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

Delivering software to labs across campus and enabling BYOD at Coventry University

Watch Coventry University's recent presentation at our Software2 User Day and learn how IT are making any app available in labs across campus, while also enabling student BYOD.

In this recorded presentation (given to the Software2 Community), Coventry University's IT team leader Dean Shaw explains how they're delivering software to students across campus, on-demand. Dean explains how the university were previously using App-V and SCCM and why they needed a flexible and more efficient replacement.

Thanks to AppsAnywhere and its integration with Cloudpaging, the IT team are now able to...

  • streamline the work-intensive process of imaging machines
  • package and virtualize 100% of apps, while reducing packaging time and image size
  • deliver apps across campus to any machine and any lab
  • enable student BYOD and access to software on student-owned devices
  • provide apps in a consistent way for every OS, in geographically-dispersed campuses
  • migrate to Windows 10 by separating apps from the underlying OS
  • provide an awesome student IT experience

Related reading...

Delivering software to labs across campus and enabling BYOD at Coventry University - Video Transcription

So just a quick run through. We've been a university since 1992, but we've actually been in existence for 175 years. We started out as a school, we've had various names, polytechnics, and in 1992 we gained university status. I've been here since 1994. Now the main campus and our Coventry University London campus consist of four faculties, and they contain schools and departments. The four faculties are obviously on the main campus, but parts of those are also at London campus.

The actual group, because we're a group now, not just a university, we also consist of a central campus. That's predominantly teaching business and fashion. Then we also have what are called subsidiaries. So we started out with CU Coventry, which was a couple of years ago called a college. They've since expanded into Scarborough and Dagenham, which we call CU London. They're basically, they offer two-year fast track degrees, rather than the tradition three-year, four-year offering that the main university offers.

Okay, so on to our journey. So before we chose Application Jukebox, I'm sure most of you will be familiar with what I'm about to say. So we create or created desktop images which included app installs and dependencies. If I'm brutally honest, we still do that to a point. There are some images that are very basic Windows and Office with little else, and AppsAnywhere is now the go to portal for applications.

So we used to create image ... well, we still create images, but we created more back in the day. We deployed packaged applications using Altiris during and after imaging, so when we did our labs. We also deployed packaged apps using Config Manager SCCM during and after imaging as well.

So an example I can give you for the Config Manager, a lot of our staff will state when it's imaged, once they're imaged, obviously various deployments are targeted at those devices So the user can then obviously start to do their job.

Also, back in the day, we provisioned App-V apps for our RDS, Remote Desktop Service. We started off with Terminal Services, and then upgraded to Remote Desktop Service.

When we committed to App-V, our intention was to do away with traditional packaging. So the AdminStudios, the Wise Package Studio offerings, and use App-V across the desktop and the remote desktop estate. But what my colleagues and I found, that actually App-V for us was more time consuming, and we also felt there was limited support available from various channels, and including Microsoft.

Then finally, we have, with creating those traditional monolithic imaging, obviously certain apps would only ever be available in certain labs.

Just to add to the first slide, there's obviously clearly a reliance on computers being powered on and in full working order. Some app installs need to meet certain triggers, conditions, such as logon status. Although we can ... obviously I've stated we considered upgrading App-V. At the time we also looked at Citrix VDI solutions, and clearly felt at the time that that option was also too expensive.

So moving on. So first steps, I can't remember exactly when, so I didn't want to start quoting dates and getting my facts wrong. Steve, I think said this morning, we've been on this journey for around about five years, give or take. It's four, five years, something like that. So the first we heard of App-J was one of my colleagues attended a meeting with Viglen.

So back in the day, Viglen were our hardware supplier for desktops and laptops. They came to a meeting and explained the app store Application Jukebox offering. When this was discussed with our director at the time, he said, "Go away and explore this option. This could potentially be a jigsaw piece in the whole scheme of things that we do." I think what we thought at the time was maybe this shouldn't be a jigsaw piece. Maybe this should be a complete offering.

So what we then did was we arranged a video conference with Kingston. Correct me if I'm wrong guys. We then subsequently backed that up by visiting Surrey University, who I think Kingston at the time had said to us that it would be ... I think they mentioned Surrey and so forth.

So we visited Surrey, we met up with a guy called James. I don't think he's here today.

No, he's not.

