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Posted on by Phil Spitze in Application Virtualization, Student Experience, BYOD, Customers

Delivering apps with Parallels RAS at George Brown College

In case you missed our webinar on how George Brown College are using Parallels RAS to deliver applications, we've provided a recording below to watch at your leisure.

In this webinar, Frank Rosa (Director of IT Services at George Brown College) demonstrates why they chose to integrate Parallels RAS into AppsAnywhere, alongside Cloudpaging, and how the college is delivering native Windows apps to any device (including Mac!). There's even a live demo!


Read more about Parallels RAS and how your organization can use AppsAnywhere's versatility to deliver software application on and off-site, to any device on-demand.

Please don't hesitate to get in touch with any questions you may have about AppsAnywhere or Parallels RAS.


Delivering apps with Parallels RAS at GBC - Webinar transcript

Hello, there. Hi everybody. Good day, and welcome. My name is Phil. I'm with Software2, and before we get started, just a couple points of order here. The webinar is being recorded, and so a sharing link will be distributed once the processing of the video has been completed, and we are going to be taking questions at the end.

So if you can use the questions panel, and go to meeting controls for that, we will get to those at the end. And off we go. So thanks very much for joining us. The purpose of today's webinar is to showcase the great implementation of AppsAnywhere at George Brown College, who are located in Toronto, Canada. Not only is George Brown one of our longest running customers in North America, they are also the first to fully implement our Parallels RAS integration up in Canada.

So from George Brown our guest speaker is Frank Rosa. Frank has an extensive career history in IT, with over 19 years experience in total, and over nine years experience in the higher ed sector. Currently, he holds the position of Director of Enterprise Applications in the information technology division at George Brown College. So without any further delay, Frank, I'm gonna turn it over to you.

Thanks, Phil. Can you hear me fine?

Yep. Good to go.

Okay, so let's stay out of that mode and I'll just use the regular. Okay, so hi everyone. I'm just gonna start off with just giving you a little bit more context of our institution, so it'll help you understand scale for how we deployed Software2. So we're a college in Canada, and we're in downtown Toronto. We have three campuses with over 50 buildings. We have nine centers, or faculties, ranging ... and I listed them there.

Basically, we cover a pretty broad spectrum, in terms of higher education, business, arts and design, information technology, community services and early childhood, right down to construction and engineering technologies. And we also have a fairly large continuing education school. We have approximately 24,000 students that are full time. That range varies from year to year, but that's rough. We have about 60,000 continuing education registrants. About 300 classrooms and 200 labs, so about 500 learning spaces. The college owns and deploys about 3,800 computers in those classrooms and labs, and we're essentially ... our technology landscape is essentially Cisco for networking, Blackboard for our learning management system, Ellucian Banner for our student information system, and we are both a Windows and Mac shop 'cause of our business and design schools.

So my current role is the Director of Enterprise Applications, and in my current role and previous roles I've managed the above learning spaces and services for those spaces. When I joined the technology to distribute software was a combination of Ghost and Dell KACE. So that's a little bit about the institution to frame things up for you. The next slide, I'm gonna discuss some of our challenges. So number one was that, with those technologies, we were spending a lot of time, so effort and cost, to build images that we would either distribute through Ghost or KACE.

And also, out of those 3,800 computers, we had many models, many vintages, some are different form factors from laptops, desktops, workstations, and then we'd run into software compatibility issues with the different hardware. So number one, it was just the labor intensity of being able to distribute software. Secondly, we found that, especially in this digitizing environment that our professors were fairly demanding, mostly because there was a broad spectrum that we covered and some of the industries were moving faster than others, and other industries liked older versions, and so we had the full spectrum of demands from adding new software, adding new versions of software. Basically, performance on specific computers.

And they didn't like the administration of, "Hey, this two or three times a year where you have to submit what software you want for the upcoming term," because sometimes they wouldn't know or something would change, and as we wanted, we wanted to really create an environment where they could just walk in and start teaching. So on the staff side, obviously, it was time consuming to create and test images, and depending on how large an image was, it was hard to deploy to all these labs and all these computers all the time. And one of the restrictions we had, if there was a professor that wanted SPSS Version 2 and the other person wanted Version 3, you couldn't have that in the same environment, so we had to basically broker those to pick a common version, because we couldn't support multiple versions of the same software on the operating systems we supported.

