In collaboration with VMware, HP, and Dicker Data, IT solutions provider to the education sector, Computelec, has implemented new virtualisation client infrastructure technology as part of a pilot-type project for Melbourne’s Mazenod College.
The solution created a standardised school virtual desktop that is device agnostic. This has enabled students and teachers to access software from any device – both school owned and those brought in by students – as it resides on centralised servers rather than sitting within individual pieces of hardware.
In addition, students who do not own high quality machines can utilise the remote virtual desktops and have all the necessary features to complete the curricula. This includes access to the full Microsoft Office and Adobe suites, delivered through a filtered connection for parents’ peace of mind.
From a maintenance perspective, software can now be updated and patched on one centralised image rather than forcing IT to visit each device.
Mazenod required the overhaul as it previously struggled to manage its large platform which was backed by a small number of resources, according to Computelec senior account manager, Nick Walters. The college has a fleet of about 1350 devices catering for 1200 students and 150 teachers, ae diverse ecosystem that includes desktops, laptops, and tablets.
“This is one of the first schools in the country to do this sort of thing,” Walters said. “We put in place the VMware View platform based on HP Blade system for originally 400 desktops.”
“As it was one of the first, we went in with an open mind. We had a good crew [comprised of the team from Dicker Data, and engineers from VMware and HP] that could effectively design and implement a solution with the goal of being able to replicate that technology to other schools.”
The process commenced in mid-2012, with the first servers going into the College in November and December. The solution itself went live at the end of January and in time for the first term of the year. The technology is currently available full time to around 200 HP thin clients.
Walters said Mazenod has been open-minded during the project, having put effort into developing the technology themselves, including the use of ThinApp. The College has also been open to sharing what it has done with other schools.
The road ahead
At this stage, Walters said the client virtualisation technology is in its infancy, meaning Computelec and its project partners must continue to ensure the user experience is similar to traditional desktop and laptop experiences.
While it is not quite there yet, Walters is adamant it is getting close.
“Moving forward there is a commitment from Computelec, HP and VMware to improve service delivery and the whole site itself in terms of using the College as a reference site,” he said.
This means the project will be under ongoing development and reassessment until it adequately matures.