No, he's usually here, most user days I see him.

So initially we visited James, obviously asking loads of questions, being shown loads of things. Very similar paths at the time. What we then did was we came back to Coventry, we explained a few things to colleagues and management, and we then went back again. I think we went back with other people, and then I think then we attended a user day as well, soon after. From all those webinars, catch ups, visits, we chose to purchase a 500 seat license, a trial license.

So obviously at that time, you then ask the question, "Why did we choose it?" So obviously from what the slide says, we felt that it was good that we could provision instantly. We liked the idea of the community driven support aspect. I mean Surrey really, really sold that to us in addition to Software2 and Kingston. When we pursued App-V we didn't hear this, we just kept hearing that if third parties weren't quite on board, a lot of software vendors didn't know what virtualization was. You could argue the same for Application Jukebox, but clearly we were shown and encouraged that there was definitely a community driven support ethic. That gave us the confidence to pursue this product, know that we have some kind of backup from various universities that had already committed. We liked the idea of the recipes, the knowledge based articles and so forth.

From hearing colleagues at Surrey and the user days, we kept hearing that it was less time-consuming to package. We obviously felt that was consuming when we used App-V, and we used a product called Admin Studio which we also felt was quite time-consuming. Obviously there were other packaging tools out there that weren't so, but clearly we'd already started this journey and this is where we wanted it to take us.

Then ultimately we chose Application Jukebox because student satisfaction was becoming quite a main driver for league table status, and it was really being driven home to all support staff, to teaching staff. We felt that this would tick the box, or this product would tick many of those boxes.

So, we started out as I said earlier, with a trial. We implemented a trial in one of our labs for about two months. The room holds 100 seats, but we didn't actually make it available to all 100 seats. I think it was something like a dozen or so machines. The initial idea was to create some kind of fanfare, publicity, so forth and so forth, but actually what we did was we did a stealth deployment.

So those machines in the room to anybody that would walk in the room, looks no different, felt no different. What we did was we actually just walked the walk. We walked into those rooms and we, as techies, would just sit down and pretend that we were working away. Every now and again we would just see how people were consuming the trial, so to speak. There was only a dozen or so apps.

During that trial, we obviously asked those students what were their experiences. Some of them clearly just used them for word and the internet, so they weren't actually using some of those apps. We did provide a desktop shortcut.

But anyway, the feedback that we gained from this was we had plans to suppress the Cloudpaging Player because we just felt it got in the way, it was a bit clunky at the time. But actually, the students actually really liked that. Why they liked it was traditionally when they launch an app that would take a couple of minutes to launch, they'd click on it and they'd sit there. Obviously nowadays everybody wants things done like this. What they felt was they had that tactile feedback. They could see that something was happening, the whole process of the app launching. So we said we'll leave it in, we'll let everybody see this because then at least ... because then what was also happening was when it wasn't launching, they would click it again and again and again in the old way.

So that lab, I don't think at the time was part of engineering, but it soon became an engineering lab. But as Surrey and other universities had told us, they chose this product to start in their engineering and computing faculty. I'm sure I'm not the only that's going to say this, but this faculty's our largest and most demanding faculty for software requirements, last minute requirements and so forth.

So after the trial, we launched Application Jukebox, which we called Software Portal. So we had a desktop shortcut, we started to add more and more applications, and we publicized this and promoted this to the faculty, and obviously encouraged those students and those teachers to use this product. After a few months we started to plan for the S2Hub upgrade.

Initially we were talking about integrating Config Manager with S2Hub. So Ryan came to see us, et cetera, et cetera, and initially we upgraded to S2Hub with that intention. But actually what we found was we had less and less Config Manager apps, SCCM apps, because a lot of those had since been virtualized and provisioned in the S2Hub, or previously the Software Portal. So what we actually then started to plan was its actual upgrade and complete release to the business.

So as I say, we upgraded after a year, and in February of 2016 we largely publicized this upgrade to that faculty because they were the main consumers. But what we actually chose to do in addition was we made everything available to both our students and staff on the campus, and to our BYOD users, which was quite a tall order for our guys. I mean, we were under immense pressure for something in the region of about four to six weeks where we'd planned to do a phased approach. We though main campus faculties, then the staff, then the students, and then BYOD. Suddenly senior management said, "Everything in six weeks."

