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Virtual desktops slash boot time at Kingston University

Cliff Saran

The University of Kingston is about to start the second phase of a desktop virtualisation project to migrate off Windows XP.

Speaking at IP Expo, Daniel Bolton, an analyst within information services at Kingston University, said the existing desktop comprised 7,000 dual-boot Windows XP and Mac OS X machines. "We have a very old PC model wih 1,000 applications," he said.

The university needed to migrate to Windows 7, a project that would be easier to complete using a virtualised deskop.

Bolton expected the older generation of users would be scared their PCs were no longer their PCs. To get around this, if a user needs to install software, it is loaded on their own device, otherwise the university uses a managed desktop environment.

In phase one the university deployed deskop-as-a-service. Bolton said users were given a standard desktop, rather than their own custom desktop due to the IT management overhead associated with a persistent desktop image.

The university is now entering phase two of the project, which will offer a persistent desktop for users by using local storage to store the desktop image. Bolton said using local storage this way was more cost effective than using a storage area network.

The virtual desktop environment has speeded up boot times for PC users. Boot time has been cut from 15 minutes per user to 15 seconds for a Windows desktop, Bolton said.

By the end of Q1 2011 Kingston will have up to 3,000 Windows virtual desktops, Bolton said.

Virtualisation search

Bolton said it took two years to identify a virtualisation application that offered location awareness, an important consideration for the university, which has many remote users. Through location awareness, Bolton said Kingston could ensure users would be able to print to their closest printer. Location awareness could also be used to limit access and restrict how applications are used, such as by preventing access to the PC's local storage.

Kingston selected Quest vWorkspace and Microsoft Hyper-V, which met these requirements.

Daniel Bolton's project tips

• Do not rush in

• One size does not fit all

• Identify user requirements

• Virtual desktops are not virtual servers

• You do not have to use thin clients.


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