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Baker College Upgrades Online Learning System

May 20, 2009

Baker College recently partnered with Dewpoint, Inc., to upgrade its online learning system, moving its Blackboard education system from a single server to several distributed servers. The goal was to improve system performance and provide reliable access for Baker College students who take online classes.

According to Roy Teahen, director of Internet services, switching to several servers has been a positive experience, resulting in significant improvements.

“Our previous system was limited to 200 requests per second, at which time the students were placed in a queue and waited to get to their site,” said Teahen. “Now, through the distributed systems and clustering software, that number has been increased to 2,000 requests per second.

“If one of the systems “goes away,” we simply shift students to another server and they are unaware that they were switched.”

Upgrades included Blackboard software, Sun Microsystems hardware, the Solaris operating system, the Oracle database server hardware and the Symantec/Veritas cluster software.

Dewpoint, headquartered in Lansing, Mich., has been a Baker College partner since 2003. Don Dougherty, a Dewpoint higher education business development specialist, worked with the various suppliers to ensure that all the products worked well together, creating a seamless environment.

“Dougherty and the entire Dewpoint staff have been a true partner throughout the entire process,” said Teahen. “They provided the resources when we needed them, and evaluated, explained, demonstrated and implemented these technologies in a timely manner.

“Many companies want to be a partner, but Dewpoint has always gone that extra mile to help in any way they could.”

While the planning and research took many months, the upgrade was implemented in less than a week. The system was down for a couple of days in order to test and fine-tune the new technologies.

Today the system needs little management. It basically monitors itself, reporting on any issues that come up.

“Overall we are very happy with the results,” said Teahen. “Although several students have commented on improved reliability and access, we measure our success by not hearing from students who say our server is slow as a result of server response time.” Teahen emphasizes the proactive nature of his team.

“With this project and others we’ve done in the past, everyone keeps a close watch on Blackboard and the metrics we get from software and hardware. We make every effort to track use increases, plan for those increases and ensure that the systems include space to accommodate growth. We address system problems before they become noticeable to the student or faculty and we do not hesitate to grow the systems to meet the demand.”

The next planned upgrade, scheduled for the end of 2009, will be a Hitachi Data Systems Storage Area Network (SAN) for faster access and larger storage capacity.

The Baker College System
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