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.
Working in both IT operations and EdTech makes it quite difficult to provide a balanced technology solution that offers robust instructional resources without putting a burden on technical support. In my previous post, I wrote about creating a Google Apps Virtual Desktop where students can log into their account for their web-based application services. As of now, it has been limited to the core Google Apps services of Docs & Sites, with additions of Aviary, SlideRocket, and Survey Monkey. I am still waiting for an education section of GAE to develop, and more instructional apps made available for free.
While Google Apps provides our schools with real-time communication and collaborative tools, I still felt a key missing component to my desktop virtualization solution. This is where I have been investigating solutions to eliminate the everyday desktop technical support of security updates, software installations, and user operating system errors. I have researched solutions such as Citrix XenDesktop 4 software and VMware.
Then I asked What if…?
What if web-centric Google Chromium OS allowed me to combine VMware capability with Google Apps? In my dream world, my students will use thin clients to boot up Chromium OS from a shared server. The Chromium OS will launch Google Apps and other web 2.0 apps on the thin clients, and students will be able to save all their work in Docs.
From an IT perspective, it will reduce cost and time of managing & maintaining individual desktop machines that are prone for user error. The thin clients will simply act as a graphical user interface connecting remotely to the shared server or drive that boots web-based Chromium OS and Google Apps. Using this configuration will free up time to focus on professional development training, while allowing me to maximize instructional technology resources in a virtual environment. One device to rule them all…Would love to hear your budget K12 solutions?