4-page Case Study
Posted: 6/12/2012
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University of Incheon Using a Computer Lab as the Starting Point for Students' Cloud Computing Experience

With the goal of becoming one of the global top-100 universities by 2016, the University of Incheon has been expanding desktop virtualization technology to provide students with a comfortable education and work environment. The school collected all desktops placed in the computer labs used by students on liberal arts courses in early 2012, and replaced them with all-in-one thin clients. Through this, the computer lab was transformed into a neat well-organized space, and computer fan noise and heat also disappeared. All of these things were possible due to the successful establishment of desktop virtualization infrastructure based on Windows Server 2008 R2 and System Center. With its new found experience and expertise in desktop virtualization, the university plans to switch the desktop computers used by staff for academic work and administration to virtualization-based ones.

Situation

The computer laboratory opened in the first semester of 2012 by the University of Incheon is a hot topic among students. The computer lab has no desktops but only monitors, keyboards and mice on its desks. So, it appears to be a library without noise and heat. It is said that the students who visit the computer lab to take computer-related courses are surprised to see the totally different look of this particular lab. Compared to the previous one, which was filled with noise generated by computer cooling fans, heat and stuffy air, in the new lab, students are greeted by a quiet and refreshing atmosphere. This astonishing transformation of the computer lab was realized through ‘desktop virtualization.’

The University of Incheon first began considering the introduction of desktop virtualization technology at the end of 2011. Under the banner of becoming a university leading Smart Campus, the university has taken an interest in various technological areas. One of them is desktop virtualization. Although it has been known that having access to lecture or academic administration affairs through Smartphones or tablet applications is what the Smart Campus is all about, the university has been trying not just to provide various visible services, but also to establish invisible infrastructure through the Smart Campus project.

At first, the University of Incheon intended to adopt virtualization desktops to cover administrative work. However, there were concerns raised over an immediate launch of desktop virtualization without having any prior experience. While pondering how to realize desktop virtualization while eliminating trial and error, the university came up with the idea of changing one of its computer labs into a virtualization-based one. The school thought that transforming the computer lab, which had been a severe management blind spot, would provide students with a good opportunity to experience virtualization and, at the same time, would be feasible in terms of its practical benefits.

Like the computer labs of other universities, students flow in and out all day at the lab since a lot of the students who take computer-related courses use the computer lab. Given that the desktops are used by unspecified individuals, they are naturally exposed to maintenance-related problems. Speaking of this issue, an officer from Computing and Information Center at the university said that “we used to prevent glitches caused by installation of user software or changes in set up from occurring by initializing the computers when they are turned on. Nevertheless, we always found several computers were out of order due to software glitches or hardware problems.”

Solution

After deciding to apply desktop virtualization to the computer lab first, the university planned to launch a project to coincide with winter break season in early 2012. This project was implemented through the participation of Baynex, a business partner of HP. The University of Incheon and Baynex focused their energy on producing optimal outcomes in all areas, ranging from introducing thin clients for desktop virtualization to the composition of servers and storage infrastructure. They found they needed to take somewhat different approaches toward the university computer lab, unlike desktop virtualization for a company or other types of organizations.

After much discussion, they decided to divide the computer lab spaces into different categories according to usage: an ordinary lab set-up where general software including documentation tools that do not require much computing power is used and a virtualized environment where users can access video or graphic tools, which may cause performance degradation. All the lab spaces were equipped with HP t5740e thin clients, HP DL380 server and HP P2000 storage. But, there is a major difference. That’s the installation of graphics cards. The university and Baynex allocated the HP DL380 server with built-in graphics card with GPU in only one of the four computer labs.

An officer from Baynex said that “although we have conducted countless desktop virtualization projects to date, we have never had a virtualization solution that display videos or HD graphic screens to the extent equivalent to ordinary desktops from the protocol level. In contrast, Hyper-V allows users to enjoy watching videos or playing high-definition games seamlessly on a client connected to Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) through Remote FX, which was introduced by Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1. Since it maximizes the thin client’s graphic-related user experience by using the GPU power of the graphic card installed on the server, users experience no performance degradation at all, whether they run Photoshop, watch full HD videos or play 3D online games.”

Meanwhile, what is noteworthy in this project was that it realized management centralization and automation. The university introduced System Center Virtual Machine Manger (SCVMM) for the creation of virtual desktops and distribution automation, and System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) for the centralized handling of software distribution and desktop set up.

In addition, the software installed on the virtual desktop environment also underwent changes. As part of its attempts to standardize the major software that students use within the virtual desktop environment, the university has updated basic software programs such as Windows 7 and Office 2010 to the latest versions. An officer from Computing and Information Center said that “students tended to experience difficulties in using such programs because the operating system and documentation programs installed on desktops were not consistent with those of the computer labs. So, we intended to eliminate the confusion and systematically manage our software assets used in the virtual environment by standardizing software programs to Windows 7 and Office 2010.”

Benefits

Provide Opportunities to Experience the Cloud

The University of Incheon transformed its computer lab to a place not simply where students could learn how to use software tools, but as somewhere where they can experience the Cloud. The officer from Computing and Information Center said that “At a time when the Cloud has become a big computing trend, providing students with opportunities to experience cloud-based services such as desktop virtualization before landing a job is the core of a Smart Campus strategy. Although it is important to introduce Smartphone and table apps to allow students to have access to school activities regardless of location and devices, we think it is meaningful for them to experience desktops online.”

