For local schools, universities and other academic institutions facing record budget shortfalls, along with outdated IT infrastructures, companies such as VMware, Wyse Technology and Ncomputing are all offering special deals and other programs to help them switch to a virtual desktop environment. On Feb. 9, Wyse and VMware specifically detailed offerings to bring virtualization to the classroom.
IT administrators can deploy VMware View and Wyse client devices together to update the school's desktop infrastructure, according to Wyse. School IT administrators can use VMware View, a desktop management platform that can create virtual desktops, complete with the operating system, necessary applications and user data, and automatically push them out to the Wyse thin clients, according to the company.
Each student on a Wyse client could log into a virtual machine and do exactly the same things as if it was a regular PC, and log-off when done, according to Tim Smith, a Wyse spokesperson. A single server can contain hundreds of virtual desktops, Smith said. All the virtual desktops can be centrally managed using VMware View's management console, such as patch management, installing new applications and adding new devices, Wyse said.
There is a "growing momentum" for desktop virtualization in the classroom to "enable the computing freedom that educators and students want," Wyse said.
While Wyse is offering special promotions, such as $100 off qualified Wyse thin and zero clients and a 50 percent discount on Wyse PC extender, for education buyers who purchase VMware View, the company is leaving the product selection up to the institution. In contrast, Ncomputing, another desktop virtualization vendor, offers an all-in-one offering that takes all the guesswork and estimates out of classroom deployments. Ncomputing's Classroom in A Box, launched in January, includes virtual desktop devices and the company's vSpace virtualization software. Classroom in A Box can support up to 30 users per virtual machine, according to Ncomputing.
Virtualization and shared computing are particularly attractive in institutions where multiple people use the same machine. With soaring energy costs, growing demand for more powerful machines, and an increasingly crowded data center, desktop virtualization increasingly makes sense for schools to significantly reduce maintenance time and costs, according to Wyse.
Gartner analysts Federica Troni and Mark Margevicius compared the total cost of ownership for traditional computers against "server-based" computing in December and found that application delivery costs on virtual systems were 8 percent to 13 percent lower than PCs. The application delivery costs were dramatically lower, up to 44 percent to 47 percent lower when compared against an "unmanaged desktop deployment," the analysts wrote.
Many school districts are faced with the expensive prospect of replacing existing PCs as part of the refresh cycle as well as to update older machines to Microsoft Windows 7. Those costs are minimized with a shift to thin client computing, Wyse said. The thin clients also have a longer product lifespan over a PC, ranging from five to seven years, according to the company, allowing school district administrators to space out their hardware refresh cycles further apart.
The zero clients are easy to manage from the management console and they can run a variety of applications, Wyse said. Schools may deploy virtual desktops to streamline desktop management, such as ensuring all the latest patches are installed, checking for security vulnerabilities and installing software remotely, said Wyse.
School districts were using desktop virtualization to offer "affordable and sustainable" technology that could be managed with limited resources, according to Wyse. For districts already using VMware in the data center, it was just a matter of buying additional Wyse clients and extending the virtualized infrastructure to cover the classroom, Wyse said.
Educational institutions concerned about being green also pick the zero clients as they consume less energy and require less cooling in the labs, classrooms, and data center, Wyse said. According to Smith, the thin client uses less energy, takes up less space and is more reliable than a regular computer.