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Creating a Community

How Palm Beach Community College learned that consolidation and virtualization can result in more than just ease of administration and lower overhead costs.




Leading the Pack
Established in 1933, Palm Beach Community College was Florida's first public community college. As its name implies, it serves Florida's Palm Beach County, which Parziale says "is bigger in land area than Delaware or Rhode Island." It has five locations in Lake Worth, Belle Glade, Boca Raton, Palm Beach Gardens and West Palm Beach, and about 49,000 enrolled students who are eligible to take part in more than 90 degree and certificate programs.

 

As one might expect, an organization of this magnitude, with its many processor-intensive transactions - according to Parziale, more than 85 percent of its students register online - requires a heavy-duty IT environment to support its users, who include not only students, but also faculty and staff. To that end, it currently has a System z890 platform hosting five SUSE Linux* partitions, two fully equipped BladeCenter servers, a DS6800 with 10 TB of storage and an IBM Systems Storage 3583 Ultrium Scalable Tape Library. It also runs a proprietary ERP application cooperatively developed by seven Florida schools that are part of what Parziale calls "the Florida Community College Software Consortium." These schools include Broward Community College, Indian River Community College, Miami-Dade College, Tallahassee Community College, Okaloosa-Walton Community College, Polk Community college and Palm Beach Community College, as well as associate members Mercer County Community College in New Jersey and Louisiana State University at Shreveport.

This ERP application, which was built on the Software AG Adabas database-management system running in the System z890 server's Linux* environment, handles the school's student system. According to Parziale, this student system "consists of everything from registration, financial aid, and certain types of billing, financials and HR." This consortium notion of building an application allows each school to add functionality to it and then share that functionality with the other schools, in a development method not unlike that of the open-source community.

"Each of the schools has its own programming staff, so what we do is build functionality and then share it back with the rest of the consortium. Central to this is a consortium office with its own IT staff that we have located in Fort Lauderdale, which combines this functionality and releases it to all of the schools on the next release of the application," Parziale explains. "The fees you pay to the consortium are based on your enrollment numbers."

Because of this cooperative agreement, many of the other schools involved in this group, including Broward Community College and Indian River Community College, are also moving to the System z890 platform as a way to create similarly outfitted IT environments. In fact, all of the schools are moving to Linux and UNIX* to create a level application playing field.

 

Jim Utsler, IBM Systems Magazine senior writer, has been covering the technology field for more than a decade. Jim can be reached at jjutsler@provide.net.



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Creating a Community

How Palm Beach Community College learned that consolidation and virtualization can result in more than just ease of administration and lower overhead costs.

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