There was just a lot of extra time tracking all our software licensing and understanding what was truly being used, and that was important to us from a cost saving perspective. Also, we found that because we were deploying specific software to specific labs, we were constraining the potential of students to learn, because they had to go to certain labs in certain hours, and when those hours were up there would be another class go on, and if they couldn't get a lab or computer, their learning would be curtailed. And we want to really remove that constraint, to help them to be in a learn anywhere, anytime environment.

Then also, the learning applications have evolved, because they weren't just made of applications anymore. There was a lot of websites, there was a lot of mobile apps, and then what we saw was there was really a portfolio of electronic resources that staff and faculty wanted to show to their students. So the three groups, obviously, the student, staff, and faculty, they all had their own expectations, so it was trying to come up with a solution to really maximize their expectations with the least effort and highest reliability as possible.

So in my time, in the last nine years, we tried three common marketplace solutions. One was piloted with 98 applications. We tried to load them all. Essentially, we found that with these commonplace market solutions there were significant upfront costs, and in the long run, the costs wouldn't add out, and there would be no significant, real cost savings, but there would be improvement in the way we could deploy software, and the flexibility of deploying software. And it did have some improved reporting.

The other thing we noticed is that all the technologies we tried and reviewed, that there wasn't one technology that would enable us to deploy all 98 applications, and some of them were because of dongles, some of them was because of restricted IPs and different licensing methods. It was a real mixed environment, so we couldn't find an affordable solution that really fit us the best, and then basically we discovered Software2. So quickly, just Software 2. It's the company behind AppsAnywhere, and the company is really focused on helping higher education institutions to optimize delivery, and most importantly the utilization, of the software.

We actually picked two different technologies to distribute software within the AppsAnywhere environment. We initially started off with Cloud Paging, which was optimal for the Windows and distributing software in the Windows Environment, but then we had a lot of other devices, and because we wanted to support learn anywhere, anytime, we'd ideally like to get as much software to the students, to their native device, and the common factor there would be any device that could support HTML5. So we added the Parallels RAS to our delivery methods through AppsAnywhere, and once we packaged the software, we were able to choose the distribution channel that optimized the delivery of the software.

So when we deployed Software2, things started to look very different for us, and in a positive way, and number one, the vision of an affordable way to liberate students from our labs was materializing. For the team, it meant that we could deploy software much more efficiently. We could allow multiple versions of the same software to run on a device. We could remove our professors' restrictions and deadlines about requesting software. We were able to build a one stop shop of electronic resources that the students would be able to see, so like software store, so all the software the college has, and you could group it up, and I'll show that later. Or software related to a specific campus, or software related to a specific OS, or software related to a specific program of study.

You could group those up anyway you want, and it allowed our staff, even employees, to basically access software without physical deploys, and I typically work on a Mac and a Windows environment. I have a Windows desktop on my desk, and I have a Mac laptop in my briefcase, and I'm able to basically work seamlessly. Like, from my desk, save the document, pick up my briefcase, pop up my Mac, and continue working. And while that's very possible to do today, one of the problems I had was that on a Mac you can't access Visio and you can't access Project, because those are only natively built for the Windows environment.

So with Software2, I was able to basically real time grab either one of those pieces of software, and run it when I needed it to keep me productive. So with the RAS side of the Parallels, we were able to increase the range of allowing students to pull specific software on any device they had that supports HTML5, so that allowed them to access and study and learn more broadly. One of the main benefits between this technology and the others was that, with this, you can run offline, and that was important for us, because sometimes some of our students did not have network where they always are, 24 hours, so this was a big benefit for us.

It allowed us to also make our labs more flexible, because if a lab was previously configured for CAD, and there was no CAD class happening, we could literally get that lab booked for other uses because they could pull software. Students could pull directly from Software2. Then we had, basically, the ability to run these non-native software on the devices. The reporting was a big benefit. We were able to see real time usage of software, of what was really being used, and we also were able to expose software to Adobe, if you were licensed through this mechanism, which helped people, again.

And basically, our goal was really to create an environment where we'd have Bare Metal machines, plus the operating system, and with AppsAnywhere, if we deployed that everywhere, then our labs could be highly flexible in terms of utilization and students, as well, could access their software in a more flexible environment. So we initially acquired 500 Parallel licenses from our initial setup. We recommended one VM per 20 to 40 users, depending on how intensive the app was. So if it was more like a CAD or Adobe, you would go to the lower end of that, so you would set up one VM for 20 users.

