The public sector is continuously facing the challenges of implementing emerging technologies among budget constraints and department adoption policies. Modernizing legacy systems is mission critical for IT departments. A methodical approach and a trusted partner are key components for success.
Presidential Account Manager Scott Little and Solutions Architect Mike Storzbach recently collaborated to help the Brevard school district in Florida implement a hyperconverged infrastructure solution to fit with their current server structure and trusted manufacturers. I sat down with Scott and Mike to get the story of their unique solution.
Below is an edited transcript of the interview.
Connection: Tell me a little about yourself and your role at Connection.
Scott Little: I’ve been with Connection for 19 years, and my primary focus is Education. I approach my business like a family. Whether it’s someone I’m working with or my customers, I try to take care of them like one of my children. It’s about respect; it’s about listening; it’s about being honest. I chose to work in the education sector because I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for our youth. I’ve coached for over 30 years and have always connected with kids. Children are our next leaders, and we need to help them “get there.”
Michael Storzbach: I’ve been with Connection for 6 years as a Business Development Specialist and Solutions Architect specializing in data centers. I have a real passion for technology and enjoy building long-term relationships with customers and Account Managers. I enjoy being the “go-to-guy” and encourage information and idea sharing to help bring the best solution possible to our family of customers.
Connection: Can you tell us a little bit about this customer and what they were hoping to accomplish?
Scott Little: Two years ago, the Brevard school system in Florida—a customer we’ve worked with for 14 years now—began reviewing solutions to modernize and upgrade their network, add servers, and increase processing power. The district is the 49th largest in the US and consists of 82 schools, 75,000 students, and about 5,000 teachers. We had sold them 200 servers approximately three years ago, and the refresh time was up. The school system had a strong relationship with Microsoft and had determined that Microsoft’s S2D [Storage Spaces Direct] would serve well as the hypervisor for a hyperconverged system. The district also has an on-going relationship with Lenovo and felt they could utilize both vendors to provide the most cost effective, scalable solution possible for their current and future needs.
Mike Storzbach: The school was looking to make the move to hyperconverged for all of the benefits that particular technology brings to the table. Hyperconverged offers a high level of resiliency and redundancy that our customers demand. Making the move to hyperconverged would allow the school’s IT team to get out of the day-to-day management and maintenance of their legacy environment. Being able to redistribute their resources and talent that were managing those day-to-day tasks allowed the customer to become visionaries in their long-term success.
Connection: Can you explain the process of developing the solution?
Scott Little: Once the decision was made to implement Microsoft’s S2D and Lenovo servers, Mike Storzbach organized a call with a Lenovo rep who specialized in S2D and brought the customer in on the call. Lenovo was one of the first fully approved manufacturers to support, provide information, and run S2D on their hardware. There were Microsoft experts within Lenovo to help support the stacks. A recommendation was made based on our conversations to go with a four-node, two-stack solution instead of a two-node, one-stack that the customer initially thought would work. For a slight increase in price, the benefits far outweighed the costs. The end solution was perfect for the customer.
Michael Storzbach: The solution consisted of two separate four-node server stacks. The servers we chose were Lenovo SR650 models. We sold them two stacks in order to enable data replication. Along with the servers, we also installed several enhanced network switches from Lenovo.
Connection: So why a Microsoft and Lenovo partnership?
Scott Little: Brevard was already invested in Microsoft via their Enrollment for Education Solutions (EES) agreement and its integrated solution (S2D). They also had a long history with Lenovo, so they felt that combining the two would be the optimal solution. After we did our research, we determined Lenovo fit all of our needs with a pre-sales and implementation and support team in place.
Michael Storzbach: Right, we also went with the S2D solution because it’s included in the cost of the operating system. With the customer already standardized on the Microsoft virtualization agent and with the customer’s investment in the data center version of the operating system, it made sense for them to step into hyperconverged without having to spend the money for an additional software vendor’s product.
Connection: Take us through the process of building the solution.
Michael Storzbach: Once we determined that Lenovo was the appropriate choice, we teamed with Joe Murphy, our Connection assigned technical resource, and Court Heitmiller, our Lenovo DCG Channel Account Manager. Joe and Court engaged multiple internal Lenovo resources that joined multiple calls with Connection and the customer. These calls consisted of fact-finding, sizing, and presenting a customized demo for the school, as well as presentation of the quote and the scope of work (SOW).
Connection: How do you feel the customer viewed the experience?
Scott Little: The entire experience from identifying the need to the end solution was a tremendous exercise in collaboration that I know our customer was very pleased with. The server stack hyperconverged solution was implemented at the high school level and then replicated at the middle school and elementary school level. Information will come back to the high school for storage and redundancy. The performance gains are going to be amazing, and costs will remain about the same. They were excited to begin the process, and after a month of having the product, they were ecstatic. This was a great first step to get them acclimated to the cloud, which will eventually lead to future opportunities.
Connection: Did you encounter any challenges implementing this new solution?
Scott Little: With such a customized configuration of a hybrid service, it was critical for us to convey the importance of an installation service. They purchased a Lenovo service pack. The installation went off without a hitch.
Connection: Any final thoughts?
Scott Little: This was exciting because many K–12 districts often struggle to get to the new technology. This hyperconverged system was an opportunity for our customer to experience the process of configuring a system with multiple manufacturers and to experience the expertise of the Connection team. It opens the door up to introducing other technologies they previously may not have considered.
Michael Storzbach: Because we were able to deliver a winning solution, we were rewarded not only with the original deployment but a subsequent opportunity as well within another division for this same technology.
Scott, Mike, and the Connection team were able to identify a customer’s need and provide a cost effective, efficient solution utilizing existing relationships and technology to develop and implement a hyperconverged infrastructure. The result was the modernization of a legacy system—and a strengthening of our relationship with the customer.