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Citrix Virtualization Offers Big Savings in Academic Computing

Academic Computing Virtualization with Citrix

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Citrix Systems announced that Montgomery Independent School District (ISD), located north of Houston, Texas, has implemented a multi-phased program to modernize and virtualize their academic computing systems using Citrix XenDesktop™ and Citrix XenServer™.

The first phase of Montgomery ISD’s implementation utilized XenServer to virtualize and consolidate their servers in a central datacenter; phase two, now under way, expands that deployment to standardize on desktop virtualization district-wide with XenDesktop. The school district has already realized significant savings in time, energy, money and personnel resources, and expects to expand these savings further in the future.

With a limited number of information technology (IT) staff available to serve more than 6,500 students across Montgomery ISD’s eight schools, on-site service visits consumed hours of precious time each week.

Today, XenDesktop allows the district’s IT team to create a single instance of the OS and applications in the datacenter and deliver personalized desktops to classrooms on any PC, laptop or thin client device. XenDesktop delivers centrally managed, high-definition, virtual desktops to the district’s existing PCs, providing all the advantages of centralized management without the high cost of investing in new hardware. Best of all, most issues can be addressed from the datacenter, with no need to physically touch the computer in question – saving valuable time.

“Many problems that would have caused us to send out a technician can now be fixed from our desks. We’ve reduced response time to issues from one week to usually just one to two days for our virtual desktop users,” said George Thornton, Montgomery ISD network operations manager. He added that the ability to deliver applications via XenDesktop also eliminates the time-consuming task of installing new software on each individual computer.

Academic Computing Virtualization with Citrix
With desktop and server virtualization solutions from Citrix, Montgomery ISD has created an “academic computing virtualization” environment, which provides a robust computing experience to Montgomery ISD students and makes educational technology more widely available – all the while saving time and money for the school district itself. XenDesktop with HDX™ technology ensures a rich, high-definition experience every time students log in, no matter where they are or what kind of virtual desktop technology is being used on the back end. FlexCast™ delivery technology, a powerful new capability in XenDesktop, gives Thornton’s team the flexibility to deliver any type of virtual desktop, to any user, on any device – and to change this mix at any time as circumstances require. This fits perfectly with Montgomery ISD’s future plans to provide remote access via various mobile devices and netbooks.

Academic computing virtualization gives Montgomery ISD the opportunity to look beyond the classroom. Thornton described how phase three of the school district’s virtualization project will provide remote access to students and faculty at home while maintaining the security of the district's network using XenDesktop, along with Citrix Access Gateway™ for secure remote access solutions.

“Imagine a student who is unable to attend classes for an extended period of time because of medical reasons. This will allow them an opportunity to keep up with their schoolwork,” said Thornton.

“Our vision,” added Thornton, “is to tear down the walls of the classroom.”

Virtualization Solutions Increases Energy Savings
Montgomery ISD began to realize significant energy savings immediately with their virtualization implementations. According to a survey commissioned by the school district to quantify the energy savings from its virtualization implementation, XenDesktop will save Montgomery ISD an estimated $24,000 in energy costs this year. Montgomery ISD counts its virtualization solutions as an important part of the statewide goal to reduce operational costs by 30 percent over five years.

XenServer also plays a big role in energy savings for Montgomery ISD, as the school district learned when virtualizing their datacenter.

“The expense of powering and cooling our datacenter was costing us as much as it was to outfit it. With XenServer, we’ve reduced the number of physical servers by a ratio of 10 to one. Now each physical server can run an average of 10 virtual servers while using a fraction of the energy,” said Thornton.

In addition to energy savings, the school district can also spend less on hardware replacement, because Citrix gives a longer useful life to the desktop and laptop.

“Some industry recommendations suggest hardware refresh cycles of three to four years. By running desktops virtually in the datacenter with Citrix, we can extend the life of these existing PCs significantly without compromising the user experience for students in any way,” said Thornton. “Desktop virtualization also gives us the option to convert some of our older machines to thin clients, which have a life cycle of eight to 10 years. Changes like these can make a huge difference in the bottom line, allowing us to invest more in each student’s education, and less on expensive hardware upgrades.”

“Montgomery ISD is faced with the same challenge as many education systems – tightening budgets and aging technology,” said Dave Podwojski, director of Citrix Government, Education & Health. “Citrix’s desktop and server virtualization solutions are the centerpiece of the academic computing virtualization environment they’ve implemented to extend the life cycle of their hardware and increase district-wide energy and cost savings, thereby enabling Montgomery ISD to stretch their IT budget and meet green mandates.”

Click Here for Instant Virtualization!
XenServer. Enterprise-class. Cloud-proven. Free.
Join the rapidly growing community of IT professionals who choose Citrix XenServer for their virtualization platform.

More Stories By Salvatore Genovese

Salvatore Genovese is a Cloud Computing consultant and an i-technology blogger based in Rome, Italy. He occasionally blogs about SOA, start-ups, mergers and acquisitions, open source and bleeding-edge technologies, companies, and personalities. Sal can be reached at hamilton(at)sys-con.com.

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