Monthly Archives: July 2014

The final bottleneck…

Never has the need for more bandwidth become so urgent as today driven by educational 1:1 and BYOD programs.

We’re not talking about incremental or even geometric growth – we’re talking about exponential growth – think hockey-stick chart.

That’s what happens when your school implements wireless and goes from one computer for every teacher, to a laptop for every student (and realistically, we know that many students may have as many as three wireless devices).


As Educational Technologists, we seek to design and implement the most cost effective, yet robust, architectures possible to support future growth. 

In the past, we’ve seen the network bottle-neck move from the network edge, to the network core, to the WAN (Wide Area Network), then to the WAP and around again.

But as we push 10Gbps at the network core and theoretical multi-link throughput beyond 1Gbps with 802.11ac, the final network bottle-neck at your school district will likely end up in one location – you guessed it – the Internet link.

The modeling is actually simple arithmetic.  Let’s say you’re a small district with 10 schools, 400 teachers and 5,000 students (if we completely ignore the counts of staff and administrative computers – which used to outnumber the classroom computers).  This would mean your network would grow from 400 computers to 5,400 computers through a 1:1 initiative.  That’s 1,350% growth!

So if we assume you’ve implemented 1Gbps to the WAP, 10Gbps at the LAN core, and 1Gbps on the WAN, anything less than 1Gbps to the Internet (through your ISP) will undoubtedly become the final bottle-neck.

This problem will be exacerbated by the number of cloud-based applications used by students.  Traffic patterns will no longer spike at 8am and 2pm, they’ll be hitting peaks throughout the day.

So what can we do after we’ve maxed out both our capital and operational budgets for networking equipment and ISP services?

1 – Implement that data center and SAN (private cloud).  Use it for collaboration and student file storage.  I blogged recently about how storage is becoming nearly free and unlimited:

2 – Implement as many private-cloud applications as possible.  If instructional and collaboration applications can be hosted within the district private-cloud, reliance on the Internet can be significantly reduced.

I know, this is easier said than done (ESTD), with GAFE (Google Apps for Education) and most LMS (Learning Management Systems) being cloud-based.  But you as Ed Tech director must consider these options.  Many SIS and LMS systems today offer private-cloud licensing.

3 – Filter, filter, filter.  The more limitations you put on your filtered Guest/Student wireless, the more you can cut down on Internet traffic.

4 – Train teachers and students to store multimedia and video files in the private-cloud.

5 – Increase operational budgets for ISP bandwidth every year.  Another ESTD.

I usually don’t like to be pessimistic, but the only sure thing is this, this bottleneck will not be eliminated by school districts in the near future.

The Cloud and your organization…

You're hearing about it more and more: cloud computing, cloud services, “moving to the cloud.”  But how does it affect your organization?  (Schools and School Districts in particular, but also for small-to-medium sized businesses and State and Local Governments)

You might be asking the following questions:

– do we need to move to the cloud?

– how do I know if we need to move to the cloud?

– what would we move to the cloud?

– how do we move to the cloud?


First of all, don't get intimidated.  The main thing to remember regarding the Cloud, is that the Cloud is storage and computing resources available on the Internet.

Which also means that once your organization moves to the cloud, those services will become totally dependent on access to these cloud services via the Internet.

The other main business consideration of moving to the cloud is OpEx vs. CapEx.  Moving from internal infrastructure and hosts to cloud-based services, will eliminate capital expenditures on hardware and licensing, and convert them to operational expenses, managed on a monthly or annual basis.  These factors will impact cash flow and your organization's balance sheet.

This also fundamentally impacts your organization's ownership of it's data, since data in the cloud is no longer on your premises.  Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plans must change to accommodate the change in architecture.

Similarly, your organization's IT support operations needs will change since there will be no more local servers, server admin, UPS, backups, virus, etc.  That's not to say these services/resources aren't required, they just may be engaged via Service Level Agreements and no longer be payroll employees.

The easiest time to consider cloud services is when procuring or implementing a new platform.  For instance – moving to a new Student Information System (SIS) or a new Learning Management System (LMS) might be a good time to consider the cloud.  This also allows your organization to test cloud-based services before moving the entire organization to the new platform.

The next opportunity to start your inquiry into the cloud, is when your IT staff starts talking about purchasing new hardware: servers, storage, etc.  This event will provide the opportunity to compare hard numbers and monthly service fees.

LA Unified sets the stage…

As much as we’ve gone on and on about curriculum-based educational technology programs, you still can’t help talking about these large districts, their billion dollar 1 to 1 programs, and devices, devices, devices.

Well guess what.  LA Unified sets the stage for device independence (read about TIME – technology independent model for education (TM) in my previous blogs).

broken iPad

“The benefit of the new approach is clear,” said L.A. Unified school board member and chair of the panel that reviewed the educational technology initiative Monica Ratliff. “Why would we treat all our students — whether they are a first-grader or a high school freshman — as if they all had the same technology needs? They don’t…To have a one-device-fits-all approach does not make sense.”

After spending the first part of a billion-dollar budget (that’s $1,000,000,000.00!) on Apple iPads, the subsequent failures, vandalism and hacking, LAUSD is moving toward a menu of devices – to be selected at the site level – and based on curriculum need.

btw – Apple iPads aren’t one of the device choices.