Introduction to Cloud Computing
When Compaq coined the term ‘cloud computing’, few thought that it would become a buzzword. Today, cloud technology has revolutionized the IT industry, that in turn has changed the face of every sector, including education. The education segment has been slow to follow this trend for various reasons, the cloud transition is now rapidly taking place. According to a recent infographic on eLearning statistics for 2014, the eLearning industry has a $56.2 billion market size and this value is expected to double by 2015. Out of 10 college students, at least four are pursuing one online course. By 2019, 50% of educational institutions are expected to fully implement eLearning methods. Another infographic from Docebo shows that the eLearning market was $35.6 billion in 2011 and growing at a rate of 7.6% a year; the market for learning management systems (LMS) is worth $2.55 billion and attracting venture capital.
The Present Technological Face of Education
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin
The successful future of any country lies in the quality of education imparted to its students. With proper integration of the education system, government, industrial research and entrepreneurship, a great transformation can be brought about in a society. Over the years, educational institutions have been making significant investments in technology, enabling innovation in education systems, teaching methods, and knowledge base. As IT requirements are different for the education segment, and current technology is mostly designed for commercial businesses, there is a need for customization. In today’s educational environment:
- Each institution has to handle enormous amounts of data: storage, retrieval, and management.
- Scientific computing research involves analysis of large data sets.
- Organizations have to provide access to information from a variety of devices, including cell phones, tablets, laptops, and desktops.
- Institutions must purchase and manage software licenses for various products.
- Institutions must adhere to data management and retention policies.
The present-day education system is burdened with a plethora of obstacles. First is the lack of innovation in technology and resources. Educational institutions have to deal with legacy systems, traditional teaching patterns, shrinking IT budgets, increasing mobile device usage, and changing technologies. Many colleges face a situation where several users log in to the system at the same time because of strict timetables, so that load balancing becomes a concern. With limited IT budgets, lean staff and growing needs, addressing these issues with a traditional IT approach while imparting quality education can be a costly affair and a tedious task as well. Intellectual property issues and security concerns add to this complexity. With IT staff concentrating on the provision of resources, they cannot work closely with academic departments. Private cloud computing technologies effectively answer these challenges.
An overview of cloud computing
Cloud computing is an innovative methodology that combines hardware, network, storage and software to deliver computing resources as a service over the internet. With the ability to scale resources, automatically provisioning and de-provisioning services, and a flexible pay-as-you-go pricing structure, cloud computing leverages resources to offer greater value to business procedures.
Cloud computing is available in different service models:
- Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)
- Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)
- Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)
At the same time, the technology comes in a different deployment models:
- Private Cloud
- Public Cloud
- Hybrid Cloud
- Community Cloud
This white paper discusses the private cloud of virtual desktops and application virtualization and how they can revolutionize the education industry.
Why Private Cloud Computing for Education
While public clouds have been the first choice for many businesses, even today, they pose certain challenges. In a public cloud, computing resources, services, and applications are provided to the end user as a pay-per-use scheme with zero installation hassles and lower TCO. Amazon Web Services and Google Apps are two of the most well-known examples of this cloud deployment model. This is a cost-effective method, but sharing resources with other users often creates insecurity in terms of data security and compliance. Moreover, computing solutions cannot be customized to meet the specific requirements of the business. On the other hand, a private cloud offers the required security, customization and efficiency for businesses while providing scalability and agility in business processes. With governing authorities stringently regulating data, the implementation of a private cloud has become an inevitable option for many.
Unlike a public cloud, a private cloud is a dedicated cloud infrastructure that is customized to deliver IT solutions for a specific organization. The computing resources, networking and management tools are accessible only to the specific organization, whether managed internally or externally.
What Does the Private Cloud Offer the Education Sector?
The private cloud effectively transforms the IT arena by introducing a greater level of efficiency, innovation, reliability and cost-effectiveness. Here are certain benefits offered by the private cloud to the education sector.
Lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
For any model of cloud computing, lower TCO is an obvious advantage. Implementation of a private cloud calls for efficient allocation of resources, as every department in the institution fully and flexibly utilizes resources. Although management costs are higher and economies of scale smaller when compared with the public cloud, minimization of unused capacity reduces investment, for an energy efficient and cost-effective infrastructure. Moreover, a powerful remote application server is seamlessly integrated with existing applications and procedures without the need for re-engineering the system, thereby saving time and money. A good example is the Parallels Remote Application Server that integrates into the system and works in harmony with Microsoft remote tools to provide highly scalable and secure remote solutions to end users.
