Fast and management free virtual desktop at The Globe Public School with Citrix VDI-in-a-Box.



The Globe is a public elementary school in de Tarwewijk, located in the Charlois district of Rotterdam. The school was established in August 1995 through the merger of two schools: Dubbelspoor, on Zwartewaal Street, and Dubbeldekker, on Den Hertig Street. The two locations employ a total of 58 staff serving 425 students. The Globe is a diverse school open to everyone, with respect for all cultural and religious backgrounds.

The challenge: provide state-of-the-art and stable student workstations

Like most schools, The Globe Public School worked with a traditional technology infrastructure for teachers and students, consisting of locked-down fat clients with their local servers. Over time the PCs became slower. Both workstations and servers were already depreciated. The systems administration was outsourced, but it still took a lot of time to coordinate all IT-related matters. “We started looking for a new workplace design, one that would provide pupils with learning desktops for the next five years—that is the amortization period for the hardware,” said Koos van Hattum, the school director. “We approached several companies, but nearly all of the proposals for a new infrastructure were based on a traditional client/server solution with fat clients. However, one stood out: it was a modern, state-of-the-art, and simple solution that would immediately bring our school into the world of desktop virtualization. We chose this Citrix-based concept, marketed by Dari IT Services under the name ICTopSchool.”

Implementing desktop virtualization with VDI-in-a-Box

Because The Globe had already seen the Citrix VDI-in-a-Box™ in action on a research visit to another school, the school limited its pilot to some performance-only tests. Dari IT Services, a Silver Citrix Solution Advisor, initially set up the VDI-in-a-Box demonstration at The Globe. Dari later installed the final infrastructure in just three weeks.

Now, centrally located at each of the two schools, an HP server runs the VDI-in-a-Box solution. More than 100 NComputing N400 thin client devices, built specifically for Citrix HDX, are used by the teachers and students for access to the virtualized Microsoft® Windows® 7 infrastructure. The 17-inch TFT screens used previously with the fat clients are still in use, along with new keyboards and mice purchased by the school. Dari administers the entire environment, using mainly Microsoft tools such as Microsoft System Center. The thin clients are remotely managed with NComputing’s vSpace Management Center.

An ideal solution for schools

The Globe Public School is very pleased with VDI-in-a-Box and the NComputing thin clients as desktop replacements. The thin clients are not only very inexpensive but also so compact that they fit neatly into the classroom environment. Because they contain no moving parts, they are both silent and much less sensitive to problems than fat clients. Furthermore, they produce very little heat and are economical to run, with only 5 watts of power consumption. “We have calculated that we save at least 1,100 euros [US$825] per year on energy costs, thanks to the replacement of PCs by thin clients,” van Hattum noted. “Citrix VDI-in-a-Box provides our students and staff with a standard, modern, up-to-date Windows 7 workstation. Thanks to the Citrix HDX protocol, graphics and multimedia applications are fast and effective. We now have an IT infrastructure that works perfectly and is completely student-proof.”

The school also has about 20 desktops and laptops, but these run Microsoft Windows Thin PC and act as thin client devices. Just as with the NComputing thin clients, Citrix ICA/HDX instantly redirects the user to the centralized virtual Windows 7 desktop. These systems have, for example, a locally installed driver for the digital blackboards (digi boards), but the application runs in the virtual environment.

A new PC every week

The students are unaware that the Windows 7 desktop they are working on is virtualized. It takes about 20 seconds to switch on the thin client, boot the system, log on, and start the application. The school uses group accounts to provide each group with the relevant applications in the start menu, so students can immediately start their applications. The virtual Windows 7 desktop is locked down and therefore well protected against both unauthorized changes and malware.

At weekly intervals, all desktops start up with a new operating system image and students each get a new virtual Windows 7 PC. This way, the image remains uncorrupted and the risk of malware is further reduced. For the students, the use of USB drives is disabled; only teachers can use them. The problem of PCs becoming slower over time is remedied by the weekly new image. Because all applications are included within the image, deployment, maintenance, and even rollback to a previous version of an application are easy.

Savings in several areas

The Globe Public School has invested in central servers, so it saves considerably on hardware through the use of virtual desktops. The purchase price of an NComputing N-series thin client is only one third that of a stand-alone PC. And in addition to saving energy, the thin clients also last longer than the standard depreciation period of five years. “The de facto saving is estimated at 15 to 20 percent. That is good news, because the budget per pupil for IT is not increasing,” said van Hattum. “Moreover, the costs for IT are now very transparent, with a fixed amount per seat per month.”

“We are very excited about the Citrix thin client solution. VDI-in-a-Box from Citrix and the thin clients from NComputing work seamlessly together. This relieves our IT coordinator of nearly all the previous system administration duties.”

Ready for mobile learning

In education, the use of tablets is increasing, and apps are becoming important learning tools. Because the virtual desktop can be used on a tablet without problems, The Globe Public School is ready for future mobile developments. The virtual desktop is just one of the apps that can be used on a tablet—or on any other device. The Globe is ready for the emerging app world.

Because the virtual desktop is operated remotely, teachers and management can easily work from home. From their home PC or other devices, a secure connection is created to the server via the software firewall in VDI-in-a-Box so they can use the same desktop they use at school. “Working remotely is also very useful if, for example, a student is chronically ill and has to stay home,” said van Hattum. “The student can work from home using the same desktop and participate in all the educational activities that take place at school. For the students and for our school this is tremendous progress.”

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Key benefits
  • Provides a modern, fast and current workplace
  • A clean, fast and secure PC, 24 x 7
  • Savings on direct and indirect costs
  • Enables mobile learning on all devices and all locations
Applications deployed
  • Ambrasoft – Math and Language
  • Basis bits Computer skills
  • Cito test
  • Maatwerk
  • Microsoft Office 2010
  • Parnassys
  • Pluspunt
  • Taal actief
  • Veilig leren lezen
  • Wereld in getallen
  • Microsoft Windows Explorer
Networking environment
  • Citrix VDI-in-a-Box
  • Two HP ML350G8 servers for ViaB and to host virtual desktops
  • Approximately 100 NComputing 400-serie thin clients
  • Approximately 20 HP laptops (various models)
  • Microsoft Windows Thin PC
  • Microsoft Windows 7
  • Microsoft System Center

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