So that's what we actually did. Obviously once we went live, we carried on populating the portal, and as I say at the very end, we had to migrate all the existing apps and test both them on and off. So colleagues would literally be at home and we'd be launching the same apps at home to make sure they worked off campus, off domain. Obviously there was apps that needed the VPN client, so we had to test those as well. We had to go through a lot of very quick and thorough testing so that we could meet the deadline that was set for us.

We chose February, I believe, because it was around reading week, half-term week. The feeling was that was the best time to release it.

So after that, obviously I think we went to a user day when Software2 announced they were releasing AppsAnywhere. I think at the start of last year as we started to plan for the Windows 10 upgrade, we thought it'd be a really good idea to launch AppsAnywhere, upgrade our student machines to Windows 10, and release it at the same time. So we went live in September '17.

At that point a lot of the, what we call myLaunch S2Hub apps, were migrated into the AppsAnywhere set up. We went live and rolled out to our student desktop estate as we upgraded them to Windows 10 64-bit. We did this to the whole of the main campus. I think within 6 to 12 weeks we had all our student-facing machines upgraded to Windows 10, and AppsAnywhere was the default. We even created a start menu shortcut to make sure that we didn't have to promote a URL and so forth and so forth. Even though we did those things, we wanted to spoonfeed everybody a start menu shortcut.

At the same time, we were also ... the server team had a directive to upgrade the Remote Desktop Service to Server 16. So we also wanted to do away with App-V because we were still using App-V on our Remote Desktop Service. So we upgraded to a slightly newer version of AppsAnywhere so that we could be compatible and provision to the Server 16 category, and some of our apps are also available to our ... we call it RemoteAnywhere. So AppsAnywhere's on RemoteAnywhere, and there's about a dozen or so apps that are also available on the desktop that have to be available on that platform to be in a secure environment.

So now that we've got AppsAnywhere in place, obviously there are things that we review, we need to embrace. There's technologies that have been mentioned today that obviously it's been mentioned previously. Clearly we don't sit still. We'd like to provision more applications. Imminently we have to upgrade to the latest version available to ensure that we take advantage of those features because we do publicize those features to our faculties to try and get their buy-in, to make them understand that even though they've got this product, that we are upgrading. Sorry, that the people that we but it from are constantly evolving a product based on our feedback, rather than it just stagnating and they just have what we've got.

We have a current activity, and it has been since last year, of constantly reviewing our publicity materials. So last year, I created a video with a colleague, a promotional video to show our users how to use the AppsAnywhere platform that we offer. So we obviously captured the use of it, we did a script so we can narrate how to use it and so forth. The previous year we promoted the S2Hub. The feedback we got this year was we didn't tell them enough. Last year we got told we told them too much.

So working with the service desk this year, we're doing little bite-sized videos. So what we're going to do this year is we're going to create videos that say how to use the AppsAnywhere platform at university, how to use it on BYOD. Then we've also, because of the apps that need VPN, we're going to also show people how to obtain the VPN and how to launch those apps with the VPN client.

The third bullet, provide students with free copies of Windows 10. Now the reason why we've got this on there is based on feedback, we haven't really provisioned anything for the Mac users on AppsAnywhere yet because we've tried this year to focus on the Windows estate, the Windows offering. Because as I've said, we upgraded all our student machines to Windows 10, and so all our resource was on that activity. Initially we thought the feedback was that the Mac users were complaining there were no apps for Mac. What they were actually saying was we want to use the Windows apps that aren't for Mac, on our Macs. What some students were doing, they were going out and buying Parallels. For those students that are part of STEM, the space, they were obtaining the ISOs for Windows 10, putting Windows 10 on their MacBook, and then using AppsAnywhere on that.

So I'm exploring with Microsoft where we stand with offering Windows 10 to all our students. One, for that reason, but the other reason is some of the students didn't upgrade to Windows 10. A lot of them ignored that free upgrade, and now they're complaining they can't have access to AppsAnywhere. The reason being is the business decided that when we upgraded to Windows 10, we support Windows 10. We don't support Windows 7. We moved on, we're now Windows 10 all the way. The problem is we still have staff on Windows 7, so they use our old portal and students use our new one. So now we're just starting to image staff machines onto Windows 10, but the free copy idea is to provide our students and potential staff that have got Windows 7, Windows 8, to upgrade to 10 for free.

