End in sight for servers at St Luke’s

The IT manager of K-12 school in Bundaberg, Queensland, says its future is in the cloud

Chances are that the server room at St Luke's Anglican School in Bundaberg, Queensland, is approaching the end of its life according to Mitch Miller.

Miller, the IT manager at St Luke's, says that after successfully moving some of the school's key systems to Amazon's public cloud, it's unlikely his team will carry out another server refresh when warranties expire in 12-18 months.

St Luke's is a K-12 school with around 840 students and 120 staff. The school's first brush with cloud services was in 2011 when it deployed Google Apps for Education, Mill said.

After shipping off some workloads to a variety of infrastructure-as-a-service companies, Miller says the school started using Amazon Web Services in early 2013 and shifted applications from on-premise hardware and other IaaS providers to the AWS cloud.

Initially EC2 was used to host the school's website, but earlier this year St Luke's also migrated its core school administration application, TASS.web, to AWS. The school employs TASS.web for functions including student administration, attendance capture and payroll.

"We've got some domain controllers for authentication services [in AWS] and a couple of LAMP stacks for projects like a new intranet we're currently building and our IT ticketing system," Miller said.

The shift to cloud was driven by a desire to harden the school's disaster recovery and business continuity capabilities, the IT manager said. Floods in 2012 cut power to the school for 36 hours.

"We're a pretty young school so venturing down the path of a large scale data centre with a generator and all the rest of it wasn't really a financially viable option," Miller said.

Limited bandwidth was also a factor in shifting away from on-premise, Miller said.

"I know there are a few schools that have multiple campuses so they get fibre delivered to each and have a redundant, geographically separated environment," Miller added. That's not an option at the single campus school, the IT manager said.

The school's IT team only has a headcount of three, but Miller said they have been able to carry out the migration to cloud without any external help.

"We've done all of our work ourselves and I feel like that's probably why AWS was the winner here — you can engage in a little or a lot. This has been an 18-month trip for us and we started small and just worked on a few things and gradually transitioned. It wasn't like a jump-in-the-deep-end type of thing — we eased ourselves into it."

"We're a pretty small team, so our server room refresh every two or three years was quite a big job for us — we used to do that all ourselves," Miller said.

"Moving forward we're pretty much totally of the opinion that we won't be doing another server room [refresh]. We'll probably end up with some local disk, but that's largely speaking where it will end."

The team will focus on porting more applications to the cloud and capex will shift to supporting infrastructure at the school, such as the network, Miller said.

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