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IT Networking Program Focuses Teaching on Growing Field of Virtualization

February 2013

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MATC information technology networking instructor Brian Kirsch (right) explains a VMware concept to student Linus Fitzgerald.

Managing virtual servers and data storage is one of the most rapidly growing challenges in the information technology networking field. Demand for workers with virtualization expertise is high, with employees earning an average of between $92,000 to $116,600 a year nationally depending upon their level of certification, according to the 2012 Global Knowledge and TechReport.

As companies clamor for workers trained in this technology, incumbent workers are scrambling to update their credentials in this field.

MATC is meeting this need by offering a course in VMware vSphere 5. VMware vSphere is the most popular virtualization software in the United States and is used in all Fortune 100 and 96 percent of Fortune 500 companies, according to www.vmware.com. The course covers installation, configuration and management of VMware vSphere. It is part of the IT networking associate degree program, but many area professionals also are enrolling in MATC's VMware course because the cost is much lower than it is offered elsewhere.

Challenge to Teach Concept of Virtual Storage
Until the Fall 2012 semester, the concept behind the virtual storage software was very difficult for students to understand. "What we'd found was that students had very little knowledge of the concepts of storage," said Brian Kirsch, MATC IT networking instructor. "This presented a great challenge because the only Storage Area Network (SAN) we had was a virtual appliance. We were forced to ‘whiteboard' many of the storage concepts since we did not have the hardware to physically show them. It is a complicated concept."

Kirsch, who serves on a the board of directors for VMUG (VMware User Group), an international professional association, investigated a dozen different types of virtual storage hardware for use by MATC classes while at the VMworld show last summer. Due to budget restraints, he was searching for a modestly priced piece of equipment. A meeting with a representative from Synology, Inc., resulted in the company donating an RS3412RPxs rack station to MATC. The equipment is an enterprise-level storage hardware box used by Fortune 500 companies and is worth about $10,000.

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IT networking student Ryan Dembiec replaces a "hot swap" hard drive in the Synology SAN device.


Synology Hardware Donation Enhances Teaching

"Upon receiving this unit, we mounted it on a wheeled cart along with two VMware hosts and a virtual center," Kirsch said. "The first time we presented it to the students in the VMware class, they all pulled up their chairs and it was an amazing sight. This was no longer theory. It was sitting in front of them."

Virtual storage on this type of hardware is designed to hold many "silos" of data on one machine instead of having individual servers for each application, Kirsch said. For example, instead of storing each program and its data on a separate machine, there might be 25 copies of an application, such as Windows, running simultaneously on the same piece of hardware. Each works with an individual application. Redundancy is built into the hardware, so that if something happens to an application, another part of the machine picks up the data immediately and keeps it running so there is no interruption of service for the users and no loss of data.

Having many applications running on only one machine saves money by conserving power, heat and storage space. It also saves time, because the technology is flexible enough to allow technicians to make quick adjustments. Companies also can add virtual servers to the same machine without dealing with a lengthy capital equipment request process for new projects, Kirsch explained.

"The first time we presented it to the students in the VMware class, they all pulled up their chairs and it
was an amazing sight. This was no longer theory. It was sitting in front of them."
- Brian Kirsch, MATC IT networking instructor 

Commitment to Expanding Virtualization Training
MATC's IT networking program will continue to expand its teachings in virtualization and virtual storage. New courses in storage and use of "the cloud" are anticipated beginning with the 2013-2014 academic year. The program also is reaching out to bring more professionals to campus. The Wisconsin VMware User Group will hold a conference at the Downtown Milwaukee Campus March 21, allowing members to learn about the MATC offerings, tour facilities and to give students a chance to network with working professionals.

In addition to Kirsch, MATC instructors Layne Davis and Pat Feder also are certified to teach VMware, giving MATC more VMware certified teachers than most colleges, according to Kirsch.

The School of Business is committed to expanding learning opportunities in virtualization, Kirsch said. "Technology such as virtualization and the cloud are no longer reserved for Fortune 500 companies. This technology is being used in local Milwaukee area businesses and they need administrators and engineers to support that technology. MATC is at the forefront of training people to support these new technologies for growth here and across the country."

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For more information on MATC's IT network specialist associate degree program, visit:

http://www.matc.edu/student/offerings/cisnetwork.cfm