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Virtual Desktop Initiative in UB Cybraries

Virtual Desktop

A student uses a virtual PC in the Lockwood Cybrary.

Published June 19, 2014

“I think I didn’t notice the difference because we (college students; our generation) have become desensitized to technological changes.”
Anneka Cantone (Hutton), Senior
Biological Sciences

It’s not often that we can pull something over UB’s technically savvy students, but this fall, CIT replaced nearly 50 personal computers with virtual desktop devices in the 2nd Floor Lockwood Cybrary...and no one has said a word.

The Virtual Desktop Initiative is a pilot project to replace personal computer workstations in the computing sites with small “zero client” devices, specifically HP’s EVGA PD02 model.  The zero client box provides display, keyboard and mouse connectivity to a virtual workstation emulated on a server.  The zero client also provides USB and headphone jack for remote storage and audio support.

Saira Hasnain, UB’s director of Enterprise Infrastructure Services, has been directing this pilot project.  “We tried four different vendor’s devices, and selected one for its best performance and cost effectiveness," she states.  “Many vendors provide this type of technology. At the end of the day, big hardware is replaced by little hardware.”

The advantages of this pilot for students are the removal of the bulky desktop unit from under Cybrary tables, allowing more space for personal items, and significantly faster logins (10-20 seconds faster). The exact same software is available as on a regular Cybrary workstation. 

“I think I didn’t notice the difference because we (college students; our generation) have become desensitized to technological changes,” said Anneka Cantone (Hutton), a senior studying Biological Sciences. “They happen so often, and things are constantly improving, getting faster, and becoming smaller, that I hardly even notice anymore.”

UB benefits from the zero client too. The devices cost far less than a PC to initially purchase, and use significantly less energy to operate.  In fact, the Virtual Desktop Initiative pilot works toward UB’s commitment to environmental stewardship. The zero client devices are expected to last longer than a typical PC too, further reducing future investment.

Faculty should have no concerns since exactly the same software is available. A potential advantage would be for these zero client devices to access multiple virtual desktops so students could potentially mount specialty software from school or departmental labs.

Jason Distefano, a junior studying Business Administrative, added, “I have been at UB for three years and use Lockwood all the time, and I didn’t notice any difference between the computers.  Honestly, I didn’t even notice that the tower was gone.”

Remarking on the lack of student concern, Saira said, “It’s magic, as far as they’re concerned.”