Upgrades prompt Virginia school district to rethink data centers

Prince William County Public Schools is almost literally in the backyard of some of the largest cloud service providers in the United States. Now, as workforce conditions continue to change and upkeep and upgrade costs rise, the district is considering co-location and cloud services for some of its technology operation.

“We’re actually rethinking data centers,” Andy Wolfenbarger, the district’s student information systems and information security supervisor says in a video interview. “We have two really nice data centers where we are, but after we started looking at some upgrades. … All these complex and expensive things come with a lot of overhead.”

That overhead comes both in the financial cost of upgrading and replacing hardware such as servers, power supplies, generators, cooling systems and fire suppression, as well as personnel costs to manage and staff the facility.

With an eye toward potential savings and increased efficiency, Wolfenbarger says the district will begin doing more colocation with other entities’ data centers, as well as potentially invest in cloud services from some of the providers that operate in Northern Virginia.

“We actually have a very nice co-location facility just a few miles down the road that we have our own private fiber that we connect to,” Wolfenbarger says. “And right there, within a stone’s throw, there’s big cloud providers like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure and others.”

As the district looks at the cost of maintaining and upgrading its current data center hardware, Wolfenbarger says it could be time for a change.

“We’re really just thinking of leapfrogging from current [on-premise] stuff to getting stuff in a [co-location] facility and also to the cloud,” Wolfenbarger says.

Wolfenbarger on his top priorities:

Wolfenbarger on cybersecurity and privacy:

Wolfenbarger on the evolution of his role:

These videos were filmed at the Consortium for School Networking’s annual conference in Portland, Oregon, in April 2019.