Universities and hospitals push virtualization trend


An advantage of virtualization: Freeing up terminals in campus computer labs. Credit: rex libris via Compfight cc

Describing the tech overhaul that made Indiana University a virtualization vanguard among public institutions can get pretty technical.

Explaining its impact on the more than 130,000 students, faculty and staff across two main campuses can be summed up in one word — freedom. That’s freedom for students to study anywhere, staff to work anywhere and faculty to teach anywhere.

The transformation at IU is one of several stories that Dell will share about its customers this week at Citrix Synergy 2013, the industry’s premier conference on desktop virtualization. The four-day event starts tonight in California.

Representatives from both Indiana University and the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System in Louisiana will speak at Dell’s conference booth about how Dell hardware and Citrix software can simplify the delivery of IT services.

The presence of Indiana University and another public college — Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Canada — are particularly noteworthy considering how their embrace of desktop virtualization defies the stereotype that public institutions are slow adopt innovative technologies.

Businesses in the healthcare industry have also emerged as forerunners in desktop virtualization as the Franciscan health system and another Dell customer, Mater Health Services in Australia, have demonstrated by ditching PCs for zero clients.

Anywhere, Any Device

The hub of cloud-based computing at Indiana University is appropriately named IUanyWare, which allows students, faculty and staff to connect to software, cloud storage and printers from all kinds of devices.

IUanyWare has been particularly beneficial for nontraditional students, including those on regional campuses, who face time and logistical challenges related to childcare and employment.

The virtualization project at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in greater Vancouver involved replacing 1,600 desktops that struggled to handle today’s rich multimedia applications with zero-client workstations.

Feedback from students has been positive and the new setup may even lead to better grades, said Sukey Samra, the university’s associate director for information and education technology.

“At exam time, every second counts for students, and they will walk out of computer labs if machines run slowly,” Samra said. “A PC takes minutes to boot up, but students and staff can log on to a Dell Wyse zero client in a few seconds, helping them maximize available study time and achieve better academic results.”

Improving productivity also drove the Franciscan Missionaries health system, which runs several hospitals, to invest in zero clients equipped with a special log-on platform that minimizes the time it takes practitioners to access key patient files.

The network of hospitals covering 1.8 million people achieved its goal of providing doctors with the data they needed without requiring them to load the same files as they moved from room to room.

Mater Health Services in Brisbane, Australia also gave clinicians more time with patients with its rollout of a virtual desktop environment.

Saving money on energy costs — an estimated $104,000 annually is anticipated — was another factor that helped change how this operator of seven hospitals looks at IT, said Mal Thatcher, Mater’s chief information officer.

“Power consumption was definitely one of the drivers for moving to a virtual desktop infrastructure,” he said.

Nick Clunn is an award-winning journalist who has worked for several websites and daily newspapers, including The Record in New Jersey. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at Montclair State University. Follow him @NickClunn.

Nick Clunn
Nick Clunn is a journalist covering the tech beat and an adjunct professor at Montclair State University. He lives in New Jersey, where he had worked as a staff writer for several leading daily newspapers and websites.
Nick Clunn
Nick Clunn
Tags: Education,Technology,Virtualization