If the software was lighter weight, you could start pushing in the 40 area per VM, and specifically what we found was that, especially for SPSS, and that's pretty common software in higher education, that we definitely, for that one, would recommend 20 users max per VM. Parallels comes with its own load balancer, but your infrastructure teams typically have their own, and we were able to find that you could use either one. In our case, we used our infrastructure's team load balancer. And we started off with running the Parallels on about 80 concurrent users. We started off that in one building, and once we got that going, we're starting to grow it and we're broadening its use throughout the college, our next step is to 200.

And then our end state is to ramp up to 500 licenses. So what I'm gonna do is just gonna give you a quick demo, right now, of the software, and I'm just gonna switch over to my Safari browser, and Phil, if you could tell me if you see that ... ?

Yep. You're all set.

Okay. So again, here, I'm just running on a MacBook Pro. It's an i5, and I'm gonna log in with my credentials, and basically, then, it defaults right to ... in my case, I set up my favorites as these two pieces of software I use frequently. So I'm just gonna show you how easy it is. I'm gonna click on Visio, and I'm gonna launch it.

And so, just to clarify, Frank, this is using the HTML5 option, so it's a clientless connection where you're now running Visio on a Mac?

Correct. Yeah. So I need to run Visio, I'm gonna pull up a diagram that I often need access to, so I'm gonna get ... and here's Visio fired up within the browser. Oops, sorry. Let me move that out of the way.

Here, so I'm just gonna move browsers, and gonna show this again. Hold on, Chrome, here. Can you guys see that?

Yep. We gotcha again.

Okay, thank you. Go back. Takes a few seconds to load up. Okay, so we put this message up because we don't want people to basically hog a license, so if it's inactive for 60 minutes, we basically reclaim the license so we could use it. So what I'm gonna do is just pop up a fairly detailed Visio drawing. So this is like a schematic that I often have to review in the college to understand systems, and so immediately, right now, I have access to the software. Just gonna scale this out a bit. And I'm running, basically, Visio now, in an HTML5 browser, and I could basically ... I haven't found any restrictions in terms of the capability, what I'm able to do, and the native software is on Windows, so it basically runs as if it was on a Windows machine in the browser.

And the performance is very good, so I just ... again, the full menu ribbon comes up, running in HTML5, and I got the full capabilities, and I didn't have to install the software. And I could release it when I'm not being used so there people could use it. The other one that I typically use a lot of is Microsoft Project, and again, Microsoft Project doesn't run native on a Mac, so here I could pop up the Project, and I'm just gonna type in some.

So I got the full capability, and the nice thing is you could reference your files from OneDrive, and you could view it, and you could edit it, and basically run your applications through an HTML5-compatible browser. So that's just an example of going back to the environment, and also I was talking about grouping, so you could set this up anyway you want, and you could decide which distribution method you want your software to be distributed through, and you could group through what software is available on Windows, if you wanna search for Windows software.

You could break it up by campus, or by technology type, or if it's free, or if it's Adobe Creative Cloud-based application, or you could see all of them. So that's nice, and then it's got the full reporting capability, but primarily, this webinar was really to show you Parallels RAS in action, and to describe how it's solved some of our business problems, and helped our business become more agile and more lean in terms of utilizing the software that we have for our students. So Phil, I'm gonna turn it over for some questions. I don't have any additional content to present, so we got some extra time to take some questions, or see other stuff.

Oh, yes. Yeah, no, that's really great, Frank. Thank you so much for taking the time to share all of this. We do, in fact, have a few questions, so we'll just kinda take 'em one by one and see how we get on. So I've got two of the same question from two different folks. They're curious about the server hardware that you've installed Parallels RAS on. Is it physical servers or virtual servers?

We did ... everything is virtual. That's our first mode of operation.

And do you know the specs, by chance? The number of CPUs and RAM?

I don't know off the top of my head, but I could find out that information for you. So yeah, for the 20 to 40, if we used the same hardware, I could definitely get that.

Okay. Perfect. Yeah, we'll circle back on that by email. Another question. Are you saving the user sessions, or does everybody connect with a default profile?

I don't know how we set that up, so I'll have to find that, as well.

Okay. Typically it's a default profile that gets used, unless you have a user environment or profile management solution also in place. You can integrate that with Parallels RAS, but we will find out from Frank what they're doing there. And then a couple of folks have also asked about where your users are saving files, and making sure that those files are portable from ... like, as you talked about, from your Mac on Parallels RAS to your Windows desktop, using CloudVision.

