Mar 19 2013

Schools Deploy VDI with an Eye Toward BYOD

Virtual desktop infrastructure sets a foundation for mobility.

Westerly Public Schools wants to deliver anytime, anywhere access to applications through virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) technology, and plans are in the works to make that happen by next year.

The Rhode Island district began deploying virtual machines in 2008, says Mark Lamson, director of technology. Because its thin client manufacturer has gone out of business, Westerly is now testing VMware View.

Several hundred students currently access educational software via VDI from labs and classrooms outfitted with thin clients. “Our hope is for everyone to run a VMware View client and offer more flexible access so students can bring up educational applications from home,” Lamson says. “As long as they have the correct credentials to authenticate, they’ll be able to access a VDI session.”

Lamson’s team supports about 3,000 students and roughly another 1,000 teachers, administrators and staff. The district made a large investment to upgrade its network switches and wireless access points, a move that puts the Westerly Public Schools in a strong position to support a bring-your-own-device program. “When it comes to BYOD, we’re looking at putting our operational practices and procedures in place,” he says.

Brett Waldman, IDC research manager for client virtualization software, says a quest for efficiency and cost savings drives IT departments to deploy VDI.

3.3 The estimated average number of connected devices per knowledge worker by 2014

SOURCE: Cisco IBSG Horizons Study (Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group, May 2012)

“VDI lets IT departments separate the apps from the underlying hardware, allowing them to deliver apps anytime, anywhere, on any device,” Waldman says. The technology simplifies the task of replacing and managing PCs and allows IT staff to deliver legacy Windows apps to users regardless of device type.

VDI Lends a Helping Hand

At Derby Public Schools in Derby, Kan., VDI offers a way to extend the life of the district’s legacy PCs. “We had to make our existing equipment last longer, and VDI helped us deploy new software on aging computers,” says IT Director Drew Lane.

Based on Citrix XenDesktop and XenApp, Derby Public Schools’ VDI infrastructure paves the way for the district to deploy BYOD. “We haven’t launched a formal BYOD program at the high school yet, but we have the technology resources in place,” Lane says, noting the district’s recent network upgrades.

“Students need to not simply digest information, but rather seek answers to abstract problems. Technology must become the pen and paper of the 21st century,” Lane says. “We haven’t worked out our BYOD program completely yet, but we know it will be some type of mobile capability.”