California’s Orange County and City of Orange Schools Give High Grades to Netreo
Technology departments set standards for hardware and software that employees follow to support the IT infrastructure. What happens when an organization has more than 30,000 users who connect any devices and software they want into the network? That was the challenge facing the Orange Unified School District (OUSD) in the city of Orange, CA.
“Thousands of students connect to our network with their own smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers,” said Tam Nguyen, Director of Information Technology for OUSD. “They each have a user name and password starting in kindergarten.”
Orange Unified School District is just one of 28 local school districts overseen by the Orange County Department of Education. With a population of more than three million, Orange County is the third most populous county in California, spread over 948 square miles.
In addition to the students, the district also maintains IT support for all of its staff members.
“Every employee also has at least one device,” Nguyen said. “We don’t provide smartphones, but staff members and teachers have a desktop or laptop computer, or both, so usually there are multiple devices per person. We have 42 sites in the district, and a lot of customers, including 33,000 students and staff members, plus parents,” Nguyen said.
“Our infrastructure is fairly large, with 600 switches and 1,700 wireless access points. If you compared our network to private industry, we would be a very large enterprise.”
Prior to Netreo, OUSD used a network monitoring tool that proved to be too expensive to justify its use. They could afford to monitor only 40 to 50 pieces of equipment because the pricing for each device was so high. The district then opted for an open-source, “free” software tool, which could potentially help monitor every switch, but required extensive customization beyond the technology department’s ability to support. Acknowledging a need for something better, Nguyen began looking for other options. The County’s Department of Education had previously implemented solutions from Netreo for infrastructure monitoring, and recommended Netreo to the school district.
OUSD now uses Netreo to monitor switches throughout the district. OUSD is comprised of 40 schools, plus administrative buildings, and maintenance, operations, and transportation sites. In all, they have 310 network cabinets, 120 virtual servers, and 1,700 wireless access points, all monitored by Netreo.
The district hosts email, a financial accounting system, Internet connectivity, a student information system, and telephone infrastructure over Cisco VoIP from its data center. It also has an outward-facing public website monitored by Netreo.
“I’m looking for the responsiveness of the applications we’re providing — not just externally, but internally,” Nguyen said. “In addition to checking whether the system is up or down, Netreo has the ability to see if a certain application is slow, or if there is high bandwidth utilization or low network responsiveness. This is all beneficial information, since it is imperative for us to provide stable and consistent network services. Netreo definitely helps us achieve that objective.”
Because the Orange Unified School District and the Orange County Department of Education (OCDE) are both using Netreo, the 10-gigabit communication circuit that connects the school district to the County Department of Education is monitored by both offices, using Netreo.
“Netreo resides locally on our network and separately at OCDE,” Nguyen said. “The two systems work together seamlessly to provide layered monitoring, which gives us another level of confidence.”
While the Orange County Department of Education recommended Netreo to OUSD, Nguyen’s team still conducted their own detailed evaluation, comparing four popular network monitoring applications. After the completion of a proof of concept for each, Netreo came out on top. One of the most significant advantages OUSD found was Netreo’s support for a sustainable process to respond to issues, which they did not see in other products.
“Other vendors had too much or too little going on, and Netreo proved to have the best overall cost and functionality value and the best organization of information,” Nguyen said. “Other vendors had the functionality, but it was spread across different areas or containers. They didn’t seem as thoroughly integrated, but with Netreo, everything is fully integrated and working together.”
Netreo allows OUSD to be more proactive about outages, according to Nguyen.
“It informs us when there is excessive CPU utilization, not enough free memory on switches, or if an application is not running correctly. Let’s say a switch has been misbehaving intermittently. Netreo gives us indicators that something is about to go wrong before we lose the switch. That allows us to be a lot more proactive. It would be impossible to monitor the sheer number of network devices and access points we have without a robust monitoring solution.”
Installation of Netreo was fast and simple for Nguyen’s group. “We had a lot of components up and running in short order,” he said. “The process took only two weeks to get everything in and up. That’s really quick.”
The district set up Netreo as a virtual installation in a collaborative effort with Netreo.
“As implementations go, this one was a dream,” Nguyen said. “It wasn’t like, ‘Here you go. Here are the instructions,’ and then you’re on your own. Netreo has been extremely responsive and has put a lot of support hours into us to make sure that we’re running correctly, not just running.”
Benefits to Orange Unified School District
- Monitor 310 network cabinets, 120 virtual servers, and 1,700 wireless access points
- Protect the health of physical infrastructure, servers, database management, web applications, connectivity of over 30,000 heterogeneous devices to networks, connectivity to remote sites, email, and other systems
- Proactive response to emerging problems and root-cause analyses for prevention of performance problems
- Support increased daily productivity for members of the IT staff
- Ongoing network monitoring