The University of Florida’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department wanted to reduce the amount of support required to maintain their student use computer lab. Going “green” by using low power devices and implementing power management was a secondary goal.
UF’s ECE department lacked the ability to accurately track software revisions and computer configurations, as well as no central management of the lab computers. A comprehensive audit found several models of computers and other hardware devices in use. To complicate the issue further multiple computers ran different operating systems. Students need to run CPU intensive calculations so processing power is a priority.
Upon completing a thorough analysis, we designed a totally new environment using ultra small form factor computers with a VDI (virtual Desktop Infrastructure) backend. The VDI backend consists of 2 dual processor Dell servers, SSD storage, GPU accelerator cards – enough to handle approximately 400 users at once. Hardware and software were now unified across all devices. IT staff could patch the computers or add software for the lab in minutes and not days. Student acceptance has been positive and they now have the ability to connect to the Virtual Desktops from outside the computer lab itself.
As of August 2015, the computer lab has been occupied by students on a nearly 24×7 basis. The IT staff are happy with the ability to patch or install updates on one virtual desktop and propagate those changes to the rest of the virtual machines with just a couple of clicks. The computer lab now, “runs itself!”