The University Consortium of Pordenone, founded in 1992, coordinates the graduate courses and master degrees set up at the University Campus of Pordenone by the University of Udine and Trieste, ISIA Roma Design, and the Polytechnic of Milan. Its aim is to understand the needs of higher education expressed by the socio-economic environment, in order to increase and manage an effective educational proposal, highly oriented toward technology innovation and services to people, in forefront facilities. in the latest facilities. Among the various graduate courses there are Economics, Mechanical Engineering, Production and Management Engineering, Multimedia Science and Technology, Industrial Design, Nursing, and some Master in the field of renewable energy.
In addition to degree programs, the University Consortium of Pordenone also hosts higher education courses, such as those of the New School of Osteopathy, in Energy Management ENEA of Bologna and the University of Trento AEGIS.
The provision of advanced courses in computer science requires a considerable use of laboratories equipped with software for mathematical processing, computer graphics, computer aided design, sound editing, sound processing, as well as many other applications.
The large number of stations (more than 150, with 10 to 30 computers in the laboratories), with completely different hardware and software configurations, together with the complex teaching system (each teacher requires a specific software for his/her subject), makes the IT infrastructure elaborate and most of all extremely expensive because of operating and maintenance costs.
The academic approach to the problem requires a completely different approach to the problem than the business world. Each academic year, the same course can be delivered by different teachers, who have the power to interpret the basic educational programs and this often involves the use of software that is different from year to year with the consequent impact on system level. In addition, the teaching experience should often provide an overview of different approaches to a problem; therefore it often requires the simultaneous presence of similar software from different manufacturers on the same machine, and this sometimes - e.g. with CAD - can generate conflicts and instability to the systems. All this creates the need to frequently modify the software configurations of workstations, to manage the installations, and to reinstall the operating systems in order to ensure their stability.
The university has, to date, about 1,300 students; on the same day, to each lab workstation, can access up to 15 different users, each of which inevitably brings all the problems related to a non-personal use of the device. So it’s common to disconnect or turn off the system in a non-suited way, or to modify configuration parameters, sometimes with operations that undermine the whole system stability.
The need was to find a solution to all these issues in order to reduce the very high intervention implementation and maintenance.
Right from the start it was clear that the new opportunities of virtualization could be the ideal solution, to allow students to use their personal computer, and consequently to realize laboratories in any classroom. It was therefore important to test the products on the market to fully understand their real potential.
It was important to test the products on the market to fully understand their true potential. Several experimental laboratories were set up for a first screening of the products and to assess their individual characteristics. After the laboratory testing of the commercial products, it has been chosen to investigate the Citrix solutions.
“From the beginning the Citrix XenDesktop solution and experience in the field of desktop virtualization has pleasantly impressed,” says Andrea Zanni Head of Information Technology Consortium of Pordenone.
The University Consortium of Pordenone launched a pilot project that involved the most suitable graduate course: multimedia communications and information technology. The project had to develop a solution based on Citrix XenDesktop to create virtual desktops equipped with all the software used for the course, and accessible from different workstations, while also allowing the provision in distance learning to other locations.
Citrix XenDesktop transforms Windows desktops into an on-demand service that can access any user, on any device, anywhere, with unmatched simplicity and scalability. Whatever the device used - tablet, smartphone, laptop or thin client - XenDesktop can quickly and securely issue virtual desktops and applications with high-definition user experience.
In the laboratory of the headquarters of Pordenone they were used for thin client, while in other locations students can access via your notebook.
The pilot project was launched in September 2012, with a period of evaluations of three months. The project was designed in three phases to minimize technology investment and maximize the benefits that can be acquired.>The first phase involved the construction of a virtual computer lab for the exclusive use of the 20 students of the degree in multimedia communications and information technology. This represented a valid test for the future implementation of the project and the virtualization of all computer laboratories, for a total of over 150 workstations.
“All the issues have been resolved in the start-up phase which still went very well,” said Andrea Zanni.
The laboratory prototype was implemented using Citrix XenDesktop infrastructure connect to the existing Microsoft AD.
“The crux of the project was the selection of a technology partner who became knowledgeable about the Citrix solution and could fully support us in this delicate phase of testing. The job was fully completed by Infonet Solutions of Padua, who guaranteed the success supporting us in the complex development of the system,” continues Zanni.
The consortium also makes use of a virtual server using Citrix XenServer.
Many advantages were achieved by the Consortium through implementation of Citrix desktop virtualization solutions. First, the complete satisfaction of the students who have expressed very positive opinions on the solution that allows them to use the software from home with their personal devices, concluding session in the laboratory or by completing the exercises assigned by the teacher and avoiding queues at laboratories. Thanks to Citrix NetScaler they can securely access resources from home. The next step will be the implementation of Citrix XenApp, with the possibility of reducing the combinations of virtual machines to manage, having the ability to virtualize applications used, even in incompatible versions, and then decide to apply to certain groups of machines or users.
The implemented solution proved to be very scalable, and also offers the possibility to make the software owned by the University Centre remotely available to students who attend lessons via videoconference without the need for dedicated hardware or special software installations.
The Consortium has experienced considerable reduction in workload for the management and maintenance of the machines and the pilot project has already been calculated savings of 60 percent of maintenance hours. There were also obvious cost savings of about 15 percent, thanks to the XenDesktop solution, given that the licenses hypervisor XenServer Enterprise version are free of charge, providing all the functionality of high reliability with other vendors were not free.
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