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Apple, Android Devices Swamp NYC Schools' ActiveSync Server 205

Posted by timothy
from the wait-this-seems-like-a-word-problem dept.
longacre writes "Just a few months after the New York City Dept. of Education shelled out over $1 million on iPads for teachers, the agency has stopped accepting new users on its Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync server as it is 'operating near its resource limits' due to an influx of iOS and Android devices. A memo from the deputy CTO warned, 'Our Exchange system is currently operating near its resource limits and in order to prevent Exchange from exceeding these limits, we need to take action to prevent any more of these devices from being configured to receive email. As of Thursday, November 10th no additional users will be allowed to receive email via NYCDOE's Exchange ActiveSync.' Existing setups will continue to operate, and students will not be affected."
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Apple, Android Devices Swamp NYC Schools' ActiveSync Server

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  • Best use of money? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 03, 2011 @09:33AM (#38249602)

    Imagine what they could have done with the $700k they would have saved by choosing a tablet other than an iPad.

    • by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@hotmail.cOPENBSDom minus bsd> on Saturday December 03, 2011 @09:38AM (#38249630) Journal
      Bought a decent mail server?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by multimediavt (965608)

        Imagine what they could have done with the $700k they would have saved by choosing a tablet other than an iPad.

        Bought a decent mail server?

        My thoughts exactly! The devices aren't the problem, their proprietary commercial mail system that sucks is the problem. Nice to watch people eat crow when they tout the charms of commercial software and its scalability advantages and it epically fails and costs more money than a FOSS solution. Best quote I ever heard was from a guy talking about AD, "It's got to be complicated, it has to scale." Face-palm!!!

        • by chewedtoothpick (564184) <chewedtoothpick.hotmail@com> on Saturday December 03, 2011 @11:04AM (#38250158)

          Currently trying to find any kind of Open Source collaboration Server - I can assure you that the software costs alone are within 5% on any of the decently known and supported alternatives such as Zimbra, Zafura, eGroupware, open-Xchange etc. Zafura is the closest in terms of quality, but based on my testing, I have noticed that with my 15-user test groups (all users using at least three devices to sync continuously) Zimbra is the closest to Exchange in terms of efficiency, and if you remove OS resource usage I have noticed that the Exchange daemon is the most efficient. I hadn't gone through any kind of upgrade testing to see how easy that is (which could alone still sway me away from my current direction of updating Exchange) but when compared to how much easier it is to tie Exchange into Active Directory and properly apply any domain-controlled policies to clients, Exchange wins hands-down in any system that isn't wholly unix from the ground-up.

          In conclusion, you are misinformed if you think any kind of FOSS system can compete with Exchange. If you want any kind of collaboration utilities (Calendar or Contact sync and grouping, etc) then you discard the F part and usually the OS part too - and the supposed knights of FOSS are even more greedy than Moneyholesoft from Redmond. At least Redmond allowed us a 3-month trial with 60 users to test out compared to the others. VMWare let us try Zimbra with 30 users for 30 days before they wanted to charge us - nobody else would even let us trial their packages at all.

          • by guruevi (827432)

            Apple themselves make a really nice integrated packet of Postfix, Dovecot, CalDAV, CardDAV, Apache, OpenLDAP and a Policy Manager for iOS.

            Zimbra and some of the others are indeed greedy but they just are because they take all the work out of your hands and make a single package but again, they rely on the same technologies as Apple.

            Exchange integration in those packages is only done for backwards compatibility with Windows clients, it was never intended to be used progressively as iOS and Android has a nice

          • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @04:32PM (#38252652)

            Don't bother with this crowd. These guys clearly have no practical experience with Exchange and are the same people who have been yelling "ZOMG POSTFIX AND EVOLUTION/CHANDLER/THUNDERBIRD WILL KILL OUTLOOK" 10+ years ago.

            As much as I dislike defending my vendors, I have to say the Exchange is surprisingly nimble and the number of devices I can support with a very modest server is pretty surprising. The idea that you're getting 10x the number of users on similiar hardware with a similiar featureset is the same bullshit these FOSS guys have been peddling for years. I just with the FOSS crew could write a usable, supported, efficient Exchange/Activesync replacement. That product doesn't exist and the current crop are all nightmares. Heh, there's a reason why they won't let you test this junk.

