The Edmonton Catholic School District operates 96 schools across the Alberta capital. With 4,300 staff, the school district provides a faith-based learning experience for all learners. The district currently serves over 43,000 students.
- 360-degree solution covering design to execution
- Data centre redundancy guaranteed high levels of user uptime
- Purpose-led infrastructure nets Alberta taxpayer savings
The school district had multiple concerns around system downtime, traffic, and security. Despite having a strong desire to move forward, it was struggling to arrive at a clear consensus on its way forward. “We were finding it difficult to hammer out a solid understanding of our needs, let alone our overall vision,” said Mel Farhat, Manager, Network Services.
One thing the ECSD was sure of, however, was that it needed a more robust, efficient system – what Mel said meant getting to “a true enterprise level.” Above all else, it needed high availability so that users would experience downtime much less frequently, and if they did, it would be minimal
In 2017, ECSD started working with Compugen to come up with a 360-degree solution, covering everything from design to execution:
- Design and vision – “Both parties collaborated on an overall design, with Compugen providing experience-based support on architectural decisions,” said Mel.
- Data centre redundancy – “All our traffic goes through our two data centres,” said Mel. “If our main data centre fails, all traffic is re-routed to our secondary data centre, and vice versa.”
- ISP redundancy – “All our inbound traffic now goes to our main ISP provider in our main data centre,” said Mel. “If that ISP link fails, all inbound traffic goes to our secondary ISP provider in our secondary data centre. To make this redundancy possible, Compugen brought in Cisco to help us configure this scenario, including a firewall and layer 2/3 backbone between the two data centres.”
- Load-balancing Internet traffic – “We used tunnels to load-balance our Internet traffic,” said Mel. “So, 50% of our Internet traffic routes to our main data centre without tunnels and the remaining routes to our secondary data centre using tunnels.”
The goal of the entire project, said Mel, was to significantly improve the reliability of the ECSD infrastructure. “We wanted a strong hedge against service and data loss for us and our users. We wanted to be able to guarantee that users have 24/7 connectivity, no matter what happens. With ISP and data centre redundancy, we have minimized the potential consequences of a cyber attack or power outage. We also built the necessary infrastructure to bridge these data centres.”
Mel understands that zero downtime is an ideal and cannot be expected in the real world. “But fortunately, we’re now able to operate with confidence even in these situations. When one of our data centres loses power, another is available very quickly – think five minutes or less. Our users don't have to suffer any considerable downtime. This was part of our original vision in 2017, where we set a goal of increasing school internet availability by 50%. We’re very happy with how things have turned out.”
Additionally, with Compugen's assistance, the ECSD was able to design and implement a load-balancing solution between the two data centres. “The secondary data centre is not only sitting idle until the event of a failover but instead also managing Internet traffic for 50 schools,” Mel added. “This was a complex undertaking, to say the least, but fortunately, we had a reliable and knowledgeable partner for creating the solution that has worked perfectly for us since implementation.”
Mel considers the ECSD’s work with Compugen to be a great example of the power of forging a true relationship with a top-tier partner and innovator.
“Compugen demonstrates that having a partner is – or can be – about having more than an order-taker or work-doer at your disposal,” said Mel. “It can be about having an actual relationship – a true partner who doesn’t vanish as soon as the work is done.
“They brought in a lot of expertise and skill – plenty of brainpower to help us sort through everything we wanted to achieve,” Mel added.
Ray Kebbi, Educational Team Leader - Alberta, Compugen, noted, “Getting service right from the start is all-important. Positive experiences form a strong foundation with a client, and in time this becomes a longer-term partnership – a relationship built on the foundation of trust.”
It has been over five years since the project, and the school district has yet to look into replacing its equipment.
“This speaks to the high quality of the product,” said Mel. “Cisco has a great reputation in this regard. Actually, almost all our Cisco hardware reaches end-of-life and end-of-support. In fact, we have only had to replace one device from our data centre since 2014. That’s great value for us – and, of course, for Alberta taxpayers.”
“We have a smooth flow of traffic, high availability, and as we’re still on the same equipment years later. We’re very happy,” he concluded.