East Surrey College refreshes ageing XP desktop estate with VDI

East Surrey College has refreshed its ageing desktop estate with a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)

East Surrey College has refreshed its ageing desktop estate with a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). The project has helped reduce user downtime, improve IT efficiency and cut energy costs and carbon emissions.

A majority of the further education institution’s desktops were running Windows XP Professional, but Microsoft is ending support for Windows XP and Office 2003 by April 2014.

The IT team decided to migrate the XP users to Windows 7 with the desktop virtualisation project, as well as use the project as an opportunity to introduce a disaster recovery strategy and build a highly available, flexible and modern IT infrastructure.

But the IT team needed the VDI service to meet several key criteria, in addition to being scalable, resilient and secure. These criteria were:

  • The desktop virtualisation service should be flexible to support the technologies its students and staff use – imaging, broadcast, video and animation tools.
  • It should be compatible with key back office systems such as finance and human resources (HR).
  • With the college under pressure to adopt green IT, in all its forms, and reduce energy costs, the VDI service should help reduce electricity expenditure over the next three years. 
  • It should also have an effective disaster recovery capability and provide greater server and storage resilience – with no single point of failure.

East Surrey College selected a VMware ESXi cluster running VMware View virtual desktops.

Executing the VDI project

The college had a short timeframe in which to get a live VDI infrastructure up and running before the start of the new term. But as the IT staff did not possess all the skills needed to build a VDI estate, it selected IT services company CSA Waverley for the implementation.

CSA Waverley designed and deployed a hardware and software infrastructure capable of supporting 200 virtual desktops.

The new infrastructure comprises VMware’s virtual desktop products to automate desktop provisioning from a central location and create a desktop as a service (DaaS) infrastructure.

To overcome security concerns, the team selected Trend Deep’s virtual desktop security software that will protect the virtual desktop sessions on creation centralise the virus definitions to eliminate desktop virus update storms.

This creates a security platform that protects the college’s mission-critical enterprise applications and data from breaches and business disruptions, without expensive emergency patching, according to the IT team.

The supporting infrastructure features server virtualisation and SAN products from HP and VMware.

The project has allowed students and staff to connect to their View desktop from a variety of devices, including desktops, thin or zero clients, and mobile devices. Existing PCs were repurposed as thin clients to convert the college’s enterprise PCs into centrally managed desktop appliances.

Users can now roam freely from location to location and device to device, with access to centrally hosted virtual desktops, says Richard Allan, ICT operational manager at East Surrey College.

The business continuity and disaster recovery capabilities of the supporting hardware protect desktop data and ensure continuous availability for users, he adds.

“This has also led to a decrease in support calls and reduced user downtime to improve overall workplace productivity.

The new VDI infrastructure has also helped reduce power costs, so the cost of IT ownership has “dramatically reduced”, says Allan.

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