issues. Furthermore, remember the software updates that took weeks to complete? Well, the VDI can simultaneously update all computers in the system in about 30 minutes. Now, one employee can maintain the volume of what used to require ten employees. Secondly, under the old system, desktops were replaced every three to four years. In contrast, the VDI allows new software to run on old desktops. In summary, the new system runs better, for far longer. The school district plans to continue expanding the VDI environment wherever opportunities to add value for students and staff exist.
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