Tainan City Education Center is responsible for the technology needs of the city’s 275 public K–9 schools. Each school has traditionally hosted its own server infrastructure, and the large number and geographic distribution of the schools has
made it challenging and costly to provide a consistently high level of IT support. The education center has begun migrating to a new centralized IT infrastructure based on a private cloud model developed in consultation with Microsoft Services Consulting.
The education center anticipates that the new infrastructure will save the city US$344,000 per year in hardware and support costs, and it will reduce the district’s carbon emissions by 2,610 tons annually. In addition, teachers can take advantage of cutting-edge
technology to improve classroom materials, and students have increased access to educational resources.
Tainan City, on the southwestern coast of Taiwan, is the nation’s oldest city, and it is one of Taiwan’s five “special municipalities”—the highest-level municipal designation, indicating significant cultural, economic, and political development. Tainan
City comprises 37 local administrative districts and is home to nearly 2million residents. The city has several national universities, as well as 275 public K–9 schools with 200,000 students and 20,000 teachers.
Tainan City Education Center, a division of the Tainan City government, provides information technology services to the city’s public schools. This includes Internet connection infrastructure; IT education to help students achieve high levels of technology
literacy; and value-added services to assist the schools’ teachers and administrators, such as electronic administration, educational technology recommendations, and self-service application development.
||By implementing a solution developed in cooperation with Microsoft Services and centralizing our IT operations, we anticipate saving $344,000 per year in hardware purchasing and support.
| Chih-Hsiung Fu
Section Chief, Tainan City Education Center
The education center has a full-time staff of 20 employees. To address the challenge of supporting IT resources at 275 schools spread across an area of 846 square miles, most of the IT administration has been outsourced to local technology vendors, and this
has presented some difficulties. “Due to variations in the quality of vendors available in the different areas of Tainan City, there has been significant variation in the quality of services and support among schools,” says Chih-Hsiung Fu, Section Chief at
Tainan City Education Center. “Some of the district’s schools are in remote rural areas, and it has been particularly difficult to support those schools, some of which have issues such as unreliable power supplies.”
It has also been costly to purchase and maintain the necessary server resources for the schools. There are 825 servers distributed throughout the district, ranging from an average of two servers for smaller schools to 10 or more servers for the largest schools.
Power consumption for all of these servers has been a significant expense.
To reduce IT costs, increase reliability, and make the school district more environmentally friendly by reducing carbon emissions, the education center began investigating cloud solutions and server virtualization. “We experimented with open-source solutions,
but we found that they were difficult to implement because IT staff had to write custom driver software to integrate with our existing systems,” says Fu. “We were approached by local vendors who offered solutions for cloud-based storage or infrastructure,
but these solutions each addressed only a portion of the overall IT challenge that we were trying to solve.”
So in early 2012, the education center decided to investigate the possibilities for a comprehensive cloud-based solution that would not only reduce costs and carbon emissions but also improve the quality of services for the schools and enable the district
to embrace new technologies to improve education.
Tainan City Education Center approached several large technology companies—including IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Microsoft—to discuss the possibilities for implementing a services-based private cloud architecture. During a six-month evaluation period,
the companies met with education center staff to determine requirements, and they submitted proposals and proof-of-concept demonstrations.
The local Microsoft Services team offered a proposal based on Microsoft Datacenter Services, a set of solutions and technology transformations that help organizations develop an efficient, integrated data center solution built on industry-leading architectures
and principles. The education center believed that the Microsoft offering was the best fit for its needs.
“The most exciting part of the plan from Microsoft Services is that it provides a comprehensive solution that incorporates infrastructure, platform, and software,” says Fu. “Compared with the other vendors, Microsoft Services did the best job of addressing
the future needs of the center in terms of expansion and scalability.”
The education center worked closely with Microsoft Services architects to develop a three-phase implementation plan that will be implemented over a three-year period. Each phase is focused on migrating a different layer of the IT infrastructure hierarchy
to a services-based private cloud model:
Phase 1—Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)
Phase 2—Platform as a service (PaaS)
Phase 3—Software as a service (SaaS)
The IaaS phase focuses on server consolidation—taking physical servers out of individual schools and replacing them with physical and virtual machines in a server farm managed by the education center. The server farm runs the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating
system, and virtualization is based on Hyper-V technology. IT staffers are using Microsoft System Center 2012 management tools to automate and administer the data center.
||Microsoft Services has an in-depth understanding of both hardware and software, including mobile phones, operating systems, servers, and tablets, so they were able to propose an all-encompassing solution.
| Chih-Hsiung Fu
Section Chief, Tainan City Education Center
The Phase 1 rollout began in mid-2012 with a pilot group of 10 Tainan City schools. Following the successful implementation in those schools, an additional 20 schools were added to the pilot group in November 2012. Based on the ongoing results of the pilot
project, the education center is developing an operational model and standard operating procedures for all of the city’s schools. The Phase 1 solution will be deployed to the city’s remaining schools beginning in early 2013.