        • by Albanach (527650) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @11:08AM (#38250180) Homepage

          their proprietary commercial mail system that sucks is the problem.

          You really think so? Microsoft sell Exchange to some of the largest organizations on the planet. It might not be my choice of mail server, but I don't think blaming the software is the right think to do here. There's plenty of evidence that Exchange can scale - it might need powerful hardware, or specialized configuration but it's clearly possible and widely implemented.

          The real trouble here was not not the choice of software. Rather it was a failure to anticipate the growth and react to it before it became an issue. That's a very basic SysAdmin issue for any software, proprietary or otherwise.

          • Agreed. If they only used one Exchange server holding all the roles, that was the problem right there. You can do that with a Microsoft SBS box, but it doesn't scale and there is a user limitation defined for a reason. Exchange is designed to have its roles delegated to other servers for load balancing and scalability. Technically this problem is easily solvable. It's getting additional funding that will be the hard part. Namely, additional MX records created and additional Exchange servers rolled out. Oh,

          • their proprietary commercial mail system that sucks is the problem.

            You really think so? Microsoft sell Exchange to some of the largest organizations on the planet. It might not be my choice of mail server, but I don't think blaming the software is the right think to do here. There's plenty of evidence that Exchange can scale - it might need powerful hardware, or specialized configuration but it's clearly possible and widely implemented.

            I'm fairly sure Exchange could scale up to more users. The problem is most likely twofold, they don't have the hardware resources and they don't have enough client licenses. Both can be solved with money, but the latter is only a problem on a proprietary commercial platform that makes you pay per user.

        • by jbplou (732414) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @11:18AM (#38250270)

          The problem could just be a lack of capacity planning. When management says we are going to add $1 million worth of iPads on to our mail system plus let users use iPhones and droids the mail admins should be evaluating their infrastructure.

          • by Fnord666 (889225)

            The problem could just be a lack of capacity planning. When management says we are going to add $1 million worth of iPads on to our mail system plus let users use iPhones and droids the mail admins should be evaluating their infrastructure.

            Of course this assumes that management bothered to tell them the scale of what they were planning to begin with. If their project management workflow has holes, these sorts of things can come as a really uncool surprise. Then again, unless it was a mass migration they should have seen the usage ramping up on their servers and wondered WTF?

        • by billcopc (196330)

          I agree whole-heartedly with you that AD is overcomplicated and, for perhaps 99% of users, a solution to a non-existent problem, but don't go bashing Exchange just because it's MS. It's a lot more than just a mail server, it is a collaboration suite, and the people who buy it, buy it for all those non-mail extras that are very tightly integrated.

          To recreate the same with open-source, most of us are forced to use webmail, as there is no standardized mail client that can handle all the extra stuff. You coul

        • by egamma (572162)

          The proprietary hardware and software devices aren't the problem, their proprietary commercial mail system that they didn't build out sufficiently is the problem.

          FTFY

        • by fostware (551290)

          Not exactly correct...

          Exchange (esp 2010) can be configured fine.

          The ActiveSync clients occasionally ramp up zombie connections or uncleanly close connections after their timeout. Apple have a couple of KBs (KB3398 comes to mind) on the very subject.

          An example is one of our Hosted Exchange clients. iPhone 3GS running iOS 4.3.3 currently holds 125 connections to w3wp.exe (web service) our average is 2, or next highest is 6. That's not a bad email system, it's poorly written client code - to which Exchange C

    • by OS24Ever (245667) * <trekkie@nomorestars.com> on Saturday December 03, 2011 @09:52AM (#38249730) Homepage Journal

      Then the headline would have read 'NYC Schools waste Millions on tablets no one uses'

    • by smash (1351) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @10:40AM (#38249972) Homepage Journal
      Like which decent tablet is significantly cheaper than an iPad?
    • by laird (2705) <lairdp AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday December 03, 2011 @10:47AM (#38250038) Journal

      "Imagine what they could have done with the $700k they would have saved by choosing a tablet other than an iPad."

      The iPad is under $500, so it costs the same or less than any other decent tablet. Are you saying that there's a tablet that costs $150 that's comparable to the iPad? That is pretty hard to imagine. Don't forget to include the management costs - iPads are extremely easy for an enterprise to manage, because they integrate nicely into Exchange (e.g. you can define mail policies on your Exchange server, and iPads do what they're told - encrypt, require password lock, etc.). Android doesn't do this properly yet. That leaves the RIM Playbook, which aside from sucking has the same list price as the iPad. I guess you could save some money buying discontinued products that are being dumped, but that's not a great enterprise hardware strategy. :-)

      If you want to complain about the project, complain that they didn't plan for adding one more ActiveSynch server so they had capacity to support their users. Given educational pricing, the software is nearly free, and even an overpriced server would have been a trivial percentage of the project budget.

      • The playbook would also require a blackberry phone for everyone to check their email via.

      • by DragonHawk (21256) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @01:55PM (#38251518) Homepage Journal

        iPads are extremely easy for an enterprise to manage, because they integrate nicely into Exchange (e.g. you can define mail policies on your Exchange server, and iPads do what they're told - encrypt, require password lock, etc.).

        We're not finding iPad/iPhone easy to manage at our business. The available management policies are very meager compared to BlackBerry handhelds. Too many things require iTunes, and iTunes is a bear to deploy, update, and manage. When the iDevice malfunctions, diagnostics and repair attempts are very limited. And if we need to do a service/warranty exchange, pain results. They won't ship an FRU; you have to go to a store. And apparently Apple's corporate policy forbids stores from telling customers if they have stock of FRUs, so the only way to find out is to drive to each store and try.

        This is not saying that Android or Playbook tablets are any better (we haven't even tried those yet), but iDevices aren't all lollypops and rainbows either.

      • My Galaxy Tab seems to respect our exchange policies.

        But it's pretty much the exact same price as a comparable iPad.

    • by jbplou (732414)

      Use it to buy iPads after everyone complains they bought junk nobody uses.

  • by SlashdotWanker (1476819) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @09:37AM (#38249624)
    Issues like this are the reason you need to fully flesh out costs before flipping the switch on a large organization like this. almost every teacher I know has a smartphone of some kind and a lot of them are starting to get tablets. Why offer the service when you cannot fully offer it?
    • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @09:43AM (#38249652)

      This is what you get with golf course deals people out side of IT makes deals like this and tell IT to make it work with out giving them the funds to make it work.

      This why IT needs unions so they can stand up and say NO! we can't do it with the funds that we have. I hope that they don't place the blame on IT for something that is not there fault.

      • This is what you get with golf course deals people out side of IT makes deals like this and tell IT to make it work with out giving them the funds to make it work.

        This why IT needs unions so they can stand up and say NO! we can't do it with the funds that we have. I hope that they don't place the blame on IT for something that is not there fault.

        I hate to tell you this, but cronyism, kickbacks, and side deals exist just as much (if not more) in union shops as they do outside them.

        The fault could lie with the architect being dumb enough to fall of the marketing "specs", or in not doing what every sysadmin does when speccing out an Exchange system: pad the resource demand to at least 150% of whatever Microsoft's Capacity Planner whitepaper says you should.

        You see, here's the thing - while yes, there are instances of dumbassed CTO/CIOs running out and

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by laird (2705)

          The point of unions isn't that they render everyone angels, it's that it creates an organization that can negotiate in favor of worker's interests to balance the organization that already exists to support management's interests. So an IT workers' union could impose checkpoints in a process such that the workers could make sure that adaquate resources, training, tools, etc., were provided to allow the workers to be successful without working insane hours compensating for poor planning or resourcing. Yes, a

      • by gavron (1300111)

        Unions are obsolete. They have destroyed our automotive sector, they are destroying our healthcare sector, and they have no business in IT.

        Unions are the mafia of business. If you don't like the RIAA/MPAA/BSA/MAFIAA then you should stand up to the unions that are the mafia as well.

        I'm sure it was great to claim that Unions saved kids from working in coal mines... but that's just mythology. Unions cause higher expense to
        companies, greater waste, all of which is passed on to us, the customers.

        Unions: go sc

        • So fine go tell the boss that you can't do it and then they say we can fine some that will and then who they get messes things up even more and you take all the blame and maybe even have to go to court after being sued / maybe even jailed for messing the system up.

          • by tqk (413719)

            So fine go tell the boss that you can't do it and then they say we can [find] [someone] that will and then who they get messes things up even more and you take all the blame and maybe even have to go to court after being sued / maybe even jailed for messing the system up.

            See my .sig

            You tell the boss you can't do it, means you've informed them that their assumptions are flawed and unreasonable.

            They pull someone in to do it anyway, and they can't make it work, just like you said it wouldn't work.

            How is it that you then get blamed for it not working? That "someone"'s failure proves you were correct and the boss was wrong.

            Eh?!?

        • by teg (97890)

          Unions are obsolete. They have destroyed our automotive sector, they are destroying our healthcare sector, and they have no business in IT.

          Like everything else, there is a balance. Too much power to unions is a very bad thing, too little power gives an extremely one sided relationship. As for destructive power, unions are strong in Northern Europe and Scandinavia.... both of which are doing pretty well.

          • by gavron (1300111)

            > Northern Europe and Scandinavia.... both of which are doing pretty well

            Scandinavia isn't a county, it's the northern European section which includes Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scandinavia [wikipedia.org]

            So to translate what you said into English:
            "Northern Europe and Northern Europe.... both of which are doing pretty well."

            There are two automobile manufacturers in "Northern Europe" aka Scandinavia, both Swedish.
            Saab is shut down.
            Volvo is Chinese.
            http://content.usatoday.com/communities/dri [usatoday.com]

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      maybe they could ask everyone to just configure them work as fetch instead of push?
      I mean, it's the same amount of people as they used to have. they just now have a mail client in the pocket.

      or perhaps they got a connection limit somewhere they could just up, if the problem is that the transfers take more time and connections drop far more often than from their wired desktops.

      • by laird (2705)

        If I had to guess, the issue isn't the specific protocol, it's that the number of mail clients doubled. That is, if they have 1,000 employees, each reading mail from a desktop computer, and each employee gets an iPad that they use in addition, they went from 1,000 mail clients to 2,000 mail clients, which would require them to scale the mail server to support it. If I had to guess, the iPads turned out to be much more popular than expected, greating demand that they were unprepared for.

    • Depends. Usually, even for a school, allowing every employee to latch on their personal gear to the school network isn't exactly a good idea - if not for security reasons, then for liability reasons.

      I should clarify the liability part: I know that schools are a bit more open (and less prone to having trade secrets), but there are still privacy issues (discussions of student behavior tends to stand out) that would demand a school limit just how far and wide (and on whose devices) their internal emails should

      • I do not think that privacy is the chief concern when it comes to personal devices on school networks. More likely there is a support contract getting in the way; my high school (in NYC) had a bunch of desktops that could not be connected to the school's network because of a support contract stipulation. Internal emails are probably easy to forward or otherwise export from the schools' computers, and the security is probably very poor (when I was in school, the only think separating the teachers' network
    • Issues like this are the reason you need to fully flesh out costs before flipping the switch on a large organization like this. almost every teacher I know has a smartphone of some kind and a lot of them are starting to get tablets. Why offer the service when you cannot fully offer it?

      Well, for one you have managers in municipalities that are the stereotypical promoted because they can't do shit. Two, you have a mantra of "doing more with less". Three, the devices were probably bought with one-time monies, so there was no continuing source of funds to draw from to deal with problems like this. Four, ... Oh you get the idea!

  • by swb (14022) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @09:41AM (#38249640)

    Given the resources, is there any reason they couldn't scale this right? I only pretend to know anything about Exchange, but this seems kind of strange.

    I'm sure that resource limitations -- server CPU, disk, etc -- are the source of this, but you'd think a high profile customer like this would be able to get MS involved before the story becomes "iPads crash Exchange" or "consumer tablet bests high dollar PC server."

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gbjbaanb (229885)

      part of the problem is that Exchange is not an email server (many people think that because they only use it for email). It's a "groupware" server that does email, calendars, notes, journals, todo lists, integrated MSN status, etc.

      Now admittedly, all those things shouldn't be particularly resource intensive, but the Exchange systems that have been around for years always struggled to to simple things. I think that they made it better at resource usage, but then probably made it much worse by bundling in cra

      • by rabbit994 (686936)

        Now admittedly, all those things shouldn't be particularly resource intensive, but the Exchange systems that have been around for years always struggled to to simple things. I think that they made it better at resource usage, but then probably made it much worse by bundling in crap like MSN status updates and probably facebook integration by now too.

        It's actually been really simplified. Instant Messaging is handled by seperate product called Lync (If you are staying Microsoft). Exchange is simply Email/Calendar/Contacts/Notes/Tasks. Facebook intergration is Outlook driven and Exchange server doesn't do any of that for client.

        If they replaced Exchange with a straightforward mail server like Dovecot, they'd handle a hundred times those users with ease. Sure, they wouldn't have an integrated calendar... but which of those users uses the exchange calendar anyway, using some preferred iOS or Google calendar.

        Spoken like true Linux Zealot who has no clue what Exchange does or how big companies rely on Email/Calendar/Contact side of it. Not to mention ActiveSync has basic security features like... remote wiping of devices and forcing pas

        • by gbjbaanb (229885)

          Linux zealot, lol.

          I've used Outlook for many years in corporate life, and I don't know *anyone* who uses it for more than calendar and email. I tried to use tasks and notes, but somehow no-one could be bothered with those. Even my last MS-only company used sharepoint for contacts, not exchange! (and a spreadsheet for non-company contacts).

          There are alternatives for remote wiping of devices. I use a security software that allows me to wipe my Android device (lookout) so it's not like you need your email serv

      • by DarkOx (621550) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @10:15AM (#38249846) Journal

        I am not a Microsoft fanboi by any stretch and those were all valid criticisms of Exchange 2003 and prior, however Exchange 2007 and later have a pretty clean architecture and good support for open standards. The only real argument against is that, it is very expensive and you might really only need mail in which case you can get carrier class mail handling with FOSS.

        • I'm dealing with an Exchange 2007 server with a busted OWA, and what I've found out is that the links between Exchange and IIS are so deep that a full recreation of OWA from scratch means reinstalling Exchange 2007.

          I've come to loathe Exchange.

          • Wait, you're silly enough to run OWA on the same server as your email data? Way back when I was doing exchange 5.5 administration I knew enough not to put OWA on the same box as the user's email. If something goes wrong with OWA you can then either restore from backup or reinstall it without affecting anything else. I believe that in exchange 2007 this called a front-end server.

            In my opinion, 99% of the issues that occur with microsoft server products are due to administrator inexperience and poor plann

            • First of all, I didn't put the server or network together, I've been asked to do a bit of contracting.

              Second of all, this is a small outfit that doesn't have the money to throw at a second Exchange server to run OWA.

              Thirdly, no matter what way you toss it, the architecture is idiotic.

              Fourth, I still hate Exchange. I tolerate it in my own shop simply because nothing else comes close, but it's still a gawdawful monstrous beast.

              • by gbjbaanb (229885)

                someone recommended Zimbra. With the proprietary extensions (activesysnc, outlook connector etc) you get a lot of functionality you have with Exchange. (I think those extensions need to be paid for as they use licenced software themselves).

                The basic edition is open source though, you might like to give it a go and see where the weak points are.

                Exchange is one of those 'enterprise' systems that is just broken. It epitomises some of the MS tech we have nowadays where everything is intertwined in a truly awful

            • One of my complaints about Exchange (and indeed, Microsoft's products in general) is that they're full of bad interactions like that.

              (My personal favorite is that installing Outlook (the Exchange client) on the same box as Exchange server causes the server to stop working. (For 2000 and 2003. Not sure on 2007+.) Not that I plan on reading email on the server, but for trouble-shooting it would be useful.)

              You're pretty much forced to keep everything on separate servers if you want everything to work as des

            • by thegarbz (1787294)

              I believe that in exchange 2007 this called a front-end server.

              In my opinion, 99% of the issues that occur with microsoft server products are due to administrator inexperience and poor planning.

              Really? Based on what you just said here I think the issue is down to Exchange needing double the amount of servers to do the same thing many other packages can do.

              The real issue here is not Exchange itself, but rather that Microsoft pushes Exchange as a solution to every problem. The number of times I've seen Exchange or windows Small Business Server rolled out to a client of 5-10 users is incredible. The problem with these outfits is that ultimately if they are successful then their userbase grows, and as

      • by cynyr (703126)

        I'd bet every conference room in the building has an account. You invite to you meeting and it auto accepts if it doesn't have a conflict. Anyone that should be able to schedule meetings can also view the details of the rooms "events".

