Technology Report

Date: October 17th, 2012
To: Michael Green
From: Steve Rippl
Subject: Tech Dept. Executive Summary

It seems that we've hit our stride with respect to technology quickly this year, the major pieces are in place and working well, but of course there are always things to fix, improve or upgrade as we go along.  The setup of our new automated calling system went well initially with populating basic staff and student data from Skyward, but hit a bump when it can to the automated attendance calls that can save the secretaries so much time.  With the company's help in troubleshooting the data export from Skyward, conversion and uploading to their system we managed to iron it out and it appears to be working now.  There's still some work to be done around our InTouch payments system, both in term of getting payment data back into Skyward and making calls to parents, that's next on the list!

Our print servers are also causing some problems, we think because of old printer drivers.  Once we have our updated virtual server infrastructure in place (see below) we'll start a project of building a new print server and making sure every driver is the latest available, not a small undertaking as we have a lot of printers in the District!

We've made further small improvements to the running of our thin clients, mainly around their automated shutdown (to save further energy) and their handling of external card readers (primarily for the digital arts lab).  We're also now going to roll out some Windows based thin client machines for our support staff that have a more generic/basic setup (no multiple monitors, not connected to projectors or clickers etc).  We think we can save a bit by not having to put high end dedicated workstations out for IAs, kitchen staff, etc and still give them a much better (speedier!) experience than leaving them on old hardware that can't handle the anti-virus software load.

We're in the process of expanding our virtual server pool with one new server, but the exciting piece for us is integrating software called ganeti, an open source project that was created by Google to manage their own server farms.  It basically allows live backups of virtual guest machines between the various host servers so that if one machine fails it can be brought up elsewhere almost immediately.  Right now we have over 20 virtual servers running on 3 physical machines, but if one physical machine broke down it would take significant time and effort to redeploy the crucial services from backups or rebuilds.  Adding a fourth machine should give us enough space that every virtual server exists on 2 machines somewhere, ganeti manages this process and ensures everything still has the resources it needs.  Being open source the software isn't costing us anything and it provides us with real enterprise quality functionality.

There were a raft of last minute Sips alterations requested for CAST, which has now expanded throughout K-8, the Middle School doing theirs for the first time at the end of this month.  As the Schools continue to review and refine their process the feedback continues.  TEAM High School are now on board with Sips, using it as their tool for student learning plans and tracking progress and attendance.  The last piece required for them and the High School LRA students is an integrated graduation tracker, connected to their learning plans and completed courses.  Work will begin on this fairly soon.