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U North Texas Dallas Shifting to Virtual Desktops

Imagine grappling with the growth challenges of the University of North Texas at Dallas. This campus plans to grow from a 3,000-student enrollment to 30,000 students over the next decade as part of an ambitious transition from being a branch campus of University of North Texas to being a stand-alone institution.

That transition drove the school to consider an alternative to growing its PC population as well. Network Administrator Brian Walker has begun investing computer budget into development of a data center to support a virtual desktop environment running Pano Logic gear.

Pano Logic devices, which physically resemble small boxes, connect peripheral devices being operated by the user--such as the keyboard, mouse, display, and audio--to a virtualized Windows desktop that runs on a server in the data center. The drivers and operating system for those users run on a hypervisor, such as VMware ESXi, which in turn taps into the server's memory, processors, and storage.

The university's decision to move to virtual desktops has allowed the IT organization to redirect funds meant for new computers (at about $1,000 each) to bolstering the data center. With the same amount of money Walker deployed a storage area network and licensed 300 Pano Logic seats (for $300 each) for that many virtual desktops.

The virtual desktop set-up, according to Pano Logic, allows the network administrator to manage desktops centrally. For Walker, that means being able to create and provision specialized desktops for specific academic purposes from his own console. The desktops are divided among eight computer labs around campus. But he also said he plans to set up digital kiosks running virtual desktops around campus and hopes to outfit small collaboration rooms with the software and other hardware such as a projector for team projects.

In addition, Walker is assuming responsibility for the IT resources in a downtown Dallas campus and will look to replace PCs with Pano Logic at that facility. He also indicated he plans to swap out the PCs used by the university's 80 faculty and 120 staff once the student resources are in place.

"We need to be ready on the infrastructure side to be as supportive and flexible as possible as the campus and our needs expand while being cognizant of the costs," said Walker. "That means providing a flexible computing resource that doesn't require a great deal of hands-on maintenance and support, which in turn means no more PCs. Pano Logic had what I was looking for."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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