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Schools Speed Up By Scaling Down

When Lee College in Bayview, Texas was looking to upgrade its computer system 18 months ago, the college had several goals -- mainly speeding up registration and consolidating the sprawl of several underperforming commodity servers.

The college, a two-year school with some 6,000 students, was upgrading its PeopleSoft package, which includes financial, human resource, payroll, and student registration and record-keeping applications. An earlier version of the software running on several Windows servers was bringing the registration process to a crawl. "In our previous environment, we were too slow," says Dr. Carolyn Lightfoot, the college's chief information officer. "We didn't have the processing power."

After an extensive evaluation process, the college picked two ES7000 servers from Unisys Corp. to run the PeopleSoft applications. Once up and running, says Lightfoot, the improvements were immediately noticeable. With the old system, it would take 10 minutes to calculate tuition for each student, which would create backups, long lines, and much frustration during registration week. "Students and faculty were complaining," Lightfoot says. Now, the calculations are done instantaneously, Lightfoot says, which has streamlined the entire registration process " and eliminated complaints. At peak usage during registration, the system supports about 2,000 concurrent users.

Lee isn't the only college that has turned to Unisys' ES7000 line of high-end Windows servers. Several other schools, including Seminole Community College in Sanford, Fl., Butler Community College in Butler, Pa., and Westchester Community College in Valhalla, N.Y., have also deployed the Unisys machines.

The colleges, as well as many private businesses that have bought the ES7000 servers, have a common goal with their technology spending, says John Keller, enterprise systems manager for Unisys: "It's all about trying to do more with less. You don't need to have 100 servers, and you don't need to have a high-priced Unix environment."

For many community colleges, which typically do not have extensive IT departments, standardizing on Windows may make sense because of the ease of support, says Gordon Haff, a senior analyst with Illuminata, an IT consulting business in Nashua, N.H. Supporting both Unix and Windows will introduce complexity that a lean staff may not be able to support, he says.

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