Bay City Schools Roll with Netware: A Case Study

When the Bay City school system faced the challenge of implementing a state-of-the-art VPN to work with their multi-platform system in just a few months, they turned to a VAR, a major direct channel manufacturer of computers, and a maker of NOSs that some would mistakenly call a legacy. Jacqueline Emigh reports on how they accomplished their mission goal with time to spare.

By Jacqueline Emigh | Posted Feb 28, 2002
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When John Strycker started his new job in Bay City, Michigan, he faced the daunting challenge of setting up a state-of-the-art VPN for the public school system in just a few months. Working closely with Novell, Dell, and Matrix Integration, though, Strycker and his team of in-house technicians made their deadline with room to spare.

"The situation I dove into was a mess," recalls Strycker, who'd taken on the post of director of technology and information for the Bay City school system. "We had seniors graduating from high school who'd never even used a computer."

Existing IT equipment for the school system's 10,000 users was a mixed bag of Novell NetWare, Microsoft Windows NT, and Apple Macintosh systems. Some school buildings had LANs or peer-to-peer networks, but these weren't connected district wide.

"The school system was hungry for more technology, however," Strycker adds. The Board of Education earmarked more than $10 million for short- and long-term technology improvements. "So I had the green light to move ahead." There wasn't that much time left, though, before the new school year was set to begin.

To help pinpoint which tack to take, Strycker set up a task force that included Eric Mosier, a technical solutions consultant at Matrix; Bryan Fuller, now the network manager for the Bay City schools, and other Bay City school personnel. Strycker had worked with both Fuller and Mosier in a previous job with a school system in Indiana.

"The implementation in Bay City was rather revolutionary, really. We rolled out the network in almost no time. Novell has even incorporated some of the code developed for the deployment into NetWare 6," Mosier says.

Strycker's team in Bay City first tackled the question of whether to choose NetWare or NT as the NOS. "We researched that very hard. Each had pros and cons. NetWare seemed to offer better integration with other vendors' products. NT seemed to supply better Internet access. In the end, though, we went with NetWare, because it was more of a known entity. Bryan, Eric and I had all come from Novell shops," Strycker says.

After settling upon NetWare, the task force moved on to weigh which hardware platform to use. The field ultimately narrowed to Dell and Compaq, due to a combination of service and financial factors.

"We went to Texas, to visit Dell in Austin and Compaq in Houston. As it turned out, Dell's Custom Factory Integration unit wanted to do a pilot in which they'd pre-configure server boxes with NetWare and other Novell software. So Dell came out on top," he says.

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