Virtual Desktop

VDI/Virtual Desktops

Some of you might be hearing the terms "VDI", "virtual desktop", "remote desktop", or "VM" and wondering what that all means. The information below will help you understand the VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) project currently underway.

The Samuel Merritt VDI project provides a solution to support SMU’s initiative to create an online learning capability that decouples students from the physical campus without jeopardizing productivity or security.  Additionally, the VDI project will provide remote accessibility to data and applications using devices such as iPads, tablets, laptops, etc., facilitating a “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) initiative.

Do I need something specific to run this virtual desktop?

Here's all you need:

  1. An internet connection
  2. A device to connect with:
    1. Windows Desktop or Laptop
    2. Mac Desktop or Laptop
    3. iPad Tablet or Phone
    4. Android Tablet or Phone
    5. HTML 5 Web browsers including Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, and Safari
    6. Thin Client

That's it.  From anywhere with an internet connection, you can use a browser, downloaded client software, or a downloaded app, log in, and you're there.

Why are we doing this?

  • Accessibility: you will be able to log into your computer from anywhere at any time. You can access it from your smartphone, tablet, PC, or Mac. All you need is a network connection.
  • No more VPN: although VPN is a great tool for being able to access SMU resources off-site, being able to log into your desktop is more reliable.
  • No more OWA: Outlook Web Access (OWA) has been the go-to for access your mail off campus, but if you're able to log into your virtual desktop, you'll be able to use the Outlook software client like you would on campus.
  • It's faster: because the processing power for everything is taking place on the server instead of your computer, your programs will run much faster than it would on your physical machine.
  • Reliability: If your computer died right now and an IT Service Desk Technician could drop everything they were doing to get a replacement computer set up, it would take an hour (at the least) to image a computer, set up your email and printers, and have you logged in. It would take more time for each additional piece of software. With VDI, there's no such thing as your computer "dying." Just log off, and log back in.
  • Low hardware requirements: The hardware requirements to run your virtual desktop on your physical computer is much less than running your desktop and software on your physical computer. Your virtual desktop will run just as good on your 8-year-old computer as on a computer you go buy today. Instead of dealing with the wait of submitting a tech request for a new computer, waiting for it to get approved, waiting a few weeks for the equipment to be ordered, delivered, and set up, we just install some software, and you just log in.

Completed Milestones:

  • Underlying VDI Compute and Storage Infrastructure has been architected, designed and implemented
  • Supporting virtualization platform, VMware vSphere and Horizon View, implemented
  • A Proof of Concept / Test Pilot has been completed to validate the design and functionality
  • Automation capabilities and extended printing capabilities integrated

Next Steps:

  • Students – a group of students have been identified to test and validate the Lab virtual desktops being deployed in September, 2017.  In the coming weeks, these students can expect an email outlining the scope of testing and instructions for logging on. Following successful testing, emails will go out to the rest of the student body in October, 2017.
  • Staff / Faculty – emails will be sent out in the coming weeks to key Staff and Faculty members.  A questionnaire will also be sent to ensure we have adequately captured the necessary requirements relative to accessing applications and printing. We anticipate migrating Staff and Faculty desktops within the October through December timeframe.

Request more information

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