Virtualization

4 Lessons Learned from Virtual Application Management Rollouts

In a session at the Citrix Synergy conference in Orlando, FL, IT leaders from the universities of Central Florida, South Florida and Florida shared their experiences rolling out and maintaining virtual application management technology.

The universities of Central Florida, South Florida and Florida all use virtual application management to deliver students the software they need to do their classwork anytime, anywhere and on any device. The three universities collaborated through the piloting and implementation of Citrix XenApp, and in a session at the Citrix Synergy conference in Orlando, FL, their tech leaders shared the stage to present the lessons they have learned while rolling out and maintaining the technology.

1) Create and maintain awareness. J.P. Peters, director of Information Technology and Communications at UCF’s College of Sciences, said that his department’s pre-launch marketing campaign including a video for students, as well as print and digital materials. From there, he relied on “faculty champions,” to help their colleagues and students understand use the UCFApps ecosystem.

Jameson Johnston, the IT manager at UF, who launched UFApps to 50,000 students on day 1, added that his team targeted specific courses where students and faculty might be most likely to use the new system.

Both Peters and Johnston stressed that marketing is an ongoing process, which can include monitoring social media reaction to the rollout and doing user surveys to get feedback and build awareness. And, as Johnston put it, “Every semester you’ve got a new wave of three to five thousand students that you’ve got to train.”

2) Manage application licensing. Jason Hair, assistant director support services at USF, said that one of his department’s first steps was to negotiate concurrent use licensing for the apps it wanted to place in the USF Application Gateway. He did not take for granted that every vendor would agree. “We spoke to every single vendor to make sure we had permission to use their apps in our environment,” he said.

Hair also mentioned consolidating licensing, and suggested that schools should meter and report on usage so that they can share with their vendors “what students are launching the apps.”

3) Be prepared for BYOD challenges. According to Craig Froehlich, the IT director at UCF, delivering apps to any device requires creating documentation to cover all those devices, as well as a variety of  browsers — and being prepared for software and hardware updates that are out of IT’s control. Leaders from all three schools also reported issues with LMS integration.

4) Avoid storage location confusion. After the launch of the USF Application Gateway, Hair said he often had students ask, “Where’s my file actually going?” Their confusion over where to store files actually created performance issues when they tried to save files from the server to their laptops. His solution was to create a dedicated storage location on the server and start looking into a cloud storage solution.

All three universities are looking to improve their virtual app management systems. Planned upgrades include creating user personalization via persistent profile data, adding more apps, moving to cloud storage and making the app ecosystem available in classrooms and labs via thin clients.

About the Author

Christopher Piehler is the former editor-in-chief of THE Journal.

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