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Posted on by Dave Miller in Application Virtualization, Customers

Improving the student experience: Deploying software across U-M on-demand

In this recent webinar, presented to the EDUCAUSE community, Don Lambert explains how the University of Michigan are improving the student experience by deploying software across campus on-demand.

Learn more about how IT across the University of Michigan system is improving efficiencies while reducing the cost associated with traditional virtualization solutions, thanks to AppsAnywhere from Software2.

Don Lambert, Director of IT Infrastructure at University of Michigan, presented this webinar about their application delivery journey with Software2 to the EDUCAUSE community in April 2019. For the full recording, video transcript and associated slides, you can download them over on the EDUCAUSE website.


Delivering applications on-demand at U-M - video transcript 

And with that, let’s begin today’s Industry and Campus webinar: Improving the Student Experience: Deploying Software Across U-M on Demand. Don, over to you.

Thank you, Adam. What I'd like to start is kind of give you a brief overview of what our agenda is going to be for today. I'm going to take an opportunity to tell you about the university of Michigan system and a brief overview of our IT and tell you about CAEN. The catalyst for change for us and faculty expectations and how the solution meets those expectations I'll give you background on our legacy, what was such a difference for us and what made things easier to move forward with and we'll have a demonstration and I'll tell you about how this has been rolled out across campus. So I'm going to start by asking a few questions to make sure what my audience knows already so what I'd like to start with first is, do you have a need to distribute applications everywhere across campus? So the second question is, do you have a need for students, faculty and staff to be able to access all of their applications from one central portal? And my last question is, do you have a need to deliver windows applications to non-Windows devices?

'll give everybody a few seconds to finish answering these questions and we'll move on. So it looks like volume slowed down a little bit so let's go ahead and move forward. So let me tell you a little bit about the university of Michigan system. University of Michigan is one of the largest land grant universities in the United States. We have three campuses and these are all university of Michigan systems and all run their own IT departments and we take advantage of the fact that we're peers and share a lot of information but there is no top-down organization as far as IT goes. If we talk about our students we have students from eighty-two Michigan counties, all fifty states and one hundred and twenty-eight countries and Ann Arbor is one of the largest campuses and well known and where have twenty-three schools and colleges. IT @ U-M is very distributed. Being that we're so large it's not an effective way for us to try to manage everything from a single top-down and this is at college level and this gives us two advantages.

One, we have the size of being the university of Michigan and the flexibility we need to make changes or try things at the edges and the nice thing about that is a failure in one small part of the university, we try something new and it doesn't work out, it doesn't impact the entire organization. It's easy to recover from taking a risk. We're not risk adverse. If anything we're trying to push the envelope as much as we can. There are small units on campus that aren't small enough to run their own IT. Central IT does many of our enterprise wide solutions. Our Google apps, Microsoft 365, enterprise directory, HR systems are done by central IT but in my case we have a local IT organization as well and manage or computer labs, infrastructure, web services, many services that we're going above and beyond what central IT offers us.

So the organization I work for is called CAEN, the central organization in the college of engineering and those local IT groups are typically taking and managing the day-to-day operations of their department, things like printing, things like e-mails not working, you know, how do I do type questions or get something repaired that's done on the local department level and my focus on is on the central college of engineering and my group does student computer labs and those desktops have over two hundred applications and cover thirteen department disciplines and I have to have applications that are good for both. While we do have a core set of engineering apps that everybody uses, when you get to the graduate level it gets specific to the discipline.

We have over eleven thousand college students. So the problem we started with is we did an internal software audit back in the fall of 2013. That audience showed that we had a lot of software that we had purchased and purchased them all with varying levels and licenses agreements. Some things were purchased for student course work and other applications were purchased for non-commercial research and some applications were purchased for full business. Unfortunately what we were doing at that time was installing all of these applications into a single OS image making them available to our students with no information about what the software was, what the license terms were and what restrictions there might be. The results of the audit were we were going to need to find a way to provide the software to the students in a way that they could use it and be compliant with licenses so that they had the ability to know that if I'm working on my course work I can use an instructional license or research in a lab I should be using a non-commercial research license. For staff doing work they should be using the full commercial licenses.

We had the licenses here on campus that we needed. Unfortunately in many places we didn't have the ability to deliver them. I could not at that time deliver both instructional licenses for a program and the research for Matt lab to the same machine. I didn't want to install every application multiple times and I didn't want to be in an area where I was like these machines are only for research and these machines are only for instruction because you never know what a student wants to do when they sit down at a machine. Maybe we could buy our way out of this problem. What if we bought noncommercial licenses for all of our student use. That was going to cost us an additional one point one million dollars in student revenue. This was going to be a huge increase in the software budget.

