When students log into a classroom device, they don’t wonder about the district’s data center, switching and wireless technology. There is no reflection upon the components’ feeds, speeds, manageability or cost.
No, students simply expect to quickly reach the internet, the applications and the data required to learn and thrive in the 21st century.
And that’s exactly the way the teams at one Puget Sound school district, Structured and Juniper Networks designed the district network — and the student, teacher, and staff experiences — to be.
“Forward Thinking and Future Ready in the Digital Education Age”
This large school district lies in the Puget Sound, not far by ferry from downtown Seattle, Wash. Residents there treasure, and fight to preserve, the scenic charm of the region’s beaches and bays, farms, wineries, hiking trails and green spaces. But, they embrace modern living and learning and expect their children to compete and succeed in the digital age.
The district’s mission statement focuses heavily on the role education plays in preparing students for college and the global workforce. The district boasts several state and federal school achievement awards for overall excellence, as well as separate recognition for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines.
To support the district’s continued record of success – and to ensure each student is “future ready” – the district chose to invest in an overhaul of its legacy switching technology and boost its wireless coverage. Stating students and teachers “need devices, appropriate software and resources for research, communication, multimedia content creation, and collaboration, for use in and out of school,” the district planned for change.
“The district must prepare its infrastructure today to support these rapidly developing technologies, and those emerging on the horizon, since they predict the level of technological proficiency that will be commonplace in the world for which we are preparing our students,” stated the district’s Technology Vision and Planning document supporting this upgrade.
Leveraging public funding provided via the Universal Service Administrative Company’s (USAC) Schools and Libraries Program, commonly referred to as “E-rate,” the district issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) aimed at refreshing 80 switches among seven schools with two separate topologies. Three locations that sat on one main campus topology connected to district-owned fiber at 10Gbps while the other four locations connected with leased fiber at 1Gbps.
District officials expected to upgrade the infrastructure with newer switch models made by the legacy vendor and wrote the RFP with those specifications in mind.
Busting the Curve
The district received RFP responses from many applicants, including the incumbent vendor, but Structured’s novel bid featuring technology from Juniper Networks quickly rose to the top of the stack.
Structured’s thoughtful response detailed a more robust solution than what the RFP specified and came in at a lower price point than the competition. Structured designed a solution with Juniper EX4300 switches at the edge, offering higher throughput and more room for growth.
Further, Juniper’s Virtual Chassis Fabric, perfect for small to mid-size data center environments, would let network administrators stack multiple switches and operate them as a single, logical device. This benefit provides better performance, scalability, lower latency and much simpler management – leading to more peace of mind for busy IT professionals at the district.
Juniper’s legendary operating system, Junos OS, provided another compelling benefit of the Structured-Juniper bid. Simple, open and innovative, Junos OS is an end-to-end operating system that controls Juniper’s entire portfolio of physical and virtual products. It is an agile, highly available platform empowering network automation and third party application integration — critical assets for small IT teams managing a lot of remote users, applications, and data.
Unlike the platforms for other technology manufacturers, network administrators in Juniper environments only need to learn a single OS to deploy and manage routers, switches and security devices, flattening the learning curve and lessening administrative burdens.
The choice was clear.
Structured, an Elite Juniper partner, possesses deep expertise among its engineers while the district’s network team was thoroughly familiar with the existing infrastructure. As a result, the teams collaborated in the design phase of the project to create a minimally disruptive, low-risk plan for implementing the new Juniper technology. Some complimentary Juniper training also helped district engineers quickly ramp up on the new gear.
The co-created plan called for Structured and the district’s network engineers to implement new Juniper switches at one school during a weeklong break. Structured engineers took the lead in the first installations, with district engineers learning by their side.
Once the first school’s upgrade was complete, the district team comfortably assumed responsibility for the rest of the work with just occasional “best practices” advice and recommendations from Structured.
While every new technology requires an adjustment, the school district’s leap to Juniper received top marks. In fact, the implementation was so successful that the school district upgraded its core data center infrastructure with Juniper technology in a subsequent project. Through this technology switch, the school district got a stable, manageable enterprise-grade network at a competitive price — including room to grow.
Now that is a powerful lesson.