        Want to go to lunch? send out a meeting invite. To be honest the thing that has always seemed to get the most real use is the calender system.

        Know of a host-able calendar that integrates with LDAP, allows "bot" type accounts, has an easy to use(at close to OWA as it can be) we

    • by DarkOx (621550)

      Yes, provided we are talking about an Exchange 2007 or later environment you can scale as big as need, Provided:

      1. You have adequate hardware resources
      2. You have selected an appropriate deployment strategy for your organizations size, and anticipated growth. If you expect to grow big but currently are not you do need to make some architectural decisions which will raise upfront costs.

      *Modern* Exchange is among Microsoft's products that really can be considered carrier grade. Like all MS products through

    • by Locutus (9039)
      Don't be so sure about that hardware being the "resource limit" although it could very well be the case. Microsoft requires you pay a per device/client access fee and it could be they are exceeding what they paid for. The number of Microsoft Client Access Licenses( CAL ) to connect to the Microsoft Exchange Server wasn't listed and they are being pretty vague as to what "resource" limits are being reached.

      LoB
      • by adamstew (909658)

        Exchange CALs are licensed per user and not per device. Each user can have any number of devices hooked up. If they are already properly licensed for each of their users, then all devices that any of those users brings are already licensed.

        Also, even if they had met their limit on CALs, they are so cheap for the education market, Microsoft practically gives them away.

        • by danomac (1032160)

          Yes, but only basic management can be done with mobile devices on a standard license. An enterprise license allows more control over mobile devices.

          Something else to keep in mind...

      • If the people at the New york School system were stupid enough to go with per device CAL's, they deserve what they get. User CAL's are almost always going to be more economical. The only exception is in a shared PC (call center) structure.

        If they have per use CAL's, the activesync devices are free (assuming they have CAL's for the users to begin with).

        As for this article, it is probably being blown way out of proportion. This is just a memo by the IT dept to let the management know they need to buy extra se

        • by Lehk228 (705449)
          but the reason you exceeded your bandwidth estimates was Yet Another Cisco Exploit turned your core router into a warez proxy for all of eastern europe
  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @09:46AM (#38249678)
    Get ready for followup headlines a few months or years from now:
    • NYC drops $600 million on new email system
    • Consulting firm under investigation for defrauding NYC public school system in email debacle
    • Should public schools have email systems?

    This is a pretty standard situation in New York City: lots and lots of money is spent, with poor planning, sweetheart deals with incompetent firms, and then a bunch of fallout.

    • This is a pretty standard situation in __any_large_organization__: lots and lots of money is spent, with poor planning, sweetheart deals with incompetent firms, and then a bunch of fallout.

      *There fixed that for you.

  • $1m spent on iPads only comes to ~2,000 iPads at most (assuming the cheapest model at around $500 each). According to Microsoft's handy little Capacity Planner [microsoft.com] (Exch 2010), it shouldn't take but perhaps (very rough calc here) 5 or 10 servers at most to handle that, unless they're also allowing every school employee to latch on their personal gear as well.

    I'm guessing that something's missing from the story here...

    • Just that their IT staff is incompetent..

      • by smash (1351)
        Alternatively, PHB simply said "iPads for all!" without consulting the IT department or asking about the back end infrastructure required to support such a decision.
      • by tqk (413719)

        I'm guessing that something's missing from the story here...

        Just that their IT staff is incompetent..

        It's a school system. That's a given.

        Add to that, any IT staff they have are *way* less (in numbers) than they need. Also a given.

        Have I mentioned my sister's a teacher? Or that we here appear to have three times as many school trustees (28 for a population of ca .7 million) as are necessary, and they are more busy spending funds on lavish head office buildings than on funding schooling?

        Run for school trustee. What a cushy gig.

    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @09:51AM (#38249718)

      I'm guessing that something's missing from the story here...

      They were probably near capacity before the tablets were deployed. NYC has a lot of schools and a lot of teachers and administrators checking their email. The fact that tablets are involved is secondary; if 2000 additional desktops had been deployed, the systems would probably have been overwhelmed as well. My guess is that the email system was deployed years ago, possibly by a consulting firm that is now out of business, and that some poor IT guy has been trying to keep everything together on a shoestring budget all this time. The tablet deployment probably occurred without anyone actually consulting the IT staff to see if the system could handle the extra load, and probably by the same group of decision makers who ignored IT's requests for additional servers prior to the deployment.

