Canberra high school grapples with BYOD future

Daramalan College looks at boosting Wi-Fi after completing three-phrase network upgrade

Daramalan College, Canberra.

Daramalan College, Canberra.

Daramalan College's IT team is mulling options for a bring-your-own-device program at the independent secondary school.

Research by analyst firm IDC has found that tablets are experiencing explosive growth in the education sector, increasingly becoming 'digital school bags'.

The school's IT manager, Rob Wilson, said that Daramalan is still examining how a BYOD program would be implemented. "We're looking at how we cater for that – do we go down the role of having as school standard of something like an iPad or do we just allow them to bring their own devices and cope with that?" Wilson said. "I think we're probably favouring the latter [approach]."

Wilson said that the IT team was starting to pilot a virtual desktop setup using VMware's View offering.

"We'll probably manage our BYOD to a large extent by providing VDI access to the school desktop," Wilson said.

Wi-Fi and backend server infrastructure to support a VDI deployment would still need to be ramped up to accommodate a BYOD rollout at the school.

"We're probably about 70 per cent of the way there on Wi-Fi ," Wilson said. "We've got Wi-Fi signal right across the campus but there are certain areas where we can only get about 20 clients on."

Wilson has just finished upgrading Daramalan's core network infrastructure, completing the final phrase of a three-part rollout that began about four years ago when he first joined the school as its IT manager.

The first phase was replacing a pair of aging Cisco routers that were doing the core routing for the school's network.

Wilson selected an SX800 router from Brocade for the upgrade, after conducting a live trial of running it in parallel with the existing Cisco-based setup. Last year the school completed an upgrade of the rest of its network, deploying Brocade ICX 6610 switches in classrooms.

The final, just completed, phase involved deploying the networking vendor's Ethernet fabric technology and VDX 6720 switches.

"This part specifically was to get bandwidth to our vSphere environment, and also to provide some future-proofing for our iSCSI backend," Wilson said.

"On the vSphere side, on the Ethernet side, we really needed to provide more bandwidth for the vSphere environment. We weren't choking, but you could see things were ramping up and it was just getting far busier.

"Giving it more bandwidth was going to give us more flexibility and future-proofing down the track. The other big driver is that we're going 10Gb in the backend data store. We run iSCSI here and so we wanted to be able to provide for that going forward."

In addition to the needs of the school's server and storage infrastructure, there are around 1600 devices on the network. Network traffic ramped up significantly as the school switched from a fleet of 400 desktops to supporting one laptop per student.

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