How to deploy and virtualize any software app to university computer labs in 2017
It's 2017 and it's no surprise that students want to work anywhere; whether it's with friends or in a campus near their residence.
Today's students expect university IT to be flexible, or at least flexible enough to allow them to work where they want, when they want. An important part of that flexibility is having anywhere-access to the apps they need to study; students don't want to have to go to computer labs at set times.
But when it comes to enabling that level of flexibility with app deployment and delivery, it can be easier said than done...
What are university labs?
University labs (sometimes known as computing clusters) are part of a university's IT facility. They're typically on campus; a place students go to access a range of software applications, all provided by the university, on university-owned machines.
Computer labs can be open access with some general apps available, or they can be subject specific, say engineering. It simply depends on the size and scale of the institution as to the number and range of areas that are available to students.
How does university IT deliver apps to labs?
Historically, apps were just put in an image and pushed out as one. This often involved a technician sitting in the room waiting for the network to fall down so they could restart the exercise. The major issue though was that apps were getting larger and larger, and in turn image sizes became unmanageable.
One way of solving this was having labs that were subject specific, and then the institution managing multiple images. This wasn’t ideal; it allowed for little flexibility on the students' part, and often presented timetabling issues.
What technology is used to deploy apps to labs?
Most universities and colleges use a variety of technologies. At the heart of this is their core imaging technology, most commonly Microsoft's SCCM. This is used to push images out to end machines. Whilst it does a great job of that, it offers little flexibility: managing a last-minute room change would cause severe headaches for example.