So where were we at that time? We were providing a dual boot and three hundred gigs and it had all two hundred plus applications installed in it. Building these images was a lengthy process and took testing because we had to make sure every piece of software worked well together. We use Microsoft so we could update applications but it was difficult for us to update applications because to make a single update we had to do revision testing against all the other applications in the image to make sure this one update didn't break another applications. We used application virtualization and app V, unfortunately didn't meet our needs when it came to engineering software and we had Matt lab but it couldn't manage large file counts and we had applications roughly ten gigs in size and it couldn't manage applications larger than four to five gigs. We were running a VDI solution which was expensive for us because we had enough disc space to hold this image.

Looking at what we had we decided to come up with a list of what we needed and our experience with application virtualization told us we wanted a solution allowing us to virtualize 100% of our applications and I wanted to deliver them in a consistent way and I wanted the students to be able to pick the correct license at that time that they sat down on the machine. I wasn't going to decide ahead of time that you can do this work on one machine and that type of work on a different machine. And our faculty and students, when we made a change they were still going to expect that they could get their software quickly, that they were not going to have to go through some extended process to use the things they needed to use. They were not going to wait for a slow delivery of applications and so we were looking for something that would allow us to patent and repair bugs quickly or get updates out and we wanted to make sure the software was available everywhere that needed it. So just to step back a little bit I want to make sure everyone understands application virtualization.

This is not a VDI type solution. I'm not talking about running the software in the backroom in some big set of servers or running the applications out in the cloud. They are being delivered to the machine and running in that computers memory using disc space on that computer. It is not -- you are not bound by how much can you afford to buy on the back end from a VDI type solution. It makes it very scaleable because all the servers that are running the product is delivering the applications and then all the execution happens locally. So knowing what we were looking for, this is what we found.

We went out and read Gartner papers comparing virtualization products out there. And the one we're interested in came from a company called Cloudpaging and it was at that time called juke box. When we reached out to find out more, we realized that Software2 was the leading bar in this space for hider education and they enhanced and made the product better. Today when we talk about AppsAnywhere it's the Software2 web components built on top of the streaming components. So what we did, in 2014 we started piloting working with Software2.

So we brought their solution on campus and did a couple days training with them and we started packaging some of our biggest hardest applications, solid works, Matt lab and we took what we thought were some of the hardest things at this solution to package and we were surprised at how well it did it so we purchased the software with the expectation that we were going to run this in full production in fall of 2015. At that time we were concerned about this. We were still learning and getting our feet under ourselves, but we had that goal of 100% of our applications and we got to 95% of our applications in that first semester.

There were things we chose and it was probably because of our ability in packaging to leave local on the machines so we left office, visual student view and by the time we started that fall semester we were delivering one hundred seventy of our two hundred plus applications through the portal. As we started working on this it became clear to us early on that what we now had was a very portable solution. We talked about early on with Software2 that there were places in the UK using that as a BYOD solution and while we appreciates that we weren't there yet but what we did realize was I could actually deliver my applications to the central IT lab on campus by asking them to just install the player software for me.

They didn't have to do any installing, packaging, anything. I could stream my applications to them and they could stream their applications on their machines with little testing because all the applications were virtualized and we did that three to four months after our initial rollout. In the winter of 2016 and /THA*T at that time the university of Michigan Dearborn contacted us with a problem. They were going to start a renovation on their business school and they were going to lose this facility for roughly two years during this renovation. They were looking at VDI as a solution and they wanted to know what we were doing with AppsAnywhere and they decided their solution was going to be to use AppsAnywhere at the BYOD location and again it's because they no longer had this physical computer lab.

After some early successes ITS sites decided to adopt AppsAnywhere for their own use. And ITS also started running their own BYOD project and it's finishing up its first year and I'm looking forward to seeing their results in a couple of weeks at this point. The semester is almost over. So, what have we done? What were our big changes for this year? AppsAnywhere is our standard platform at this point and using it as much as we can and we're using delivery methods that it offers and we use the portal for things like our math users so they can get to windows software and we use it as a central point for applications that we're making available free to us from vendors so you can actually go to our AppsAnywhere portal and find a link taking you out to Microsoft imagine or the V Matt program.

It's one stop shopping for our students and this has helped us optimize cost and it's made it easy for students to find things. If you want to find any type of software be it for a lab machine or personal machine you can go to the AppsAnywhere portal and I think that helped our user experience as well. What we're planning for right now is looking at what it would take to run a single AppsAnywhere portal as an app store so we don't have different solutions for college engineering, and Dearborn. We have a few vendors that give us ISOs free of charge and this idea of one stop shop with AppsAnywhere we want to download this and do the same solution. I think BYOD is going to get big for us at this point.

We're trying to figure out at this point how we're going to make it work with college engineering applications and we're looking to make sure we're license compliant and we're hoping to do this by the fall for our students. As we grow the AppsAnywhere we're going to see what it would take to host it in the cloud and distribute things that way. This will make more sense when we have a combination of students on and off campus as a solution and the other thing we're trying to figure out is community application packaging. If we can package that once, package it to some agreed upon standard and do the appropriate testing we can potentially save ourselves time by not oh having to do that over and over again for everybody.