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Posted on by Tony Austwick in Application Virtualization, Customers

Deploying STEM Apps Anywhere at Kingston University London

The Kingston University campus is spread across 4 locations around the town of Kingston upon Thames.

Eight miles from the centre of London and serving more than 20,000 students studying across five faculties and partner colleges, at home and abroad, Kingston University is proud of its diverse and multi-cultural student population, and it welcomes many students who are the first in their family to attend university.


Download the Kingston University case study


Supporting STEM Apps.

Recently, Kingston University strategically merged three faculties, Science, Engineering and Computing, to bring these academic disciplines together under one umbrella.

This merger created an interdisciplinary faculty designed to allow students and staff to fully appreciate the benefit from working alongside individuals with related spheres of interest and expertise.

This move encompassed around 40% of the university's total student numbers, creating a large faculty with complex and diverse computing requirements. Over 850 software applications, of which 50% directly support STEM-based subject areas (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), are utilized by staff and students.

It’s rare outside of higher education to find examples where thousands of people (students) have access to thousands of computers and use any one of hundreds of possible apps, often across multiple locations and on demand, too.

Providing an AWESOME student experience.

As part of the university strategy to ensure quality end point destinations and high employability of its students at the start of their careers, significant investment in providing 'industry standard' software for the student experience is required to adequately prepare students for diverse careers.

The deployment and availability of the 'specialist' software packages is key in maintaining a high level of service provision, adding real business value to the student experience and to resource utilisation, university-wide.

Students’ expectations are that the resource they require should be available to them 24/7, from wherever they chose to study.   

To meet the criteria the faculty moved away, where possible, from small, specialist computer labs and created larger, more flexible facilities. This had the immediate benefit of reducing unnecessary and expensive duplication of lectures, and increased the availability of resources to students.

Supplying specialist apps, anywhere and everywhere.

The biggest challenge was finding a solution that could achieve flexibility by ensuring specialist software availability across all its computing resources, whilst maintaining the specialist requirements of the individual disciplines.

This facilitated students being able to utilise additional computing facilities that were available outside of the Faculty, in Learning Resource Centres (LRC's) and Centrally Programmed Teaching (CPT) rooms, for specialist apps in addition to the common apps delivered to all university PCs.

The considerable challenge of installing apps on thousands of PCs within the department was becoming an increasingly time-consuming process, and reducing resource availability. Large base image sizes meant that it could sometimes take upwards of 10 hours to deploy software onto a PC.

This inhibited the installation of a large range of specialist apps in communal areas such as the LRC, meaning students were unable to access such apps on a 24/7 basis. Kingston were keen to find a solution that would allow them to make specialist resources more widely available, increasing the service delivery to students. The aim was to significantly increase the added business value of these facilities, whilst reducing deployment and service costs.

Finding the solution.

The University had a great deal of experience using common application virtualization technologies, which had limitations and were only able to accommodate around 20% of the apps needed for specialist teaching areas.

These limitations meant that resources that added real value to the students' learning environment, were not available outside specialist faculty facilities (these being the larger apps that were not standalone and needed to integrate with other apps).
 
With this backdrop, a project team was allocated funding by the university to carry out an in-depth study of available technologies. In all, fifteen products were identified for testing, which was carried out against strict criteria.

AppsAnywhere was selected as the resounding front-runner, not only because of its technological merits and potential, but also because of the strong working relationship that developed between the university, and education specialists Software2.

Benefits of using AppsAnywhere

  • Increased number of virtualized apps from 20% to 96%
  • Reduced image size - now takes just 45 minutes to deploy a machine (from around 10 hours previously!)
  • No application testing conflicts
  • Students now access apps from any location, 24/7
  • Saved costs (£900 per machine) in computing labs
  • Improved service delivery

The use of AppsAnywhere resulted in an increase from 20% of applications virtualized to 96%, and the biggest benefits were quickly recognized.

Problems with image size have been vastly reduced, with a Windows 7 machine now taking less than 45 minutes to deploy - a huge reduction on the previous time of ten to twelve hours.

The system provides flexibility in timetabling and availability of not only common apps but specialist faculty software, in Centrally Programmed Teaching (CPT) and Learning Resource Centres (LRCs) adding to a number of KPIs.

There have also been no application testing conflicts with AppsAnywhere. It has aided the ability of technology to help bridge the gap between declining resources and increasing demand for services, whilst ensuring user satisfaction remains high.

Added benefits.

The benefit for students is the ability to access software from any location, whether in specialist labs or the Learning Resource Centre, on a 24/7 basis, which is a significant improvement as well as value to Kingston's courses.

The duplication of teaching sessions has also greatly reduced. As an example, one particular class that was being taught six times a week is now covered by three larger sessions. The computing resource availability for SEC students to access specialist applications has been increased by 300%.

In addition to the benefits experienced by students, there are also substantial savings in resources and costs. The necessity to increasae the number of specialist computing labs in the university has been reduced; in fact, the Faculty of SEC has achieved a reduction in its computing labs whilst offering an increase in the quality of service delivery. The resulting savings in hardware and maintenance (between £750 and £900 per machine) can be redirected elsewhere.

It’s expected that AppsAnywhere will now be rolled out across the whole university, so that other savings can be realized and equally that business added value of computing resources is increased.

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