Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., has a distinct need for cloud-based desktop applications.
Charles Braymen, assistant professor of economics and finance at Creighton’s Heider College of Business, says the school sought a way to provide students with statistical software outside of a traditional computer lab.
“We want the students to access the statistical apps either in their normal classroom or at home,” Braymen says. “We also thought the ability to offer access to statistical apps remotely would help enhance the quality of our online education program. Without virtual access, students would not have access or would be forced to purchase these very expensive programs.”
Heider rolled out Microsoft Azure RemoteApp last fall to about 20 students. In the spring, it expanded the deployment to about 50 students who can access the full Office 365 suite of Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint and Word, plus some statistical software. Students access the service by downloading client software and logging in with their Creighton IDs.
“It’s like all the apps are running locally, but they are accessed over the Internet,” Braymen says.
The faculty member has taken on the administration of RemoteApp and notes that aside from spending time developing server images, the process isn’t that difficult. He adds that he can provision virtual servers during peak times of the semester, such as during final exams.
Creighton University’s central IT department is evaluating Azure RemoteApp, and discussions are under way to expand its use across the university.
The Desktop as a Service model of offering virtual desktop infrastructure through the cloud has become increasingly popular, according to John Abbott, founder and distinguished analyst for 451 Research. The desire to reduce desktop management supports and to support bring-your-own-device programs drives DaaS deployments.
“Colleges and universities have legions of Windows-based applications that are not yet economically feasible to translate to native mobile/tablet graphical user interfaces or mobile applications,” Abbott explains. What’s more, the public cloud reduces the back-end infrastructure costs of delivering virtual desktops and offers operational efficiency.
Extensive Evaluation Before Implementation
Alan Price, systems administrator at The College of Idaho, evaluated Amazon Web Services and VMware Horizon Air Desktops, but decided that the value proposition isn’t yet compelling enough.
Price says it would cost about $15,000 to run 50 computer lab desktops in the cloud, whereas he could buy new hardware and obtain more computing capacity in blade servers for $13,500. The College of Idaho deployed VMware Horizon View a few years ago to deliver desktops anywhere, anytime.
“That high level of access is very attractive, and I think DaaS makes a lot of sense for many organizations,” Price explains. “But since we only have 1,100 students and are a small operation, at least for now, it was hard to make an ROI case.”