Yeah. We use our Microsoft shop, so we use OneDrive. So the files I'm showing you are coming from OneDrive, and we also allow them to save on their own desktop, as well. I'm not sure if we're using ShareDrives. At one point we did, and I didn't see any restrictions for ... I didn't get any complaints about, "Hey, we need more ways to store and retrieve files."

Okay. And this is a question from Eve, "What is the rough cost of licensing?" So Parallels RAS licensing is very straightforward when you purchase from Software2. It's $100 dollars per user per year. That's US dollars, and that includes all of our support, installation, configuration of the server-side components, and that is a concurrent license model. It also has no bearing on the number of servers, so as Frank was talking about user session density on servers, if you find that you're on the lower side and you need more servers to support your users, there's no extra cost. It's always going to be that fixed price per concurrent license. So hopefully that helps answer that question.

Here's another one. Licensing requirements for Parallels on the Microsoft side, and I think this is going to be a question for me. I'll take for now, Frank. There's a difference between VMware's VDI licensing in that any endpoint that is connecting to the VMware VDI environment requires a VDA license, which is Virtual Desktop Access license, and then with Parallels RAS, it actually runs based on a CAL model. So there is no VDA license component. Instead, you can buy a connector license from Microsoft, which I think is as cheap as like a dollar a user, so quite a bit more affordable than the VDA license, and it can be CAL based. Either by user account, or server. So that should answer that one.

Alright. Let me see what the next one is, here. So Frank, you showed the HTML5 connection. Is there also a client-based option? And the answer ... I can take this one. The answer is yes. There is both, and it's purely up to your use case as to what makes the most sense. You get a couple of different features with the client that you don't with the HTML5, such as, if it were needed, you can map the sound drivers as well. So that's one of the benefits of using the client. Followup question to that, Frank, have you noticed any difference between Chrome and Safari? Just in general use.

I toggle with both of them, myself, day to day, and initially I noticed a few more issues with Safari, but recently it's just the calling sequence. Because when it fires up the driver, like, I think Chrome almost does it without even you knowing about it. AppsAnywhere, you have to make sure it's not hidden and enable it, but other than that I can really seamlessly go between the two, myself. I also just ... my architect's available through a remote for this area, and just regarding an earlier question, he said that we don't use default profiles at all. Each user created their profile on a RAS server.

Oh, okay. Perfect, perfect. Here's another question, just about the environment in general. Are you support access to Parallels RAS for both on-campus and off-campus use?

Depends on the license. So like depending on what software-

Of the actual application?

Yes. Yep. Our intention was to be 24x7, as long as you're anywhere, but that's what our default design strategy was, but then underneath that that gets curtailed by depending on how your license is structured.

And that's one of the benefits that AppsAnywhere brings to the table, is part of that contextualization so that we can determine if you're off-campus or on-campus, and help each school maintain that license compliance that the vendors have set forth.

Yeah, and in some cases, definitely, we only allow certain software to be used within the IP of the school, if you're only on-site, somehow.

Okay. A followup question here, but I think you already stated, Parallels does come with its own load balancer option. You guys at George Brown, Frank, you're using an already deployed load balancer, right? That the infrastructure team had in place?

Correct.

Okay. Perfect. Do you use any sync clients for accessing the Parallels RAS environment?

No. Not that ... we have one school, I think we have 80 terminals, but we don't use it there at all.

Okay. Alright, I think that looks like about it in terms of questions at the moment. Again, I just want to thank you, Frank, for taking the time. It was really instructive to see how Parallels RAS really opens up the landscape of being able to access software from any device, and as you mentioned, with the HTML5 option, that can include iPads and Android tablets. We've got a customer over in the UK who is provisioning apps out to Xbox's, which we're not 100% sure why, but it's a possibility.

So really, really just opens up the whole landscape, there. If there were any questions that we missed, I do apologize. We will review all of the questions, and we will follow up by email. Again, the webinar was recorded, so we'll be distributing that link, and as always, we invite you to keep an eye on our website at software2.com

We always have new content being posted. We've got events that are occurring around the world, and please don't hesitate to contact us if we can be in any of assistance, or do any further demos with you. So with that, we're gonna wrap up. Again, thanks everybody for the time. Thank you, Frank, for the presentation. Everybody have a great rest of your day, and enjoy this holiday season. Thanks so much.

Thank you.