Intelligent, Connected PDUs Save Time and Money When Going 1:1

Intelligent, Connected PDUs Save Time and Money When Going 1:1

November 19, 2018

Before distributing personal devices to students, IT officials may want to first address their data centers.

The internet has made it possible for learning to take place everywhere, all the time. Nothing illustrates this better than a one-to-one classroom, where every student has access to a computer.

To support this digital transformation, schools and libraries should build an IT infrastructure that accommodates a wide variety of equipment, accepts cable routing from any direction, sustains high rack densities at allowable temperatures, supports intelligent power distribution and is ready for future learning technology demands.

That’s what we did at Oak Ridge Schools, one of Tennessee’s most distinguished school districts.

Transformation Begins with a Focus on Infrastructure

To roll out a one-to-one learning initiative to 4,700 students, Oak Ridge Schools needed a robust infrastructure that would support the increasing demand for power and high-density servers.

In our district technology plan, we included the creation of an infrastructure capable of handling all of the critical systems used to operate not only student devices, but other forms of communication and data storage. The various telecommunication closets that were scattered across several sites needed to be consolidated into a single, dedicated and reliable data center that could support growth for years to come.

The data center also needed to support a fiber ring with high-speed broadband to connect every service — telephone, data storage, applications, internet and email — among all the schools.

Consolidate Infrastructure Improvements Through One Vendor

To make the transformation seamless, the district used a single vendor that could provide cabinets, power and cable management infrastructure. A single-vendor solution ensures that power distribution units fit and are compatible with the cabinets.

For the data center’s high-density environment, the school selected a cabinet platform that could support a 30 kilowatt heat load, and intelligent PDUs that could withstand temperatures as high as 149 degrees. 

The PDUs also provide remote environmental and power monitoring capability. Oak Ridge Schools are now able to monitor and measure voltage, current, power and power factor in each cabinet. 

Another huge plus for the district was the PDUs’ IP consolidation feature, which allows up to 32 PDUs to use a single IP address. Setting them up inside the cabinet was incredibly easy. 

All connected PDUs can be accessed and monitored simultaneously via a web browser, and an alarm notification is triggered if the primary IP connection is lost or if a PDU link is dropped. This feature saves the district both time and money by requiring fewer IP ports, switches and routers and reducing installation time. 

With two PDUs in each cabinet (for redundancy), we now get detailed power measurements and have set up threshold alarms for power, temperature and humidity for each PDU in the array. We can also check power use on the PDU’s user-friendly LCD screen.

Different outlet configurations and the ability to lock and secure cables were also important to us. PDUs that come with cord retention tethers to secure power cords help prevent accidental disconnections. As smoothly as everything works, there are going to be vibrations that will cause intermittent, surprise outages.

Successful Update Earns Oak Ridge Top STEM School Title

With a solid and redundant data center in place, Oak Ridge Schools was technologically prepared to be the first district in the state to earn AdvancED Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) certification.

Achieving the one-to-one device integration is challenging, to say the least, but our school district is well prepared. The children at Oak Ridge Schools are now empowered to become proactive students and lifelong learners.

By Doug Cofer,  Technology Director for Oak Ridge (Tenn.) Schools

This article was originally posted on the November 2018 issue of EdTech Magazine.
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