For years, school districts and libraries have been augmenting their telecommunication budgets with funds provided by the Universal Service Fund through the E-Rate program. In 2014, the program was modernized to include internal connections under Priority 2. This modernization funds school districts’ and libraries’ efforts to modernize their wired and wireless connections in proportion to their free and reduced lunch (FRL) student population.
The new funding formula provides $150 per student over five years multiplied by the organization’s FRL ratio. For example, if a district’s FRL ratio is 8 out of 10 students – or 80% – and the district has 10,000 students, it is eligible for up to $120,000 over 5 years (10,000 X $150.00 X .80). The district will need to contribute $30,000 to receive the $120,000 in this example. These funds are available one time during the five year period, either all at once or distributed over the course of five years. Most districts are applying for their portion in the first year due to uncertainties about the programs funding over the 5 years.
A district needs to begin the process by filing a Form 470 stating their intent to procure Priority 2 funds for an internal project. This form allows vendors to bid for that project. Because districts are only required to abide by their purchasing policies, this is not necessarily an RFP process. As school districts choose a preferred vendor, they submit a Form 471 by the E-Rate deadline, April 16, 2015. Once the Universal Service Administrative Company returns an intent to fund letter, the work can be scheduled.
Most districts choose a consultant to help them navigate these new and complex waters. This program provides opportunity for districts that have traditionally not been able to upgrade their technology due to financial or staffing constraints. It also presents a challenge in deciding on the new technology to be used and how to implement it. This is where a Value Added Reseller (VAR) like High Point Networks comes in. HPN has been helping school districts improve their infrastructures for over ten years.
We have both the experience and engineering staff to successfully design, implement and support a variety of internal installations. The new E-Rate rules allow for a dizzying array of options to help students make the best use of the technology. Our staff brings their many years of school district experience to bear in designing a solution tailored to each individual district’s needs. We then implement that solution, train staff in its day to day operation, and also back it up with our own support staff. Whether it involves wireless or wired networks, unified communications, server storage or security, High Point Networks is looking forward to partnering with more school districts to enable the success of students and staff in our communities.
This is the first installment of a series by Systems Team Lead Matt Peabody to begin to answer a question he hears all the time: “Why vendor X?”
I’m kicking off this series with a vendor we have been supporting since they had relatively low name recognition, Nimble Storage. Nimble Storage is a hybrid SAN vendor that combines spinning disk for write capacity and flash for read acceleration.
Nimble Storage was brought to us by one of their sales engineers that had worked with us in the past. He described their product as the next big thing in storage. After discussing the architecture, feature set, roadmap, and history of Nimble Storage with that sales engineer, we were sold.
There were a few things that stood out for us and continue to be items that distance Nimble Storage from other vendors:
- CASL (Cache Accelerated Sequential Layout)
Nimble Storage’s CASL architecture was built from the ground up to take advantage of the shift in CPU architectures to multiple cores and not rely on disk spindles for speed. This is the first architecture we had seen where the array was not spindle-bound, but CPU bound. This allows Nimble Storage to use slower spinning disks for writes and use all of the flash in their array for read performance. The file system design also helps them to take extremely thin, non-impacting snapshots, migrate hot data to flash in real time, and use commodity hardware, all without sacrificing performance. These all combine to make a very affordable and reliable array with extremely fast response times.
Infosight is a Big Data cloud that collects real time information and coalesces it into easy-to-read and understandable reports about the health of all the arrays that Nimble Storage has ever sold. When customers ask how well the arrays actually perform, we can show people real-world performance statistics on existing installs and get them in touch with existing Nimble Storage customers. We as partners rely on this data as much as our customers to recommend upgrades and ensure the health of our installs.
A recent customer had an issue with a failover during a new install. Where other vendors may have quit citing an issue with the Fiber Channel infrastructure, Nimble had us pull logs and send that data to them. After reading through the logs, they found the switches did not support the proper revision in Fiber Channel specification. This was added to Nimble Storage’s code and will be addressed in the next firmware release. Nimble Storage also aggregates the analytics from their entire install base into InfoSight to give customers proactive warnings if they will run into a known issue, and then recommends a fix for them. Nimble Storage support continues to impress both our engineers and our customers.
Nimble Storage keeps things simple. Their pricing is array(s) + maintenance. Maintenance is a simple percentage of the array and gets customers support, new firmware, hardware replacement, and any new features that come out in newer code versions. Their arrays come in small configuration bundles that are easy to understand. Nimble Storage’s GUI and command line management is intuitive and easy to use. When we show most customers the GUI, they reply with “That’s it?” and that’s a question we like to hear.
Nimble Storage continues to be a strong partner for us at High Point Networks. Now that I’ve answered “Why Nimble?” we’ll continue next time with “Why Veeam?”