Breakout Session

Virtual Desktops and VMware View: Ready for traditional computer lab replacement? New Opportunities Abound

Track: Technology

The School of Business Technology Services and Language Learning Technology at Montclair State University, two distributed technology units, have jointly implemented system virtualization for administrative and academic purposes including the replacement of a physical computer lab with virtualization hardware/software and software-only virtual desktop interfaces (Panologic Zero Client, VMware View).  These have resulted in simpler and more reliable facilities; the ability to provision instructional computer interfaces at students’ desktop or portable computing devices including multimedia support; and, for administrative areas, present a viable replacement for desktop computers.  These virtualization efforts address the University’s new green and virtual computing initiatives.


Michael Heller
Director of Language Learning Technology
Montclair State University

Bio / Expertise:
Michael Heller is Director of Language Learning Technology at Montclair State University.  Language Learning Technology has recently relocated to a newly constructed academic building, and Michael has developed an interest in classroom audio-visual system design, installation and management in addition to his roles as instructional designer and systems architect.


Roger Salomon
Director of Technology Services
Montclair State University

Bio / Expertise:
Roger Salomon is Director of Technology Services at the School of Business at Montclair State. He is currently in the planning and design phase of a new School of Business facility where VDI is planned throughout, amongst other audiovisual/information technology integrations.


David Santos
Instructional Services and Technology Assistant
Montclair State University

Bio / Expertise:
David Santos is the Instructional Services and Technology Assistant of the School of Business at Montclair State University. He is responsible for providing support to over a 100 faculty and staff in addition he over sees a 30-seat computer lab which is equipped with Panologic Zero Clients and running VMware View.


Turker Yasa
Supervisor of Language Laboratories for Language Learning Technology
Montclair Statte University

Turker Yasa is Supervisor of Language Laboratories for Language Learning Technology at Montclair State University. With recent increase in popularity of mobile device use in classrooms, by both instructors and students, he would like to learn more about management and deployment of mobile devices as well as how to make them communicate with audio-visual systems available in classrooms. Turker is also interested in educating end users on how to use mobile devices effectively to achieve their goals.


Presentation Content:
The presenters will describe the various virtualization implementations undertaken with a particular emphasis on ease of use, lower costs, and new opportunities for student engagement and learning beyond the classroom or physical computer laboratory.

Both SBUS and LLT were early adopters of virtualization technology as a response to server sprawl that was problematic as neither unit had sufficient server collocation real estate or funding for increased hardware and maintenance costs.  Our initial efforts at virtualization of replacement and new servers and services lead us to consideration of virtualization of student computer desktops, whether a physical lab replacement (SBUS) or an expansion of services via a software-only virtual desktop (LLT).

Discussions about testing and piloting a VDI solution began back in early summer of 2011 as we reached out to Panologic and other VDI solutions. A Panologic starter kit was purchased and a pilot of 4 Panologic Zero Clients was installed into the teaching lab at the start of the fall 2011 semester. At the end of the fall semester; the decision to replace all 30 desktop machines with Panologic Zero Clients was made and as of the spring 2012 semester, the VDI project was fully up and running. The VDI project works by virtual machines (VMs) that are hosted by a server in the data center and are pushed to Pano Zero Clients with the help of VM View as the broker for Pano. VMware View composer creates, leverages server resources, and pushes VMs to the Pano clients. VMware ThinApps gives us the ability to push out applications to the VMs as full streaming apps (does not install applications directly on to the operating system image); applications can be created mid semester and pushed out without any changes required of the operating system image.  The Pano Controller, a Pano virtual server, is used to assure connection between the VMs and the hardware Pano clients.

One of the few things that make this project unique is that users are amazed that we were able to remove the desktop out of the physical computer lab and still have the same functionally of the lab that they expected and/or had with the desktop machine. Faculty continue to have Windows 7, Microsoft Office Suite, and any other software their course work requires. Another unique option is that updates or add-ons no longer have to wait until the start of the next semester, providing better support to faculty and students using the lab.

This technology implementation has many great benefits; form reducing operating costs to being part of the green initiative for the University. Faculty and students now have the ability to request certain learning tools and/or software needed for class during the semester. Cost savings, from both operating can direct money to other areas of technology. We hope that this project will help outline a plan for other technology departments within the University. It shows future business students that the School of Business at Montclair State University continues to push the limits of technology to best educate them for the real world environment. We have the ability to show them why certain business decisions are made at certain times; less money for technology, you look for ways to reduce costs and operate more efficiently.

Learning VMware View and Pano within 4 months without any formal training from the vendors (tech support from both vendors has been great) underscores how very important it is to build a strong relationship with someone from your vendors as often they are able to help you or find another resource to help more quickly than calling tech support.

SBUS’s virtual desktop interface (VDI) project was deployed in time for the spring 2012 semester, while LLT’s is under development for a fall 2012 deployment and differs as it is not a computer lab replacement, but rather a complement to the physical facilities allowing students to use the resources as a virtual translation lab, a virtual linguistics lab, or a virtual language lab.  While LLT’s project is still emerging, SBUS reports that the project was designed and brought forward to keep costs low, manage the lab easier with more efficiently, and fill the University’s green initiative and adopt the strategic plan that calls for virtual computing labs. Panologic clients reduce power consumption by almost three quarters of that of a standard desktop computer. VM View gives us the ability to update and manage the lab on the fly; we are now able to push out applications that would have taken an image process of some sort or a long tedious single install on each desktop machine. Our respective experiences with desktop virtualization by distributed technology units with more limited resources than a central IT area proves that desktop virtualization is possible and should be an area of inquiry for units looking to reduce or contain costs.


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