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Desktop Virtualization Learning Curve

I understand the technical concepts behind desktop virtualization, however, I am a relatively “newbie” in implementing the solution for entire organizations. In the past few months, I have been actively researching and learning about desktop virtualization and how it can be the ideal solution for K12 schools. I have been learning about VMWare and now going to take this online training provided by Citrix on XenDesktop 4. I am also learning about thin clients and going to be building some test labs using our WebDT LX166 devices. All these solutions and products will require a learning curve on my technical skills, but I am committed to getting trained because I am that confident it will be in the future of K12 computing.

As part of the learning curve, I finally beta tested the NComputing U170 Desktop Virtualization product. I used one of my desktop workstations and used two of the following: monitor, keyboard, and mouse. I connected the first monitor, keyboard and mouse normally to the desktop, while the second set was connected to the U170 device. The U170 device then connects via USB to the desktop workstation. Once the software is loaded with a couple USB port setting changes, the two monitors will boot as two virtual workstations. The configuration was simple and it worked instantly. I was able to load test the virtual desktops with video streaming and it handled it well. In my opinion, I think this is a practical budget solution to put into classrooms as technology centers. I could envision a quad core desktop in a six monitor virtual workstation setup. It will give teachers the ability to load and maintain software on just one desktop and be able to give access to six simultaneous users.

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  1. May 6, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    One problem I’ve encountered with this set up is that the individual monitors obviously have no processing power, so all of the processing has to occur on the single desktop. For many applications this isn’t too much of an issue, but some applications require a ton of CPU to work properly. We used thin clients at one of my schools, and whenever we ran Geometer’s Sketchpad, the entire network we were on would lag, and the server running the program would slow down.

    So you’d have to look for the ideal balance between the power of the desktop computer, and the number of attached workstations.

    I actually think the future of ed tech lies in cloud services, which run on a similar concept to what you are suggesting. If you haven’t already, check out Chrome OS (by Google). It has a 5-10 second boot time from completely off, and the only software which runs directly on the computer itself is a browser, and a network connection program. All of the additional software is used through the browser, with word processing/spreadsheets/presentations happening in Google Docs, etc…

    It could be good for schools which by and large have very few “necessary” desktop applications.

    • May 6, 2010 at 2:52 pm

      Yes, I agree, I actually wrote a blog post on my ideal desktop virtualization scenario where chrome will boot up from the cloud. The thin client citrix model has worked successfully. It always depends on the specs that these virtual workstations boot from. Desktop virtualization (cloud & internal) is the future for school infrastructures and companies like Virtual Bridges (not cheap) offer solutions for any platform to boot from the cloud. There is balance on my side of $$$, IT support and EdTech instructional needs. I wrote this post for teachers who don’t have the option to boot from the cloud and need a low cost simple solution to provide a computer center.

  2. May 6, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    We have been using the NComputing X550 in 3 labs with 30 computers each since the beginning of this school year and they’ve worked flawless. We were able to outfit each complete lab with 5 dual core desktops with 4GB of RAM as the hosts and 5 X550 kits (5 thin clients per kit) with monitors, mice and keyboards for under $9,000. That’s quite a savings over buying 30 desktops, not to mention the savings in power and air conditioning considering each thin client takes 5 watts to run and they pull their power from the PCI card in the host system. You really don’t even need to go with quad core unless you want to spend the extra money.

    The NComputing solution is definitely less expensive than going with either VMWare or Citrix since you would spend a good chunk on a server that can handle a bunch of thin clients, plus you aren’t burdening your network with a boat load of traffic.

    Just my two cents.

    G

    • May 6, 2010 at 3:17 pm

      Thanks Gary! It is good to hear successful implementations of NComputing devices. Are you finding any issues with memory intensive applications?

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