    • by laird (2705)

      They don't need 5-10 servers.

      Keep in mind that they're not talking about adding 2,000 mailboxes, just adding 2,000 devices to access existing mailboxes. So they don't need more storage, just more server compute capacity. If I had to guess, it might be as simple as them running ActiveSynch on a single, under-resourced server (or VM) as a POC, and they didn't expect (or prepare for) the increased demand of 2,000 more tablets. Should be easy to fix. Though inevitably they're trying to do a dozen other things,

      • by hawguy (1600213)

        They don't need 5-10 servers.

        Keep in mind that they're not talking about adding 2,000 mailboxes, just adding 2,000 devices to access existing mailboxes. So they don't need more storage, just more server compute capacity. If I had to guess, it might be as simple as them running ActiveSynch on a single, under-resourced server (or VM) as a POC, and they didn't expect (or prepare for) the increased demand of 2,000 more tablets. Should be easy to fix. Though inevitably they're trying to do a dozen other things, and it'll take three months to do the paperwork to get the approval to buy a new server and get it deployed. Remember,

        Except they specifically said that their servers can't handle the load.... so it sounds like the *do* need more servers.

        Which is not a big deal, all it takes is money for licenses and hardware. I don't know why this even made the news, it should read "School bought iPads without appropriate backend infrastructure to support them". It's not like Exchange can't scale to handle a few thousand Activesync devices.

  • Go figure (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @09:46AM (#38249682) Homepage Journal

    Lack of resource forecasting/planning will get you every time. Its not like they didn't know how many would be deployed and on what schedule.. geesh

  • It's great when a prediction is both public and quantifiable.

  • Typical... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 03, 2011 @10:36AM (#38249954)

    This is the same IT group that closes its employee payroll information site on nights and weekends. Yup, you read that right -- the NYC DoE "Payroll Portal" where 80,000+ employees check their pay stubs is only open during business hours. It's never been clear why that is -- they couldn't possibly have people pulling the data manually for each request, could they? So you teach all day, go home, apply for an apartment, and can't get your pay stubs at 8 p.m. from a system that is touted as convenient and accessible over the public internet.

    Point being, this is a function that is probably short on resources, but also fails to make the most of the funding and systems they do have.

    • by smash (1351)
      Maybe they're....y'know.... doing a pay run. or maintenance....
      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        Maybe they're....y'know.... doing a pay run. or maintenance....

        Then I'd accept 15min - 1h daily in the middle of the night as reasonable downtime for that kind of system. God our system at work handles 30k clients and is down for 20min a week to perform this task. Extensive maintenance sometimes brings it down for an hour on the weekend. Usually after 7pm on a Saturday.

  • Deploy another host, deploy another template VM to distribute load? Surely it's a plug-in, click/drag fix once they add a new host, right? +1 Scalability.

    • by laffer1 (701823)

      And deploy it on what? The assumption here is the hardware can't handle the load. Deploying a new VM on the same hardware isn't going to make it faster.. quite the opposite. Virtualization doesn't solve all problems, especially when it's probably running on underpowered hardware.

    • Don't forget the licensing.. In some government areas, it can take weeks to get a purchase through the purchasing dept..

  • by GoRK (10018)

    $1MM of iPads represents about 2500-3000 users depending on the discount they received. First, I'm presuming that these users already had mailboxes and it's just the additional load of ActiveSync that is causing the trouble. If that's the case, with the types of discounts that government and education receive from microsoft and hardware vendors this is like a $15,000 problem at best. In the scope of a million-dollar project a 1.5% budget problem represents poor planning, but I've seen much much worse.

  • I worked first tier tech support for the NYC DOE for 2 years. The amount of space the regular employees get for email is 25MB. Asst. Principals get 30, and Principals get 50.
  • I bet cloud services are starting to look REALLY tempting to them right now. No worrying about overwhelmed servers, it Just Works.

    Google is probably salivating while hearing about this.

  • Switch to the Google Apps GovCloud or Microsoft Live 365. Oh, it isn't secure!!! Do you think the current admins have Exchange set up securely? You also get spam blocking and Postini with Google.

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