Create Comfortable Atmosphere by Reducing Energy

The desktop virtualization transformed computer labs into comfortable spaces. With the heat emitted from the desktops installed on every desktop now gone, the indoor air quality has changed for the better. The HP t5740e thin client introduced by the university is an energy star certified product and uses a 65W power supply. In contrast, the power supply of ordinary desktops is between 200~300W. Just a simple calculation will reveal that the power consumption of ordinary desktops requires 4 to 5 times higher than that of thin clients. Moreover, with much reduced heat emissions, the environment of the computer lab has become eco-friendly.

Reduction in Maintenance Cost

Often, desktop virtualization is said to cost a lot of money. In fact, it is true that the initial set up cost can be difficult to meet for some. However, the story changes depending on how you compose and operate the system. As for the University of Incheon, its project can be considered as a case that enhanced the TCO effect in the mid-to long-term by offsetting the initial cost used on desktops in various areas.

Actually, the school minimizes various investment required for the maintenance of its computer lab to increase the TCO effect. The officer of Computing Center said that “the devices of the computer lab frequently broke down since they are used by many students. In other words, it required more money for their maintenance than with general desktops. Moreover, the usage term of the computer lab spans about 3~4 years with a certain amount of money being used for maintenance each year. On the contrary, the thin client we introduced this time may require more money at an early stage, but it supports free maintenance for the next three years. Furthermore, when defective parts are found, they will be replaced by a new product, rather than being repaired. Considering all these factors, it seems to have better maintenance conditions than ordinary desktop products.”

The selection of Hyper-V benefits a mid-to long-term TCO reduction by reducing license cost. The officer from Baynex said that “thanks to the CAL license, it take less money to renew licenses each year compared to rival solutions when choosing Hyper-V-based desktop virtualization. If we take the University of Incheon as an example, the license solution-related cost gap between Microsoft solution and those of rival companies is about 5 to 6 times.”

Zero Maintenance Burden on Work Scholarship Students

The operation of human resources has also been improved, in addition to the maintenance side of it. Like in other universities, students using the work-study program have been operating the maintenance of the computer labs at University of Incheon. Usually, their responsibility was limited to responding to primary glitches, such as initialization support in the case of occurrence of errors or installing software. In cases where professional support is required, engineers from maintenance companies were called in to fix the problems. However, wasting human resources is no longer necessary since it is now possible to automatically control the system from the central server.

The officer from the Computing Center at the University of Incheon said that “when we needed to install new software programs on desktops of the computer labs, for example, when new courses were created or information competitions were held, work-study students used to walk around the labs to unlock the hardware disk security on each computer, install new software programs and run the programs. But, it has become possible to automatically distribute and manage programs, including the operating system and software programs, at the click of mouse through SCVMM and SCCM. Thus, whereas it used to take several days to complete the installation of new software programs or upgrade them, it can now be immediately conducted.”

Reduce Student Inconvenience

A survey was conducted on students after desktop virtualization completed. The results were remarkably positive. The officer from Computing Center said, “We asked them how they think about the new system and to evaluate their satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 5. The average score of we received was 4, which was high.”

What drove students to respond in this way is insignificant but unignorable changes. They said they sometimes experienced everything on their desktops was gone due to errors at the computer lab. Since the computer system was set to initialize when it is turned on, they couldn’t help. However, after establishing the desktop virtualization, they no longer worry about these incidents. The officer from Computing Center said, “Hyper-V’s snapshot function saves changes of the system state so users can revert to a previous state. In the case that a problem occurs on the virtual desktop environment, the user can revert to an earlier snapshot so they don’t interfere with their schoolwork anymore.”

Microsoft System Center

System Center solutions help IT pros manage the physical and virtual information technology (IT) environments across data centers, client computers, and devices. Using these integrated and automated management solutions, IT organizations can be more productive service providers to their businesses.

For more information on Microsoft System Center please visit: 

www.microsoft.com/systemcenter

For More Information

For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:

www.microsoft.com

For more information about University of Incheon, call 82-32-835-8114 or visit the website at:

www.incheon.ac.kr

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview




Organization Profile

The University of Incheon is a public university located in Incheon, west of Seoul, with a particular strong academic specialism in the fields of International Trade, Chinese Cultural Studies, Information Communications, Biological Engineering and International Logistics.


Business Situation

While considering desktop virtualization as part of its strategy to establish a Smart Campus, the University of Incheon launched this project through utilizing computer labs


Solution

Using Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 and System Center, which are the foundations of desktop virtualization for thin client devices arranged in the computer lab.


Benefits

  • Provides opportunities to Experience the Cloud
  • Reducing energy consumption
  • Reduces maintenance cost
  • No management burden
  • Mitigates student inconvenience


Software and Services
  • Microsoft System Center
  • Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager
  • Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager

Vertical Industries
Education

Country/Region
Korea

Business Need
  • Support and Services
  • Cloud & Server Platform

IT Issue
Private Cloud

Languages
English

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