Say No to Shelfware
Every university has shelfware. Educational institutions purchase software products that sometimes become unused shelfware, draining time, money and resources. A product might reach its end-of-life, offer no value to the institution, or be too complex to deploy and use. Changes to academic curricula contribute to shelfware as well. In a private cloud environment, only software that is essential for the organization is purchased and used. Organizations can buy what they need, test certain product features, or cancel a subscription if the product is of little value.
Innovation at Your Desk
The greatest advantage of a cloud setup is the innovation it brings to your desk, regardless of the size and nature of the organization. Be it a small college or a large university, students and staff can enjoy constantly evolving world-class technologies. Unlike a traditional IT environment where a new update or release takes time to reach the end user, every user of a private cloud can get access to updates and patches as soon as they are released. Every user gets access to the latest innovations in technology, regardless of the size of the organization.
The private cloud offers powerful remote network solutions for institutions. By deploying terminal farm servers and hypervisors, organizations can provide resource access to students and staff from any location. Even when college is over, students can access training materials from home. Moreover, students can access study resources using any type of mobile device. With powerful mobility solutions, the productivity of the staff and the quality of education imparted to students is sure to increase.
A big feature of cloud computing is scalability. The ability to scale vertically or horizontally gives institutions the edge to proactively provide on-demand services to users. Load scalability allows the organization to add new users to the network while administrative scalability makes it easy to handle administrative tasks in order to provide customized services to users. As organizations grow, so do their requirements. Parallels Remote Application Server enables administrators to easily add new servers, such as Windows Remote Desktop servers and VDI Hypervisors, and to provide applications and virtual desktops for new employees within just minutes.
Load Balancing Issues
With thousands of students logging into a system at the same time, load balancing can be a critical task for IT staff in the higher education segment. The entrance of mobile devices and social networking features add to this complexity. The private cloud allows the organization to implement powerful load balancing tools that efficiently transfer the network load to a less loaded server, improving the overall efficiency and agility of the system.
Agility for Productivity
The three attractive features of a private cloud are security, reliability and increased efficiency. One of the major obstacles for a cloud transition is security. Educational institutions are reluctant to move infrastructure outside their premises due to security and data compliance issues. In a private cloud, data are more secure as a high level of security is implemented that cannot normally be afforded by an ordinary college. Customization of the technology to suit the organization’s specific requirements is made possible. Moreover, a private cloud offers more control over the hardware, making it reliable and highly efficient in terms of cost, energy and performance.
In a private cloud, information silos are reduced as departments in various locations can be seamlessly connected using remote solutions. The on-demand provision of services augments this factor to bring greater levels of agility to procedures, improving the productivity of staff. In addition, installation and deployment of cloud solutions is easy and quick. As the application is already in force at other locations, you only need to apply it to your existing procedures.
Security, Reliability, Efficiency and More Control
Whenever new software is deployed, the organization has to train staff and change the software management system. With a remote network solution that is simple and straightforward, integration into the existing system can be done smoothly without requiring any additional training or change to the system. When load is effectively transferred to the server with least usage, scheduled maintenance becomes easy. By implementing Parallels Remote Application Server on the network and segregating all the servers from the network and the internet in the private cloud, businesses will improve the security of their network and private cloud because all kinds of access can be controlled from a central location, the Parallels Remote Application Server. Published applications and personalized desktops can also be accessed over an SSL layer to ensure that the data between the user and the private cloud are encrypted and have not been tampered with.
Administration and Support
Whenever new software is deployed, the organization has to train staff and change the software management system. With a remote network solution that is simple and straightforward, integration into the existing system can be done smoothly without requiring any additional training or change to the system. With multisite support, administrators can also manage remote offices and locations via a central, easy-to-use console, thus reducing the need to travel and drastically reducing costs.
Easily deliver Windows applications hosted on hypervisors and Windows remote desktop servers to anyone, anywhere using any type of operating system, computer or mobile device. By hosting applications in the private cloud, businesses will also benefit from reduced administration overhead and less help desk support and can easily control who can access such applications and ensure that everyone is using the latest and most secure version of an application.
Parallels Remote Application Server has extensive experience supporting the education segment. For example, educational institutions rely on Parallels RAS to deliver Microsoft Office applications to Apple or Chrome OS, increasing the productivity of staff and students without increasing the licensing cost. We have summarized a few business cases to demonstrate how Parallels RAS has helped many institutions get the maximum possible benefit from the private cloud.