Obviously it's always everybody's intention to provide more apps. Looking at videos, demos, when I think Phil and Tony came recently, they showed us a demo portal. I saw today some of you provision the Office 365 shortcut, the web shortcut, whereas we typically provision the apps. We don't tend to provision shortcuts to those kind of options. But I think more and more of us are trying to say, "Look, instead of a student going here to do this ..." Even our director now, just recently we've provisioned Yammer and Teams via Config Manager and we're going to integrate. You know what I mean. We're going to make those available in AppsAnywhere as well just because the director basically said it's a real faff having to go to portal.office.com when I just want to click on launch within the AppsAnywhere portal.

Another point is obviously it's been mentioned earlier, the Parallels RAS. So again, Tony and Phil just recently came to us and obviously explained this whole piece to us. It's been discussed today as well. We are seriously going to consider this. Amongst my team today, we all feel that this reduces duplication. So right now we obviously package for the Windows estate, and then we have to provision the same thing for the Mac estate using Jamf, or actually provisioning the DMGs or the PKGs via AppsAnywhere. Very clunky. This can reduce a lot of overhead, a lot of resource which we clearly haven't got, so this is a serious thing that we are considering pursuing.

Finally, we are trying to ... well, business partners as we call them, we're trying to work closely with the software requesters and the software vendors to ensure the apps that we're purchasing can be provisioned overseas. What we really mean by that is the terms and conditions that they offer you are very convoluted, very wordy, it's very hard to read between the lines to state whether this software can be used in another country. Because as you all know, for those of you that use AppsAnywhere, when you provision you can say UK only, France, Germany and so forth. By default, what my guys do unless we're told or it states, we will not provision beyond the UK to ensure we don't break and licensing agreements.

But we found just last year alone, there was a couple of items of software that were needed for students in India that actually were being taught in India. Now we didn't realize that we'd started a startup in India, and they were complaining they couldn't access some apps. It took weeks working with the vendors to ask them. "We've got this AppsAnywhere product." "What's AppsAnywhere?" You know, the usual. "We need to provision this application to our students that are in India." "Right, okay. How many weeks will they be in India?" We just said, "Permanent." They're not there for six weeks then come back. So we faced tho se battles basically.

So what we're saying to everybody from now on, anything that you buy, anything that you renew, we really need you to ask these companies. Maybe we can work with Software2 and you guys, then if we find something out, we share with you guys. That's the idea, because every day, a day doesn't go by when it's, "Is such and such available in such and such a country? Is such and such ..." We're like stuck records.

I haven't put this on the slides but what I've currently been doing with our SharePoint engineers is we're doing something similar to what Lancaster had, do. We're providing a software catalog with our list of apps, who they're available to, and things like where they can be accessed from. It's been a slow burner because I want it to look like a webpage, currently looks like SharePoint. But we're that close to launching that. Our hope with that is that it reduces the overhead that's put on my team being interrupted with questions constantly about, "Can such and such a student access? Can a group of students access?" So that's one last thing on that one.

So, this is just a quick summary then of our journey. So in 2015 we launched Application Jukebox, which we called Software Portal. We provisioned those apps for Windows 7 64-bit versions only. The reason why we did that was because predominantly this was for the student estate and all our student machines were 64-bit. However, there were staff with 32-bit, but we didn't promote it to staff at that time.

When we upgraded to S2Hub, we then provisioned to 7, 8, 8.1 and 10 64-bit versions. Again, 64-bit versions only. At that point then it was obviously available to staff as well, and by that point a lot of the 32-bit Windows 7s had started to disappear to the 64-bit versions. But again, as I said earlier on, when we moved to Windows 10, we then just ensured that all our packaging machines were upgraded to 10, and there was no longer an activity where we would test against 7. We were just all focused on Windows 10.

That has created its own challenges from, like I said, BYOD, staff still being on 7, especially with teaching staff that go into a lab and teach 10, and then come back to the room and go, "I can't use AppsAnywhere." So as I've already mentioned, we're tackling those kind of activities.

Some of those apps that's are on AppsAnywhere, we've also, because we upgraded, we've provisioned those to the Server 16 platform for our RDS users. So these are our finance applications and secure applications that need to be obviously secure, and can't be used off campus based on the categories that you can choose.

I think that's it.

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