Students entering colleges and universities these days are an increasingly tech-savvy bunch, armed with a growing number of mobile devices and the expectations that they will be trained using tools and graphics-intensive applications that are in line with their every-day tech experience. They also want to have access to these software tools wherever they are and on any device they choose.

Many educational institutions are adopting virtual client technology to meet these demands as well as to ease management, reduce costs and improve the security of their data and networks. Iowa State University, Nova Southeastern University (NSU) and the University of Southern California (USC) are all embracing virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) technology to enhance the student experience as well as the lives of their own IT staffs.

“The main driving factor for adoption was that I’m sort of a one-man show,” said Damien Bolin, former systems support specialist for Iowa State’s Department of Agronomy. “Being able to consolidate everything that we offer into a VDI solution makes my world a lot easier to manage and also makes me a lot more effective overall. So there was a business case for adopting a VDI solution with vGPU [virtual GPU] capability, but we were also looking for the ability to better educate students in their study of soil, feed genetics and crop growth—basically teaching students how to feed the world—using the latest technology.”

VDI is Booming—Both in the Market and at Universities

IDC analysts expect the virtual client market to grow 8.9 percent a year from $3 billion in 2015 to $4.6 billion in 2020. A report offered by Research and Markets said growth in the global VDI market will be 11.31 percent a year between 2016 and 2020. There are a number of factors driving this growth, including flexible user access, easier IT management, reduced energy usage, and improved security.

For Iowa State, NSU and USC, many of the applications they’re running—such as CAD and 3D animation—are increasingly complex and graphics-intensive. The schools were looking for ways to virtualize them to improve and streamline distribution and ensure all students have the necessary capabilities to access and run them regardless of the devices they are using.

(Next page: How universities are implementing VDI for students, IT success)


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