Bridgwater Case Study — Load Balancing Made Easy
With 16,000 full- and part-time students and 1000+ staff, Bridgwater in Somerset imparts higher education to a vast group of people located in 2 main centers and several outreach locations, boasting Beacon Status. To adhere to the university’s strict timetables, many students log into the server-based network simultaneously with thin client technology deployed by the institution, leading to load balancing issues. While Bridgwater initially considered implementing Citrix virtualization solutions, the ROI was not satisfactory for management. According to Dave Foster, Head of IT Services at Bridgwater College, the cost of the server upgrade to accommodate 600 concurrent users was huge, and the ROI on load balancers like Citrix was not convincing. While researching the market, Parallels Remote Application Server – which works in harmony with Microsoft load balancing tools – was found to be a cost-effective alternative solution. Read more.
Cambridgeshire Case Study — Efficient Load Balancing and Easy Administration and Support
The ICT department at Cambridge Education delivers IT services to 20,000 staff and 70,000 students across the county. This includes remote network services for 17,000 users: remote access, video conferencing, centrally hosted MIS, exchange service, central management of servers, and unified communication. All this required a robust network with a powerful terminal server farm that provides efficient and secure network access with zero downtime and efficient load balancing. They chose Parallels Remote Application Server. Not only did it efficiently distribute server load across 40 Dell Blade Servers, it allowed the organization to turn the servers on and off for scheduled maintenance. “While load balancing was a main requirement, the integration of software into the existing system was our main reason to implement 2X remote solutions. Moreover, the intuitive interface made it easy for scheduled maintenance and monitoring of the system.” Leon Cripps, System Support Manager, Cambridge ICT. Read more.
TelFair Case Study — Simplicity and Scalability at their Best
Students at Telfair County Schools located in rural Georgia lacked innovation in technology compared to the capabilities of peer districts. The management was in search of a reliable remote application server that was simple and straightforward, and which fit into their tight budget. While Citrix provides an array of features, it requires additional hardware and licensing costs and therefore was not a feasible option; this made Telfair move to 2X remote solutions. 2X ApplicationServer was purchased and installed on 12 terminal servers to deliver virtual desktops to thin clients. The virtualization platform-independent design allowed Telfair to add many users to the network without additional costs and virtualization platform integration hassles. Moreover, simplicity in integrating the application into the existing system and managing it in addition to scalable solutions improved the product’s ROI. Instead of making a huge investment in additional hardware and licenses, Telfair management is now able to provide access to applications at home in order to continue reading study materials after school. “I like the straightforward approach of 2X solutions in dealing with remote access, while being cost-effective.” says David Walker, the Head of Technology at Telfair County Schools. Today, Telfair is able to explore future options to provide more sophistication and innovation to its students. Read more.
MacDonald Training Center Case Study — Reliable, Simple and Cost-Effective Solution
McDonald Training Center (MTC) located in Tampa, Florida empowers people with disabilities by offering community services, vocational training skills and employment services, improving the lives of 500 people annually. Keeping in mind the critical nature of the service, MTC was searching for a reliable, simple and cost-effective hosting provider. Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop proved to be too costly for their budget. After installing 2X solutions, MTC found that 2X is highly reliable, simple and cost-effective as well, providing easy desktop and application delivery from any location. Mobile access has helped to boost worker productivity levels as well. The staff was pleased with the ease of use and reliable performance offered by 2X ApplicationServer, in addition to the mobile access feature that helped worker productivity to soar. Read more.
Gone are the days when central IT was the heart of technology in a university. To offer business-focused resources, central IT should work more closely with the academic community to enhance its mission. Embracing private clouds at the earliest possible opportunity is key. Institutions can test a private cloud network and get feedback from staff and students before fully implementing it. In a world of ever-evolving technology, educational institutions that are unable or reluctant to change their traditional approaches to computing are sure to suffer from increasing complexities, costs and challenges.
Parallels Remote Application Server enables system administrators to centralize all of their data on a private cloud and provide access to them via thin clients, or any other computer or modern mobile device which is running the 2X Remote Desktop Client. By centralizing all data in the private cloud, system administrators also ensure that all data are backed up.
The centralization of data also gives system administrators the ability to control who can gain access from a central location, which makes it easier to protect the data from breaches and theft. Since the data in the Parallels Remote Application Server farm never leave the private cloud, there are no risks of data breaches—even if an end terminal is stolen.
Parallels is a global leader in virtual desktop and application delivery, remote access, and cloud computing solutions. Thousands of enterprises worldwide trust in the reliability and scalability of 2X products. 2X offers a range of solutions to make every company’s shift to cloud computing simple and affordable. For additional information, visit www.2x.com or contact Giorgio Bonuccelli by email at Giorgio.Bonuccelli@2x.com or by phone at (+356) 2258 3800.