Democratizing virtualization:

What Bill Gates’ school district shares with rural Kenya

03/30/2013
technology
DAVID YUNGER

Bill Gates’$1.063 million in annual property taxes helped pay for our son’s education.

Given the plethora of Microsoft millionaires living in our home school district of Bellevue, WA, it’s perhaps not surprising that its schools rank among the best funded and highest-performing in the nation. 

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This is a district that passed a half a billion-dollar school levy in the height of the global financial crisis in 2008. In its most recent rankings, US News and World Report ranks four of Bellevue’s high schools among the top five in the state for reading, math, and college readiness — with all four schools listed among the top 200 schools nationwide.

What is surprising: Bellevue is investing in precisely the same education technology Microsoft is deploying in Africa and across the developing world: direct virtualization via Windows MultiPoint Server.

Bellevue can afford the very best. And yet they choose to deploy direct virtualization.

Why? Because it offers their students the finest technology money can buy ... it just happens to also be one of the most affordable, greenest and easiest to deploy technologies on the planet.

I want to share a story that illustrates how this model can work in some of the most challenging environments on the planet. I recently visited Kisapuk, a Masai village in extreme rural Kenya. The school sits 35 kilometers off the nearest paved road. There is no electricity available within 30 square kilometers of the site. However, thanks to a partnership with World Vision, the school has been successfully operating an innovative learning lab, running off solar and 3G Internet access. Amazingly, the school has been self-sufficient for more than two years, earning more than $200 a month in income (after expenses), thanks to cell-phone charging services, printing and offline as well as online learning services.

Inspiring public-private partnerships are springing up to support exactly these kinds of initiatives. One such program, Spark a Child’s Digital Future (www.worldvision.org/bethespark), launched in Kenya in December. The program will scale up across Sub-Saharan Africa and beyond over the next five years. For $100, individual donors can help ensure that young people in Africa cross the opportunity divide through a holistic approach including not only a device and connectivity, but also comprehensive training and professional development for teachers and school leadership.

And shifting our focus back to the U.S.: Bellevue is saving upwards of $135,000 per deployment. “We saved $70,000 on hardware by purchasing Multipoint Servers instead of individual desktops. We saved $60,000 on network switches, and we saved about $5,000 on networking cabling — for a total savings of $135,000,” said Jason Golec, Network Operations Manager.

Direct virtualization gives school districts an instantly affordable private cloud — without the need for thin clients. Schools like Bellevue are routinely saving 60 to 70 percent on hardware and software upgrades, while cutting TCO by 80 percent or more.

So, you might be thinking at this point, “that’s all well and good for labs, but we want a 1:1 environment.”

Putting a device in the hands of every student can be a challenging initiative for even the best resourced schools. IT teams face challenges of managing and maintaining the proliferation of devices. Teachers struggle to deliver an effective curriculum on devices students associate with entertainment. An IT leader recently quipped: “I call iPads as ‘Bieber Pads’ — because they always come back with pictures of Justin Bieber on them — and then I have to individually ‘wipe’ them at the end of every day.”

When you add Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) into the picture, many organizations conclude that the management costs outweigh the hardware savings. Further, teachers end up structuring their curriculum around the “lowest common denominator” — meaning the kid with the weakest device — or even no device at all — either gets left behind or slows down the rest of the class. At a recent Gates Foundation sponsored event in Seattle, a teacher exclaimed: “I work at a very well-endowed private school. If we did BYOD, we would have kids who don’t have devices to bring.”

District leaders across the globe are also solving their 1:1 and BYOD management headaches via this same direct virtualized architecture. Via a single user interface — enabled by Microsoft’s recent release (December, 2012) of their latest virtualization solution, Windows MultiPoint Server 2012 — teachers and administrators can:

  • Simplify their 1:1 integration and BYOD rollouts
  • Remotely connect and manage all their tablets and laptops
  • Virtualize a Windows experience on iPads or Andriod-based devices
  • Increase the level of production for the ‘lowest common denominator’ with a bank of dedicated workstations (six to 12 workstations in the back of the classroom), augmented by laptops/tablets — all managed in a single management view on the teacher’s tablet or laptop.

All this can be achieved without a dime of third party management software or expensive annuity agreements.

You don’t have to be Bill Gates to afford a world-class private cloud with dedicated 1: /BYOD management. Direct virtualization is worth a closer look.

David Yunger is Founder and CEO of GreenBridge Computing, Inc. Learn more on Microsoft’s YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/user/msmultipoint or at www.greenbridgecomputing.com.
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