The upcoming PaaS phase will include automated load balancing, enhanced security, data redundancy for better disaster recovery, and the creation of a cloud development platform. Phase 3 will take advantage of the reliable infrastructure of the IaaS and PaaS
layers to enable the education center to provide software development services for teachers and administrative staff.
Tainan City is using the infrastructure migration project as an opportunity to improve the schools’ educational technology, too. Teachers in the pilot schools have all been given tablet PCs and 10 gigabytes of cloud-based storage, and they can now easily
share lesson plans and other resources with their peers. “We believe that cloud-based education resources will help our teachers offer more engaging and effective lessons, and we will focus on developing more of these resources in future phases of the project,”
says Fu. “Having a cloud-based system will also make it possible for both teachers and students to access school resources from home, or anywhere else they have an Internet connection.”
Tainan City Education Center believes that its close working relationship with the Microsoft Services team has been a key to the project’s success. “The Microsoft team demonstrated a pinpoint understanding of our data center needs, both now and in the future,”
says Fu. “We are investing a lot of time and money in this data center project, so we need to have confidence in our vendor’s technology vision. Microsoft Services gives us that confidence.”
The Tainan City government is proud of the data center initiative and the new educational resources that it is providing for students and teachers (Figure 1). “The new IT infrastructure is saving a lot of money on procurement and maintenance, but more importantly
it is modernizing education in Tainan City,” says Chi-Chien Kao, Education Bureau Director for Tainan City Education Center. “Teachers can now provide classes with advanced digital learning materials and a sophisticated and innovative learning environment
that will be a model for other cities.”
|Figure 1. The new data center solution gives Tainan City students
and teachers the technological foundation for exciting new
educational opportunities, including videoconferencing with classrooms
in other countries.
By moving from on-premises hardware at each of its 275 schools to centralized servers and a private cloud, Tainan City Education Center will realize significant financial savings on hardware and support, while dramatically reducing the carbon emissions
of the city’s schools. The new infrastructure is also providing opportunities to improve education through better use of new technologies, and it has set the stage for future enhancements in partnership with Microsoft Services.
Reduced IT Costs and Easier Administration
By eliminating the need to purchase hardware and pay local vendors to support each school, the education center anticipates tremendous cost savings while also reducing the IT team’s administrative burden. “By implementing a solution developed in cooperation
with Microsoft Services and centralizing our IT operations, we anticipate saving [US]$344,000 per year in hardware purchasing and support,” says Fu. “Additionally, centralization and virtualization provide a lot of convenience for our IT staffers. It reduces
their workload and lets them focus on delivering better educational and administrative solutions for the schools.”
Decreased Carbon Emissions
As a nation, Taiwan places a lot of importance on decreasing its carbon footprint—the country is aiming to reduce its emissions by 30 percent from projected “business as usual” levels by 2020, and the mayor of Tainan City has emphasized the importance
of making it a low-carbon “smart city.” The education center estimates that its data center transformations will contribute to this effort by reducing power consumption and eliminating 2,610 tons of carbon emissions per year.
Improved Educational Resources
In addition to reducing costs and carbon emissions, the three-phase implementation of the data center project will provide exciting new educational opportunities for students and teachers. “Students will have increased mobile access to educational resources,
and we will narrow the IT gap between urban and rural schools,” explains Fu. “Teachers will be able to more easily share and cooperate with their peers. And with the changes that we are making, our IT staff will be able to provide teachers with more support
for developing rich, interactive multimedia lessons and teaching plans. All of the stakeholders in the education system will benefit from this solution.”
A Strong Technology Partnership
Tainan City Education Center has been very happy about its relationship with Microsoft Services, and it expects to work closely with the Microsoft Services team as the remaining stages of the project are implemented. “Microsoft Services has an in-depth
understanding of both hardware and software, including mobile phones, operating systems, servers, and tablets, so they were able to propose an all-encompassing solution,” says Fu. “They also have the resources to provide the training and support we need to
make this project an unqualified success.”
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For more information about Tainan City Education Center, call 886-6-2130669 or visit the website at: