What's after VDI? Replacing virtual desktops with application virtualization at PSU
After originally deciding to go down the VDI route for software deployment, Pittsburg State University realized that they wouldn't be able to fulfil their goal of delivering apps to students anywhere.
On top of the astronomical costs involved with the backend infrastructure that's needed to support application delivery to thousands of students through VDI, Pitt State needed a way of deploying all their software programs (including the GPU-heavy ones!) to their 78 computer labs across campus.
The IT department soon found AppsAnywhere and Cloudpaging...
A few months ago, I discovered a "new" technology that could address the core goal we’re trying to achieve with VDI – anywhere access to apps for our students (and all the rest), in a fundamentally different way.
Tim Pearson, Pittsburg State University
AppsAnywhere at Pitt State
"Here’s the thumbnail", Tim explains:
"With this technology we can keep (or really improve upon) VDI’s control from a software licensing standpoint. We can also keep access control tied to individual login credentials, whilst moving the horsepower provider from the data center to the client device."
So how can students at Pitt State now access applications as if they're locally-installed, throughout the university's 78 labs? Using Cloudpaging, IT admins can use special tools to 'cloudify' their software using the normal installation media. They can apply licensing restrictions on a per-app basis, and deploy the applications to students using the AppsAnywhere web portal (branded "GUSWare" at Pitt State, to tie in with their other IT services and with the university's mascot: Gus the Gorilla).
The datacenter infrastructure to support GUSWare for our entire campus is almost inconsequential from a resource requirement standpoint… that ain’t VDI!
To support thousands of users and even the most GPU-heavy apps, all AppsAnywhere requires is a web server (to authenticate users and for access apps), a licensing server (to ensure the rules for each app are enforced), a backend admin server, and a place for the database to live (i.e. Pitt State's existing SQL server).
Software performance using Cloudpaging
Software apps delivered using Cloudpaging's next-generation application virtualization technology run the same as if they were installed on the end device. No performance issues and on-demand access to any app means an awesome IT experience for students and university staff.
Performance is phenomenal. Zero to AutoCAD in 90 seconds on my laptop (for the first run), then local start-up times thereafter. Most modern Windows machines that students bring with them have enough horsepower to run even the heavyweight apps reasonably well.
Tim Pearson, Pittsburg State University
Pitt State's future plans
The university's GUSWare [AppsAnywhere] site is now fully up and running, and the IT department currently have several apps packaged and deployed to the site for student and faculty testing. Tim and his team hope to fully utilize the technology for student BYOD, and as a way to make specialized software available in all general-purpose computer labs.
In the longer term, the university are hoping to reduce the number of physical labs by over 50%. Thanks to AppsAnywhere and Cloudpaging application virtualization technology, the IT team are still able to "beef up" their VDI, but on a much smaller scale than originally planned and budgeted for.
Deploying virtualized apps on demand has also simplified their current VDI setup; they now only have a couple of 'gold image' configurations alongside GUSWare, rather than dozens of images. Students and staff can still log in to the VDI environment but now use the GUSWare site to get their apps.
I feel lucky we didn't go all in on VDI in the early stages. Thanks to AppsAnywhere and application virtualization, we're now able to use VDI as a gap filler, NOT as our primary application delivery mechanism.
Tony Austwick, CEO at Software2 adds:
Many universities across North America have dipped their toe into the water when it comes to using VDI to access apps, and they almost all come to the same conclusion: VDI is expensive and doesn't offer the seamless IT experience students expect. The IT team at Pittsburg State University are pioneers; using the latest tech to transform the student experience.
Tony Austwick, Software2