The University of Murcia (UMU) reacted quickly to the current complicated health situation by developing a Contingency Plan for the Covid-19 coronavirus epidemic. The Area of Information Technologies and Applied Communications (ATICA) outlined a wide range of tools to facilitate teaching, research, learning and management tasks online. Desktop virtualization with UDS Enterprise is playing a key role so that all university groups can continue to perform their functions from home.
As the UMU already had for years a VDI infrastructure with UDS Enterprise, they were prepared for such a situation. They only had to reorganize the resources assigned to virtual desktops to allow remote access in a massive way and provide a fully operational service to all groups from the first moment. In this way, students and teachers access learning software and the administration and services staff access their management tools.
"The transition to remote work has been quite fast because we had been using VDI for a long time," explains Jesús Valverde, Head of Computer Rooms. The UMU has been trusting in UDS Enterprise for many years to offer all the university groups the flexibility to use the tools they need every day anytime, from any place and device.
“The physical environment of the administrative and service staff already had its equivalent within our VDI platform, because the telecommuting system was launched in the university many years ago. The user does not see any difference, he works exactly the same at home as at the university and with adequate security measures,” Valverde points out. Staff can use any device to access a virtual desktop specifically designed for them.
As for the environment of the computer rooms, the UMU also had it ready. Students and professors were already accessing the software remotely from the university's own classes and equipment or from any other location and device.
“We have a virtual desktop that has installed all the software that has been requested from us at some time, with a catalog of more than 1,500 applications organized by faculties and easily located through a search engine for quick execution,” comments Valverde.
Access to the tools that each group of users needs is managed through ESPACIOS, a reservation portal where teachers and students book the practices they are going to do. “Once the reservation is made, when a student authenticates the system directly assigns the virtual desktop that he needs. We can even know if he needs a virtual desktop for Special Education”, says the person in charge of Computer Rooms.
Both students, teachers and admin and services staff access their virtual desktops through UDS Enterprise: they just have to enter the URL of the EVA portal in a web browser, totally personalized with the corporate image of the university. When the user authenticates in said portal through his corporate email address, the system shows him the catalog of virtual desktops that correspond to him according to his profile: to the administration and services personnel, his machine appears with management software, teachers have specific desktops for their classes, students have their desktop to carry out practices with the entire catalog of software, another desktop offers library services such as access to scientific and research journals, EVITA for students with disabilities or learning difficulties...
In addition to providing access and enabling the configuration of virtual desktops, UDS Enterprise is also responsible for managing their entire life cycle, as well as connections between all components of the VDI infrastructure. The versatility of this software allows them to have a platform with VMware and oVirt running simultaneously. Among the connection protocols allowed to access the solution are: secure RDP access through VPN, as well as secure https access with a simple web browser using HTML5. To guarantee the continuity of the service, there is a farm of 10 balanced servers that are in charge of the conversion from HTML5 to RDP.
This infrastructure is dimensioned with 1 exclusive dedicated SSD storage array with 63 TB, a compute capacity of about 2.10 Thz and 9 TB of allocated memory. “In the wake of the crisis we have put all the resources to serve virtual desktops to meet all demand efficiently. At the moment we are using approximately 65% of the infrastructure, so we have a good margin to provide a good service," states Valverde.
The following image shows the daily accumulated number of desktops per hour that they have deployed during the last two weeks, in which they have reached maximums of about 10,500 desktops per day:
As seen in the graph below, they have registered peaks of 790 simultaneous desktops per hour:
Since the state of alarm was decreed, the VDI platform of the UMU allows work and study from home to some 35,000 students, about 2,700 teachers and more than 1,200 staff belonging to the group of administration and services personnel. Thanks to its pioneering commitment to desktop virtualization, all areas of the university have continued to function without interruptions of any kind. “We have been confident in UDS Enterprise for many years and the results guarantee our success. It has allowed us to adapt immediately to the requirements of the current situation and provide an optimal and safe service to all users," concludes Jesús Valverde.
The Head of Computer Rooms at the UMU presented the VDI- based remote work solutions for the admin and services staff and computer rooms at the II Corona Session TECNIRIS. These video sessions are organized by RedIRIS with the aim of sharing the experiences and challenges that organizations are facing due to the massive adoption of telecommuting and online teaching. You can see the presentation of Jesús Valverde in the following video: