Why desktop virtualization matters for higher ed: What you need to know now

January 13, 2011   //   Virtualization, , , , , ,

When I was traveling on business a few weeks ago, I noticed that at almost every gate, there was someone with an iPad or some other tablet instead of a traditional laptop. When I asked a group of IT executives whether their users and executives have asked if they can get to their “stuff” using iPad, I consistently get a resounding “YES!”

Top industry analysts tell us that desktop virtualization is the top client computing inquiry. By the end of 2012, some analysts expect that the majority of enterprise desktops will be delivered using some sort of virtualization technology. Bottom line: this technology is here to stay.

Why it matters for higher ed
Computer labs, classroom computers, and task workers are ideal for desktop virtualization. Why keep buying brand new desktops with lots of horsepower when the user will end up utilizing only a fraction of the capacity? By virtualizing the desktops via Citrix XenDesktop, you can re-use your existing hardware, buy lower-powered hardware or replace the desktops with thin clients.

In the case of student-owned machines, how do you deploy apps to students currently? How do you manage them? Instead of using the same process that’s not working, consider application virtualization.

Using Citrix XenApp, you can virtualize the applications, centrally manage and update them, and deploy the apps to just about any device your students may bring to campus, i.e., Windows, Linux, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android, etc.

But wait: what’s wrong with the traditional desktop model?
The traditional desktop model results in a tightly coupled computing framework of user, profile, apps, OS and hardware. It’s complex, inflexible and costly:

  • Moves, adds and changes take days
  • Apps & OS on every device must be managed manually
  • Ad-hoc data protection, recovery and security
  • Inflexible work styles
  • Expensive hardware refresh

Serious paradigm shifts in desktop computing are changing the game for every industry, including higher education. Users want to be able to work anywhere they want. The ages-old cycle of PC refresh is old. And organizations must be prepared to go to Windows 7.

Times have changed. Users have changed. Desktop virtualization fits both.
More importantly, users are no longer tied down to one specific device. In your environment, you may have a Dell Desktop in the office, a Lenovo Laptop for long travel, a Toshiba Netbook for short travel, a Mac in the family room or an HP thin client in the computer lab. So the question is, how will you provide a consistent user experience across all of those endpoints? How will IT support it?

With a virtualized desktop model, each component that makes up a “Desktop” is abstracted. The abstracted components can be assembled on the fly to any device the user wants to use as the desktop.

In my next post, I’ll explain three critical steps to help you make a smooth transition to desktop virtualization. In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about virtualization or would like to discuss your strategy, feel free to contact me at 630-286-8126 or at michael.lee@swc.com. Or, check IT consultants SWC’s upcoming webinars and Lunch & Learn events.