SAS to Run IBM i Servers for North Carolina Schools
September 25, 2012 Alex Woodie
SAS is best known for its business analytic software. But the company is showing off its range with a recent customer engagement in its home state, where it is helping the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) consolidate more than 100 iSeries servers down to four servers, which will run in SAS’ “cloud” data centers.
SAS last week announced that the NCDPI picked it for a large server consolidation project that will eventually involve 115 iSeries servers used by local education agencies (LEAs), or school districts, in North Carolina. Instead of each LEA running its own iSeries server, which the NCDPI says costs an average of $25,000 each per year to maintain, the LEA’s iSeries environments will be migrated to four (much larger, we’re guessing) centralized machines running in two data centers. This will save an estimated $1 million per year, or about $10,000 per iSeries environment, which isn’t chump change.
“Local education authorities should save significant money by eliminating costs associated with physical ownership of these devices,” Phil Emer, director of technology planning and policy at North Carolina State University’s Friday Institute, said in a press release. “While LEAs will control business operations performed by these servers, the hardware and the data will be in a safer environment.”
“Safer” in this context means the consolidated servers will run in data centers equipped with the usual security and reliability apparatus, such as locked doors, backup power sources, and redundant network connections. It’s doubtful that local school districts have the financial wherewithal to acquire or build the type of security and reliability components that are typically found in modern data centers.
The server consolidation project is currently in (or will soon be in) the pilot phase, which will involve the consolidation of 20 iSeries servers. SAS says that each LEA that opts in to the centralized SAS systems for the pilot will receive the initial year of hosting for free.
Other migration costs, including physical site assessments, security audits, OS upgrades, backups, and help desk support, will be paid through the federal government’s $500 million Race to the Top program.
SAS also plays host to another Race to the Top project called the North Carolina Education Cloud (NCEdCloud). As part of the LEA server consolidation project, SAS, the NCDPI, and the Friday Institute will work together to see if the NCDPI’s applications can be modernized and moved to the NCEdCloud to meet future needs, a spokesperson said.
It’s unclear if this iSeries server consolidation and hosting project for the NCDPI is part of a regular service that SAS provides, or is a special service that it’s providing to its home state’s educational system. While SAS has experience extracting IBM i data sources for analytical purposes, the company has never touted itself as an infrastructure as a service (IaaS) provider for IBM i servers and traditional IBM i workloads, such as ERP software or school district management software. A SAS spokesperson was unable to clarify the nature of this project before this issue of Four Hundred Stuff went to press.
SAS has developed a stellar reputation as a great place to work and a valuable member of its community in Cary, North Carolina. In this respect, it appears that it’s doing the NCDPI a favor with this iSeries hosting project, and also lining itself up to possibly get some analytics business in the future. So you probably shouldn’t be calling SAS to host that 20-year-old MRP environment that has become a drag on your IT staff’s time–unless you’re also going to buy $20 million worth of analytics software as well. Then it might be worth their while.