Going hard to soft for a better LMS

Faced with expensive hardware upgrades to improve the performance of its LMS, Alvernia University opted for an I/O-reduction software solution that achieved the same goals at a fraction of the price.

LMS-software-AlverniaWhen students at Alvernia University were unable to complete tests in the Blackboard LMS because the system kept timing out, the small Pennsylvania school knew it had a big problem.

While the need for a fix was undisputed, a hardware upgrade was going to cost upward of $40,000. Instead, the school turned to input/output-reduction software to achieve equivalent performance gains—or better—for 25 percent of the price.

The performance problems faced by Alvernia’s Blackboard system could be traced to I/O inefficiencies in its VWware environment, which—among other problems—was experiencing latencies ranging from 4,000 microseconds to 750,000 microseconds. “We were noticing numerous timeouts, either when students were submitting discussion posts and grades or taking tests,” said Rich Reitenauer, infrastructure management and support manager in Alvernia’s IT department. “I was hearing a lot of complaints.”

In an effort to keep the school’s Blackboard environment stable, Reitenauer had resorted to restarting it every Friday, but this was only a stopgap solution. “We didn’t really want to look at investing in additional solid-state drives, but that was one option,” he recalled. “I started looking at I/O flash cards for VMware, solid-state drives for recache, and a couple of other products.”

Mindful of the department’s budget constraints, though, Reitenauer decided to conduct a trial of Condusiv’s V-locity I/O-reduction software instead.

(Next page: The results of the software trial)