This year, I was asked by our vice president of academics to give a presentation to the faculty about VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure at Passaic County Community College’s Faculty Development Day. I accepted and saw the advantages of having 120 or so faculty, deans, and VP’s in one room. I wanted to explain how we were able to implement Server and Desktop Virtualization at the college and how, with NJEDge’s leadership and professional development programs, we were able to accomplish this initiative.
In assembling my presentation, I began by asking myself the question “What is VDI?” As any good Internet user would do, I consulted Wikipedia. According to Wikipedia, “Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is a desktop-centric service that hosts users’ desktop environments on remote servers and/or blade PC’s which are accessed over a network using a remote display protocol.” I needed to be able to explain this in terms that the layperson could understand.
There are many advantages to using VDI, such as the many connection options. Besides using a thin client or PC, one can use a multitude of mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. I regularly access my virtual desktop on my Apple iPad and can access my desktop using my Samsung Android phone. The biggest advantage to VDI is being able to access one’s desktop from anywhere on and off campus with a network presence. No longer does one have to be “at the desk” to access one’s desktop. One can be anywhere, at any time.
Gone are also the worries about PC failures, backups and hard drive crashes. Over the years at PCCC, we have built multiple datacenters with redundant power supplies, generators, computing resources, storage and backup strategies. With VDI, security and data get protected via centralization. The data no longer resides at the user device; it is stored in the data center. I told the faculty that besides providing them with virtual desktops, we are also provisioning student labs and parts of the library with VDI. This gives us the added benefit of providing students with a standard lab desktop with all the common software titles installed. This desktop can be accessed from anywhere on campus and eventually from anywhere off-campus as well.
I also described the benefits of VDI for IT administrators, such as providing a more centralized, efficient user environment that is easier to maintain and able to respond more quickly to the changing needs of the user. Virtualization gives IT the opportunity to manage users’ desktops centrally, without needing to leave the office. For example, every semester we used to do a desktop refresh for every PC in the labs and Library, restoring every PC to a clean state and applying patches and updates. We needed to visit 1600 PC’s with 1600 different versions of operating systems, Microsoft Office, browsers and so on. This was a high maintenance, time consuming process. Today, using our virtualization software, we can send a fresh copy of the desktop each time the user logs in. All updates and patches can be applied very easily. System/PC maintenance is reduced dramatically through virtualization.
VDI deployment provides anytime, anywhere access to desktops, apps and data, optimal user experience on most devices over most networks, centralized management of desktops and applications, up-to-date with security and compliance regulations and additional business continuity and disaster recovery options.
Savings are apparent in other areas as well. Using thin clients significantly reduces our electrical footprint. Desktop computers typically use about 65-250 watts of power per-hour whereas thin clients only use about 6-14 watts of power per-hour. Other savings come from software licensing because of different pricing models used for virtual environments.
NJEDge.Net was instrumental in providing professional development programs. These programs covered the topics of virtualization and advanced networking technologies that enabled our staff to gain the knowledge needed to implement the technology at PCCC. Also, with NJEDge’s consortium-buying, PCCC was able to purchase the software and support needed to implement virtualization at significant savings.