Published on 16-Sep-2011
"The IBM Power 740 Express gives us a very solid and reliable platform to scale up in one footprint." - David Lesnek, manager of systems and programming, Manatee County School District
Manatee County School District
Collaborative Innovation, Enabling Business Flexibility, Energy Efficiency, Enterprise Modernization, Green/Sustainability, High Availability , Infrastructure Simplification, IT/infrastructure, Optimizing IT, Web Services
IBM Business Partner:
Manatee County School District is one of the largest public school districts in Florida, with more than 42,000 students and over 5,300 full-time employees at 34 elementary schools, 11 middle schools and eight high schools.
The district needed to upgrade to a web-based student information system while staying in the IBM® i operating environment.
With the assistance of IBM Global Technology Services, IBM Premier Business Partner Premise, Inc. and Focus School Software, Manatee schools implemented a IBM Power® 740 Express server running IBM i to support a new PHP-based student information system which will eventually be scaled to tens of thousands of users.
The IBM solution cuts backup and nightly batch processing times in half, reduces costs by maximizing existing staff expertise and reduces data center footprint in half.
The motto at the Manatee County School District is “inspiring our students to learn, dream and achieve.” But with more than 42,000 students and over 5,300 full-time employees at 34 elementary schools, 11 middle schools and eight high schools, such a goal can be a massive undertaking.
Just ask David Lesnek, manager of systems and programming for the school district located just south of Tampa Bay, FL. “We have many lines of business we have to support, from building schools, purchasing, payroll and vehicle maintenance to, of course, teaching students,” Lesnek says. “We support a lot of different services here.”
Transitioning from green screen to web browser
One of these key services is the Student Information System (SIS). This specialized software manages many aspects of academia, from grades and schedules to disciplinary records and other administrative functions. And for years, Manatee and many other school districts in Florida relied on a Cobol-based “green screen” command-line system.
But over time, this legacy application was starting to show its age. “We’d hire young folks and they’d sit in front of those green screens and say ‘What is this?’” recalls Ernie Paredes, Manatee’s coordinator of program development. “We needed a graphical interface to more efficiently provide information to users.”
Although a more advanced SIS was a top priority for the school district’s five-year modernization strategy, there were some key requirements that had to be met with any new solution. Most importantly, it had to function with the school district’s existing operating environment—which already included an IBM Power 5, IBM i operating system and IBM DB2® for i software—in order to retain the district’s investment in IBM i technology and programming staff.
“You can’t buy the knowledge and experience that our staff has, so leaving the IBM i platform was not an option,” explains Paredes.
A collaborative approach to achieve goals
During the search for a replacement SIS that could function within Manatee’s IT environment, Paredes came across Focus School Software, a Florida-based provider of SIS solutions that operate through a web interface.
The Focus SIS solution met all of the district’s needs but one—it had not been programmed to run on the IBM i platform. With IBM Premier Business Partner Premise, Inc. serving as a liaison between Manatee school district and Focus, a version of the program was developed for IBM i in just two hours.
With the software hurdle cleared, Manatee County School District next needed a new server with the processing power to run more advanced web-based programs and the scalability to eventually deliver these web services to tens of thousands of teachers, administrators and parents.
“Focus worked so well, but we knew we needed to move into a bigger, better, faster unit,” says Lesnek. “And from a cost perspective, I also wanted to have continuity with our financial package, Oracle JD Edwards, which also runs on the i.”
Delivering on the future with IBM Power solutions
The school district’s longstanding reliance on IBM solutions was reaffirmed after stress tests on HP servers fell short of the performance obtained on an IBM Power 740 Express. “IBM came out far better,” recalls Paredes.
Manatee’s solution includes a single IBM Power 740 Express server with four IBM POWER7® processors. On the production side, 114 gigabytes has been allocated for the Focus SIS, as well as the Oracle JD Edwards and other district applications. A second 10-gigabyte guest partition is solely dedicated to running a Linux utility called Memcache, which Paredes says significantly boosts the performance of Focus SIS.
“The Power system is the heart of our district,” adds Paredes. “Our HR, payroll, utility billing, financial and student systems—everything resides in there.”
Smooth implementation leads to substantial benefits
Data and applications were backed up from the previous Power 5 server and then restored onto the Power 740 Express in one weekend.
“We had no interruption of service to our staff and internal customers,” says Lesnek. “And the performance on the server is amazing. It’s just incredible what it can do.”
The benefits of the Power 740 Express have been noted in ways both big and small. On the server side, Lesnek has cut the time it takes to perform system backups in half, from one hour to 30 minutes, and nightly batch processing jobs take two hours instead of four. The server also takes up half as much physical space in the data center.
In addition to raw hardware performance, the IBM solution provides a solid foundation for the Focus School SIS in terms of scalability and availability. While it is currently only accessible to a few thousand administrators and teachers, SIS will eventually expand to more than 40,000 parents.
“We’re going to have a lot of individuals accessing this, looking at student information, from teachers, to school staff, to district-level curriculum and instructional staff looking at how students are doing,” says Lesnek. “The Power 740 Express gives us a very solid and reliable platform to scale up in one footprint.”
Manatee has long enjoyed the benefits of hardware support and software maintenance support from IBM Global Technology Services. So much so, in fact, the district has signed a five-year software and hardware maintenance contract with IBM for the new solution. Lesnek says the combined effort which brought the Focus School SIS to the IBM i platform, as well as the implementation of the Power 740 Express, gives the school district everything it needs moving forward to help meet its goal of inspiring students to learn, dream and achieve.
“The willingness of Premise and Focus to work with us and apply their knowledge and their expertise to this implementation were vital in getting us to where we are today,” says Lesnek. “And I see a continued long-term relationship with IBM. It was an excellent experience.”
For more information
Contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit us at: ibm.com/systems/power
For more information about Manatee County School District, visit: www.manatee.k12.fl.us
For more information about Premise Inc., visit: www.premiseinc.com
For more information about Focus School Software, visit: focus-sis.org
Products and services used
IBM products and services that were used in this case study.
Power 740 Express
DB2 for i5/OS, IBM i
© Copyright IBM Corporation 2011 IBM Systems and Technology Group Route 100 Somers, New York 10589 U.S.A. Produced in the United States of America September 2011 All Rights Reserved IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, DB2, Power and POWER7 are trademarks or registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both. If these and other IBM trademarked terms are marked on their first occurrence in this information with a trademark symbol (® or ™), these symbols indicate U.S. registered or common law trademarks owned by IBM at the time this information was published. Such trademarks may also be registered or common law trademarks in other countries. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at “Copyright and trademark information” at ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in the United States, other countries, or both. Other company, product and service names may be trademarks or service marks of others. IBM, Focus School Software and Premise, Inc. are separate companies and each is responsible for its own products. Neither IBM, Focus School nor Premise makes any warranties, express or implied, concerning the other’s products. References in this publication to IBM products, programs or services do not imply that IBM intends to make these available in all countries in which IBM operates. Any reference to an IBM product, program or service is not intended to imply that only IBM’s product, program or service may be used. Any functionally equivalent product, program or service may be used instead. Offerings are subject to change, extension or withdrawal without notice. All client examples cited represent how some clients have used IBM products and the results they may have achieved. Performance data for IBM and non-IBM products and services contained in this document was derived under specific operating and environmental conditions. The actual results obtained by any party implementing such products or services will depend on a large number of factors specific to such party’s operating environment and may vary significantly. IBM makes no representation that these results can be expected or obtained in any implementation of any such products or services. The information in this document is provided“as-is”without any warranty, either expressed or implied