The students of the University of Málaga (UMA) are employing from their homes the same tools they use at the campus to follow their classes during the Covid-19 alarm state. Thanks to the Remote PC project with UDS Enterprise and OpenGnsys they can use the computers located in the educational center from anywhere. To facilitate access, another important development that leverages the great versatility of the UDS Enterprise connection broker also comes into play: the Moodle VirtualPC Plugin. Students enter the UMA Virtual Campus through any device with a web browser and, from there, thanks to the VirtualPC Plugin, they are provided access to a virtual machine or a physical computer.
Juan Jesús Farfán, Deputy Director of the Virtual Teaching Service and Technological Laboratories of the UMA, explains that “the collaboration of the company Virtual Cable with its UDS Enterprise product has been essential to be able to resolve the situation and give access to the computers in the ICT classrooms, which have the appropriate processor features, memory, licensed software, specific configurations… that students need to be able to carry out their tasks properly.”
This possibility is not something new, but now, due to the closure of educational centers for the health alert, they are making the most of it. “This project has been brewing since 2014. We implemented UDS Enterprise almost a decade ago at the UMA to allow students from our center and other universities to access the teaching resources through Windows and Linux VDI. The proximity of the development team and the flexibility of the software allowed us to integrate it with Moodle and offer the possibility of providing remote access to computers thanks to its compatibility with OpenGnsys,” indicates Juan Jesús Farfán.
UDS Enterprise is the link between all applications. It enables communication with Moodle through API Rest in order to offer access to a virtual desktop or a physical computer. It supports numerous virtualization platforms and service providers, including OpenGnsys. “It has greatly solved the problems we had. We have had to react very quickly to the situation caused by the Coronavirus to bring all classroom teaching online and the most efficient way to do so has been by taking advantage of the UDS Enterprise features,” says Juan Jesús Farfán.
Students and teachers access all the resources they need through the Moodle-based Virtual Campus of each of the UMA centers. On this platform they have enabled a PC room for practices as a subject, in which they have enrolled all the students and teachers belonging to the center. In this way, all of them can remotely use these computers, as well as the virtual desktops managed and deployed by UDS Enterprise that they have been using for a long time. “It has been the way of unlocking the ICT classrooms that remain closed, facilitating the use of licensed software that students and teachers cannot install on their own devices and providing them with access to equipment with the optimal characteristics to carry out their tasks, since theirs are often very far from being able to offer them the performance they need,” comments Juan Jesús Farfán.
The union of the unique features of UDS Enterprise and OpenGnsys also allows program the turning on and off of computers, establish usage policies by groups and schedule and configure the available equipment to automatically turn on and off according to users that are requesting access. "Just by configuring a Wake on Lan in each of the centers we have achieved significant energy savings and less impact on hardware by minimizing the time during which the computers remain on," tells Juan Jesús Farfán.
Through the innovative UDS Enterprise double cache system they establish the maximum number of computers that can be accessed remotely, how many will remain on to be delivered to the user quickly when access is requested and the number that will be available and accessible without waiting times. "In our case, we have set up two ways to ensure that the devices are only turned on for the essential time: they turn off when the user logs out or after a maximum period of inactivity," explains Juan Jesús Farfán.
OpenGnsys is in charge of sending the startup and shutdown commands to UDS Enterprise for execution. Besides, it offers a complete visualization of the use of the platform, showing which computers are being used by each student, their IP, how many are in the cache, the connection time... so the IT staff can monitor their infrastructure in real-time, anticipating possible issues.
“Thanks to UDS Enterprise, the OpenGnsys project and the work of all the colleagues in the Virtual Teaching and Technology Laboratories service since the state of alarm was declared we are helping all students at the university to continue their training from their homes the same way they would at the campus. With desktop virtualization and remote access to computers we are meeting the demands of more than 36,000 students. Having a VDI platform running with UDS Enterprise has been a great help to us, we have only had to scale the infrastructure and expand the use of the solution,” concludes Juan Jesús Farfán.
The Virtual Campus of the University of Malaga has experienced a 500 percent growth in the last month, during which more than 49,000 connections to virtual and physical computers managed and deployed with the VDI UDS Enterprise broker have been registered.
The Deputy Director of the Virtual Teaching Service and Technological Laboratories of the UMA disclosed all the technical details of his project to provide remote access to the ICT classroom devices at the III CoronaSesion TECNIRIS. The objective of these video sessions organized by RedIRIS is to share the experiences and challenges that organizations are facing due to the massive adoption of remote working and online teaching. You can see the presentation of Juan Jesús Farfán in the following video in Spanish:
For more information about the UMA's experience with UDS Enterprise read this Case Study.