Klein Independent School District Chooses Nutanix Cloud Platform to Deliver Distance Learning Capabilities
Nutanix Xi Frame Provides Remote Access to the District’s GPU-Intensive CTE Applications During the Covid-19 Pandemic
- The Covid-19 pandemic created an immediate need for all students to attend classes remotely
- The district’s CTE applications were only accessible in the classroom or labs on high-powered workstations, not from the students’ laptops
Nutanix Cloud Platform:
- AOS and AHV Hypervisor
- Nutanix Xi Frame
- Autodesk, AutoCAD, Revit, Inventor, Maya, Motion builder, and Blender
By using Nutanix Frame, KISD was able to quickly provide mobility to its teachers, staff, and students. The district’s GPU-intensive CTE applications are now accessible to all students working remotely on their district-issued laptops.
There’s still a lot of uncertainty around whether students will be back in the classroom, working remotely, or a hybrid of the two going forward. With Nutanix Xi Frame, our students will be able to continue their classes and be assured that they are not left behind.– Chris Cummings, Director of IT for Klein Independent School District
Klein Independent School District (KISD) is located just north of Houston, in Harris County, Texas. Its 32 elementary schools, ten intermediate schools, and five high schools provide a world-class education to over 53,000 students every year. In addition to its standard classroom curriculum, the district’s rigorous Career & Technical Education (CTE) Pathways Program prepares its students for a wide range of well-paying, in-demand future careers. But the popular CTE classes required the use of high-end desktops for access to the program’s GPU-intensive applications, including Autodesk, AutoCAD, Revit, Inventor, Maya, Motion builder, and Blender. Unfortunately, these applications were not accessible to students working outside the classroom on their district-issued laptops.
When the Covid-19 pandemic forced the sudden closure of all schools in March of 2020, KISD needed to quickly implement distance learning measures to protect its students, teachers, and staff. “The day after the shutdown was announced, I was called into a leadership meeting where we tried to forecast what this pandemic was going to look like for the next couple of months and brainstorm on how we could redefine the classroom to support our students,” explained Chris Cummings, Director of IT for Klein Independent School District. “We needed to quickly find a technology solution that was capable of delivering virtual content to all of our students.”
Cummings was already familiar with the Nutanix platform, having successfully deployed the technology three years ago. “Nutanix has now taken over our datacenter,” noted Cummings. “We have already virtualized most of our servers and were able to put a variety of efficiencies in place for our core IT services.”
Cummings contacted his Nutanix representative and asked to see a demo of Xi Frame, Nutanix’s new virtual desktop deployment solution. Nutanix Frame provides the freedom to run any application, in any browser, on any device, anywhere. Frame can either sit in the cloud (AWS, Google, Azure, etc.) where applications and desktops can be pushed down to the student’s laptops, or it can be used on-prem in the district’s datacenter running on a Nutanix cluster.
Running the POC on Frame
With the help of the Nutanix team, Cummings ran a POC to see if the Frame solution could provide remote access to district’s CTE applications. He selected a diverse group of teachers ─ some technical and some not ─ to partake in the demo. The POC lasted two weeks, and the teachers quickly became familiar with the software program. “Our internal stakeholders hadn’t even asked us for a solution yet, but we were trying to get ahead of the curve,” said Cummings. “Nutanix showed us what Frame could do from a virtual application delivery standpoint and we were extremely impressed.”
Due to the success of the POC, Cummings was convinced that Nutanix was the right solution for the district. The Xi Frame software was ordered and sized for up to 400 GPU users and 200 non-GPU users.
Deploying Frame On-Prem and in the Cloud
Cummings wanted to deploy Frame on-prem, but since the district didn’t have enough time to get the procurement process going before the first day of school, they started with a cloud deployment. The IT team was able to stand up the cloud solution in just a few days. “We were originally going to deploy on AWS, but surprisingly, they did not have the capacity available on the GPU side,” noted Cummings. “So, we ended up moving it over to Azure.”
KISD will be running the Nutanix solution on-prem going forward. “Choosing between cloud and on-prem was a financial decision for us,” explained Cummings. “If we didn’t have access to capital, it would have been more appealing to go to the cloud with its ‘pay as you go’ model. Luckily, we had budget available for the purchase, so choosing to run Frame on-prem was a better choice for us in the long-term.”
Nutanix Frame has given the Klein Independent School District the speed, power, and flexibility needed to provide remote access to the district’s GPU-intensive CTE applications that traditionally were only available on high-powered workstations in the schools’ computer labs. The district’s CTE students are now able to keep up with their educational programs from home on their laptops during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Great Technical Support
In addition to working with the Nutanix team during the deployment, KISD worked closely with Centre Technologies, a Houston-based managed IT services, cybersecurity, and cloud technology partner. “Centre Technologies’ assistance was instrumental in the success of our POC project,” Cummings added. “We’ve worked with them for several years now ─ they know our environment and our capacity, infrastructure, and staffing levels, and were with us every step of the way. I can’t say enough about the level of support we received from the Nutanix team and Centre Technologies.”
Using Frame After the Pandemic
When asked if they would continue using Frame after the pandemic, Cummings replied, “Absolutely ─ that’s how I convinced the district stakeholders to invest our resources into Frame. We knew it was a viable long-term solution. We are now looking at other ways we can leverage the technology to meet the future needs of the district.”
Advice for Other School Districts
Cummings offered some advice to other school districts considering the use of virtualization and Nutanix Frame for remote access. “Pay close attention to all of your stakeholders upfront and listen carefully to their needs,” he advised. “That’s what made our deployment so successful. Virtualization has its place in education, but it has to be a culture. If you are going to realize the benefits from a cost perspective, it requires a complete mind shift in your IT space. Virtualization scales easily, it’s more affordable, and its lower long-term costs make it a solid investment.”
“Our IT team is proud because we were able to bring our stakeholders a solution even before they knew they needed one,” concluded Cummings. “There’s still a lot of uncertainty around whether students will be back in the classroom, working remotely, or a hybrid of the two going forward. With Nutanix Xi Frame, our students will be able to continue their classes and be assured that they are not left behind.”