How to fix the typical issues of the environment of students and administration and services staff with a desktop virtualization infrastructure. This was the starting point of the interesting presentation offered by Xavier Pons, Head of the Infrastructure Area of the Information Technology Centre of the University of the Balearic Islands (UIB), at the RedIRIS Technical Conference held in Seville at the end of past May. He narrated the experience of the Information Technology Center (ITC) of the UIB in the management of their VDI platform, which has helped them to tackle the complexity of a heterogeneous and complex IT environment.
Pons explained that the main requirements of the UIB were "being able to reuse the PCs in computer classrooms as thin clients to access virtual desktops and be able to manage them centrally and in a very simple way, to avoid displacements in case of issues.
In addition, the connection broker should have convergence with our existing virtualization platform, native Linux client support and affordable costs ". At the beginning they used vWorkspace, but once the product was discontinued they decided to trust UDS Enterprise, developed and supported by VirtualCable, due to the great rating obtained by the product in the RedIRIS VES project.
"We are very satisfied with UDS Enterprise, both with the support team and with its functionalities," said Pons. "It has very interesting features, such as simultaneous support of multiple hypervisors, connection protocols and authenticators; the architecture in high availability (HA) that avoids the interruption of the service... all with minimum platform requirements.”
The head of the Infrastructure Area of the ITC highlighted two different characteristics of this connection broker: "the support team is really agile, whenever you need their help or have any suggestion for improvements you can talk to them directly. In addition, its costs are very tight and allows us to acquire campus licenses at an affordable price for the university."
The UIB is taking full advantage of some of the features of UDS Enterprise to solve certain challenges of its IT scenario, such as scheduling tasks based on calendars. "We use it for exams, we make available virtual desktops only during the time that the test lasts and we delimit from which building they can be accessed".
In the presentation, the technical manager indicated how they changed and improved their way of working thanks to the use of non-persistent virtual desktops. "Before we had certain problems especially in the admin & services staff environment because almost every person had a dedicated virtual desktop, so they could install software and, at the security level, when installing patches, updates... it made our work very difficult. With UDS Enterprise these problems have disappeared, every time the user logs out, the desktop is destroyed and when he re-accesses he has a new desktop".
The management of caches is "another interesting aspect of UDS Enterprise, it incorporates an intelligent technology that is capable of anticipating potential workloads and significantly optimizes the creation and destruction of virtual desktops," said Pons.
Thanks to desktop virtualization, UIB students are gradually getting used to using their devices to access all the tools they need for their studies. "HTML5 support has allowed us to offer students access to all virtual classrooms through their own mobile devices in a very friendly and efficient way. The tendency is for the physical classrooms to disappear and for students to do exactly the same using their own devices," Pons said.
To manage the programs they need in each career, the team of the infrastructure area of the ITC has configured different service pools, one for each faculty. In this way we provide access to the software that students use according to their specialty. In addition, they create specific pools for exams and for laboratories and practices that require very specific programs.
Regarding the admin & services staff environment, Xavier Pons commented that its orchestration is different. "In these cases each worker accesses his virtual desktop directly. Although the point in common with the students' environment is that it is also accessible 24/7, from any place and device, so that the administration and services staff can now work from home".
The technical team of the UIB plans to continue taking advantage of the possibilities offered by UDS Enterprise. "The idea is to implement application virtualization to increase resource savings, extend the use of VDI to all admin & services staff and reduce costs by migrating the virtualization backend to an Open Source platform like oVirt, to avoid the payment of licenses", revealed Pons.
He also noted that the UDS Enterprise team is in the process of implementing some improvements requested by the UIB, such as "certify the UDS client supported on Linux, improve the management of cache levels and enhance the monitoring and reporting system.
As a summary, Xavier Pons concluded that VDI with UDS Enterprise has helped them "simplify the management, updating and maintenance of physical and virtual devices, extend the useful life of the devices and offer flexibility to students to perform their practices from wherever they want, recovering spaces that are currently occupied by physical PCs, which is very representative at costs level for the university ".
Finally, Pons commented that they have collaborated with the UDS Enterprise team for organizing public exams successfully with limited resources and that have contributed to the development of the product translating the software into catalan.
UIB’s VDI INFRASTRUCTURE KEY POINTS
- 14,000 users
- Up to 600 concurrent users
- Student environment: 25,000 desktops / month
- Admin & services staff environment: 1,700 desktops / month
- 21 VDI Pools
- Virtualization platform: VMware ESXi: 16 nodes, 224 cores, 2.2 TB of RAM
- Storage: 6 DataStores, 14 TB, 2 EMC VNX2
For more information about the technical characteristics of the VDI platform of the UIB, see the video of the conference here.
In addition, you can read the Case Study of the UIB with UDS Enterprise at this link.