Binghamton University

Binghamton University: Engineering a Transformative VDI Initiative with Unidesk

When the Watson School IT team realized that its PC infrastructure could no longer provide the highest quality academic and research support for its faculty, staff, undergraduates, and research assistants, they decided to implement Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). To package and deliver the many Windows applications required by their VDI users and eliminate image management overhead, they implemented Unidesk.

Watson School of Engineering - Binghamton University

"Being an engineering school, we have applications that require to access to high-performance graphics, and very large applications – sometimes 15 GB or more. We haven’t run into an application we cannot virtualize with Unidesk. MATLAB, AutoCAD, Mathematica, Solid Edge, SOLIDWORKS, PTC Creo – they all work."

Donald Kunkel
Director of IT, Watson School of Engineering - Binghamton University

Binghamton University, part of the State University of New York (SUNY), is one of the premier public universities in the northeast U.S. The University’s Watson School of Engineering offers majors in Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Computer Engineering, System Science, Industrial Engineering, and Computer Science, among others.

 

Video Case Study: Binghamton University. Watch the Video

0:44 - Challenges Before Unidesk
1:16 - Today With Unidesk
1:51 - Managing App Diversity
2:53 - Making RDSH as Agile as VDI
3:56 - Benefits for Users & It alike

When the Watson School IT team realized that its PC infrastructure could no longer provide the highest quality academic and research support for its faculty, staff, undergraduates, and research assistants, they decided to implement Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). To package and deliver the many Windows applications required by their VDI users and eliminate image management overhead, they implemented Unidesk.

Today, Unidesk is being used to manage the cradle-to-grave lifecycles of more than 50 applications and provide custom workspaces to Watson School users, while making application and image management a lot faster and easier for the school’s IT team. 


Aerial view of Binghamton University's campus.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Donald Kunkel, Director of IT at the Watson School of Engineering, and Phillip Valenta, Watson School Systems Administrator, recognized the many benefits of VDI. However, they did not want to drag old desktop and application management challenges from their PC environment into their new VDI world. One of those challenges was image management.

Donald and Phillip wanted to avoid creating multiple images, all relatively similar, with just a few deviations in terms of the installed applications or OS versions. They also wanted to avoid having to individually patch and update each image with senior Tier 2 and 3 IT administrators.

Explains Phillip, “Our goal has always been to manage our end user computing environment with as few images as possible. But it was clear that our many different departments would all end up with their own images because the departments own the applications they utilize. Other departments that don’t need those apps don’t want to have to pay for the licenses. That made building everyone’s workspace off of one image pretty much impossible.”

Application management was the other major challenge. With many different software titles in use, the IT team couldn’t always deliver the latest software versions or new applications at the speed their users wanted.

Says Phillip, “A new version of MATLAB would come out, and all of the students, faculty, and staff would want access to the new software immediately. We needed to find a way to simplify and accelerate the process of application lifecycle management to keep our users happy and productive.”

Unidesk Transforms Application Management

The implementation of Unidesk has transformed end user computing at Binghamton University’s Watson School. One major change has come in the form of simplified and streamlined image management.

Says Donald, “Unidesk allows us to manage each desktop unique to professors, students, or research students with the same amount of effort as if we were only managing one standard desktop. We now have a single Windows OS layer that we use for all of our desktops. We apply Windows updates once, and from there we can push the updates to all of our machines. We don’t have to spend time on every single machine anymore.”

Application management is the other major change. Unidesk has given the Watson School’s IT team the ability to package any application as a virtual disk layer in minutes, and manage the lifecycle of any app with just a few clicks. Unlike other solutions that are not compatible with all applications, Unidesk is enabling the Watson School to deliver all apps independent of the Windows OS. 

Explains Donald, “Being an engineering school, we have applications that require access to high-performance graphics, and applications that are very large in size – sometimes 15 GB or more. We haven’t run into an application we cannot virtualize with Unidesk. MATLAB, AutoCAD, Mathematica, Solid Edge, SOLIDWORKS, PTC Creo – they all work.”

Historically, applications like these cannot be virtualized due to deep OS dependencies or dependencies on other applications. However, because the OS can be packaged as its own fully-integrated layer with Unidesk, these compatibility concerns disappear.

Adds Donald, “Unidesk has simplified the management of our applications. Being able to update a layer or remove it without disrupting the whole environment is a such a huge difference from where we were before. We no longer have to create new gold images.”

Patching, updating, and break/fix are also much faster.

Explains Phillip, “Before Unidesk, it took extra time to deploy new desktops, and we had to touch each and every machine in order to update an application. Now, I can go into the Unidesk console, package any updates as a new layer version, assign the new app or OS layer, and it’s done. We can even undo problems by simply taking the user’s persona layer or an app layer out of the stack and replacing it with the old ones.”


Binghamton University

Since deploying Unidesk, VDI storage use has also been reduced.

Comments Phillip, “With Unidesk, we’ve been able to reduce our storage footprint by only having one OS layer and one instance of each app layer that’s applied to everyone. We’re using less than half the storage we initially projected.”

Looking Forward

New innovations from Unidesk such as Elastic Layering for real-time app delivery have given Donald and Phillip big ideas on how to further optimize their end user computing environment. 

Donald explains, “Something I’m looking forward to is expanding Unidesk into our RDSH environment, which we utilize for graduate students and their research. This will allow us to deliver just the software each user needs as they login. By not having to build all applications into each session host anymore, where they have to be licensed for every user, I’m expecting to reduce our licensing costs.” 

Phillip elaborates, “Based on a user’s ID, we can determine what applications get delivered to that user in real time – even if all the users are logging in to the same session host. That’s a big deal. Unidesk basically gives shared sessions the same custom app delivery capabilities as VDI.”

Regardless of whether the Watson School of Engineering continues to scale its workspaces with VDI or RDSH, the expansion is expected to go seamlessly with the use of Unidesk for application and image management.

Deployment Details

  • Application Management
    Unidesk
  • EUC Platform
    VMware Horizon
  • Application Layers
    52

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