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Liquidware Labs Helps New York School District Overcome Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Deployment Challenges

Liquidware Labs, the leader in desktop transformation solutions, today announced that the Phoenix (New York) Central School District (PCSD) has deployed the award-winning ProfileUnity user-virtualization and profile-management solution. ProfileUnity is playing a key role in the school district’s move to a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).

ProfileUnity provides PCSD with a feature-rich, affordable solution for virtual desktop deployments and physical PCs. The technology decouples user profiles and data from the operating system, making it ideal for the school district's environment that offers both physical and virtual desktops to its student population of both its middle and high schools.

The two schools have 400 HP t5730 thin client workstations as well as 550 computer workstations that together serve approximately 1,400 students and 220 faculty and staff. It is common to have up to 130 concurrent users on the thin clients that typically log in at the same time- the beginning of class periods.

"The education environment is different from most corporate environments," said Ted Love, Director of Technology for the Phoenix Central School District. "We were running into what we would call 'I/O storms' when 90 students tried to log in at the same time. We had to do something about it. Classroom time is essential for teachers. It was not acceptable to lose significant class time to wait for students to be able to log in and begin working."

The IT staff had set up thin clients in 2009 to connect to Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS - formerly Terminal Services). This environment brought new challenges:

  • Managing profiles for a group of 1,620 dynamic users
  • Maintaining acceptable log-in times when multiple classes of students logged in simultaneously
  • Providing convenient printer access to students
  • Unforeseen policy management issues

Because Remote Desktop Services is comprised of multiple user sessions on a 64-bit Windows Server OS, there was little the district's IT staff could do about the application compatibility and user-experience issues it encountered. To address the shortcomings of RDS, PCSD decided to take the next step and introduce virtual desktops into the computer labs and network infrastructure by conducting many proof-of-concept trials. In the fall of 2010, PCSD selected VMware® View for its next-generation desktop environment. The IT staff created a single golden-desktop image and did not customize desktops for each student.

Using VMware's non-persistent linked-clone technology meant that the IT staff could provide a consistent "fresh" desktop image per user group. Leveraging non-persistent desktops allowed users to just log in again to get a new desktop if the one they were using developed issues. Non-persistent desktops also minimized the storage resources needed to power the virtual desktops in the data center.

To prepare for the 2011-2012 school year, the PCSD IT staff decided to implement Liquidware Labs ProfileUnity to address some of its earlier issues of managing student profiles and shortening log-in times as well as addressing printer and policy management. Award-winning ProfileUnity™ is a feature-rich and affordable user virtualization and profile management solution for virtual desktop deployments and physical PCs. The technology decouples user profiles and data from the operating system for migration to VMware View, Citrix XenDesktop, or any platform that supports Windows OS-making it the ideal bridge solution for heterogeneous environments running physical, virtual and Terminal Services sessions.

ProfileUnity also delivers a flexible universal profile that is compatible across multiple Windows OS versions, including Windows XP/2000/Vista/Server 2003/2008/Windows 7/8. With no software to install on desktops, this cost-effective solution separately stores and infuses user profiles, configurations, and data into the Windows OS in seconds at log-on, enabling organizations to be more flexible than ever before with their desktops.

"The beauty of ProfileUnity is that it allows us to not only virtualize the OS and applications, but also to virtualize user profiles and make them ubiquitous across the enterprise," Love said. "No matter where users log in, they receive the same experience. With ProfileUnity we can effectively and efficiently inject the profile during the log-in."

According to Kevin Cooke, Virtualization Lead at TERACAI-an IT solutions provider and Liquidware Labs partner that deployed the solution for PCSD-academic institutions have unique and rigorous demands that derive from managing an active student body. "The use case for K-12 organizations can be the perfect storm as it relates to VDI," Cooke said. "The balance of managing the smallest number of VM images, combined with the variability of a highly-diverse user base, creates a challenge that is not easily solved with traditional VDI approaches. Add to this the relatively high turnover of users [as compared to a traditional corporate IT environment], and these challenges become amplified."

Cooke goes on to say academic environments recognize the value of end-user virtualization and as a result, are the most active in adoption. "When you combine the fact that most K-12 organizations are already strapped for resources while student expectations for compute capabilities are quite high, you heighten the challenge of doing more with less. Finding the right tools to fully realize non-persistent desktop images is critical. Without a thoughtful approach, you will likely run into management and operational issues as you scale."

By combining ProfileUnity with non-persistent desktops, PCSD gets the best of both worlds: users get personalization, and desktops remain uncorrupted even with frequent use. By utilizing ProfileUnity, the IT team not only gained immediate improvements, it also set the stage for more scalability and manageability going forward.

"With the management capabilities of ProfileUnity, we can provide a more responsive and flexible environment that ensures that students and staff always have immediate access to applications with a consistent user experience from session-to-session," Love said. "ProfileUnity has thus become an essential part of our ecosystem. Now that we've invested in the initial configuration to fit our enterprise, it just works. It is a part of our computing environment that we never have to worry about."

For the complete Phoenix Central School District case study, visit the Liquidware Labs website.

Published Monday, March 12, 2012 6:03 PM by David Marshall
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