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Largest State Maritime Academy Moves to Virtual Desktops

Massachusetts Maritime Academy is going into wide rollout on a VDI deployment first piloted by the institution last year.

The effort at virtual desktop infrastructure deployment at the nation’s largest state maritime academy began in 2011 with the use of Unidesk desktop layering software and VMware View desktop virtualization software to allow students to have mobile access to applications securely from common areas on campus.

The effort is now growing to bring in faculty and staff with a mixture of personal desktops and kiosk-style desktops that will be shared by students throughout the academy’s common areas.

Delivery of the VDI solution was handled by Presidio. Hosting for the virtual desktops will take place on a Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS), with deployment on a VMware vSphere infrastructure and access coming through Wyse thin clients.

The adoption of virtual desktops will allow the school to deliver high-end applications more quickly including such applications as AutoCAD, SolidWorks 3D modeling, and GIS programs by means of layering the applications with Unidesk instead of installing the applications on physical desktops, according to the academy.

"With a small IT staff, simplicity and efficiency is everything,” said Robert MacGregor, director of IT at the school. “Unidesk layering lets us treat operating systems, applications and user desktops as independent objects that can be quickly assembled on a moment's notice.”

Applications are layered separately with the VDI, which allows the use of one Microsoft Windows 7 gold image for all desktops.

To give IT more control, group policies can be adjusted to permit desktop changes and downloads or to prevent these changes, if non-persistent desktops would prove to be desirable.

"We made all our desktops persistent because Unidesk gives us the same storage capacity savings as non-persistent desktops and cloning technology, so we’re still able to keep our storage use down, even on the most feature-rich desktops for our power users," said MacGregor.

Virtual desktops also allow greater mobility, MacGregor explained.

“The secure 24 x 7 access our students now enjoy with desktop virtualization also makes IT operations a lot easier for us,” said MacGregor. “I have an iPad, so I use the VMware View client to access any desktop I want, and I can manage my whole virtual data center through VMware vCenter from wherever I happen to be. From the iPad, I can also browse to every other management tool I need, including the Unidesk Management Console to manage my desktops."

The move to less power-hungry thin clients also supports the Massachusetts Maritime Academy's efforts to cut down on energy use.

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