Cost Savings and Efficiencies with Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

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It can be difficult and expensive for school districts and organizations to support and provide access to a variety of devices and operating systems. School districts around the nation must continuously evolve and function with tight finances, scarce resources, and limited time to complete the tasks that need to be done. Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) in schools and organizations offer a solution to these issues, allowing you to build and run hybrid apps across datacenters, edge locations, remote offices, and the cloud.  

Virtual desktops are advantageous in that they can be accessed from any location because the operating system is not running on the hardware that is used to access it. Virtualization allows companies to grow computer and networking capabilities without needing expensive hardware. In this blog article, we will discuss and explore the potential uses of virtual machines and the benefits they can offer your company or school district.

Benefits of Virtual Desktops

  • Flexibility – Virtual machines mean you are no longer required to physically be in an office, computer lab, or district building to have access to the software you require. Students and employees can access what they need from anywhere on their own devices.
  • Continuity - Increased access to resources and improved server reliability and availability means increased productivity for all users, whether that be students or employees of an organization.
  • Cut Costs - Virtual desktops offer the opportunity to expand your resources without spending money on new computers and save money on troubleshooting and patching.
  • Ease of Management - Virtual desktops can be managed virtually instead of on site. This means less interruptions to classes and organizations to address maintenance issues.
  • Security - Specialists can install and maintain the software more quickly, distribute updates and patches, and keep the network more secure. Schools can create systems in clusters and house one of the clusters in a separate location, preserving data in the event the original system is destroyed.

Waukesha School District

The school district of Waukesha, a western suburb of Milwaukee and the 7th largest school district in Wisconsin, wanted to expand resources without having to add more computers to their workstation labs. They wanted to serve the 21 schools in their district faster and with less effort, all while facing issues of declining enrollment but an increased demand for services.

The solution our HBS experts proposed was to allow students access to computers and educational software from anywhere with virtual machines. HBS implemented Azure Stack HCI, as it would allow Waukesha School District to have Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) while using the on-prem, existing Citrix hardware already in place. Waukesha School District’s IT team was finding Citrix difficult to maintain. HBS set out to simplify their technology.

Azure Stack HCI

Azure Stack HCI is a hybrid solution that allows organizations to run Azure services from their own data centers. Unlike Azure Stack Hub, which allows only a restricted set of administrative tasks via well-defined, constrained interfaces, Azure Stack HCI allows direct access to the underlying hardware and the operating system running on cluster nodes. You can manage Azure Stack HCI operations the same way as any other Windows Server-based cluster, leveraging such tools as Windows PowerShell and Server Manager. To further optimize your experience, it is recommended to use Windows Admin Center.​

Azure Stack HCI also offers disaster recovery capabilities that leverage its support for stretched clustering. By deploying a stretched Azure Stack HCI cluster, you can synchronously replicate its workloads across two separate on-premises locations and automatically failover between them. Azure Stack HCI also runs Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) services on-premises with Azure Arc.

Technologies That Make Up Azure Stack HCI 

  • Hyper-V​
  • Failover Clustering​
  • Cluster Shared Volumes​
  • Storage Spaces Direct
  • Software Defined Networking SDN

Implementation Process for Waukesha School District 

  • Proof of concept with AVD in the Azure
  • Build and test VDI template
  • Repurpose existing Citrix hardware and rebuild using Azure Stack HCI​
  • Deploy AVD on Azure Stack HCI​
  • Test and rollout AVD to users​

Hosting Active Directory

Since the school district has AVD on Azure Stack HCI, they still have their separate server cluster hosting Active Directory​. In other deployments, HBS has set up an on-prem to Azure VPN and built two domain controllers in Azure​. These solutions ensure that Active Directory is available for the Azure Stack HCI cluster.

As Waukesha School District found, virtual desktops can:

  • Cut costs for the school district.
  • Extend the life of the hardware.
  • Improve each student's educational experience.

Students are empowered to work on tasks, projects, and increase their skills from home. Any issues with the software can be tackled by specialists virtually, saving time and management costs.

Virtual desktops have many uses beyond the education sector and school districts as well. Engineering firms often use virtual machines to give engineers remote access to software they have purchased. Various other organizations have adopted virtual desktops to allow for seamless remote work to be done from employees’ personal computers.
If you’re looking for a partner to address your virtual machine needs, please Contact HBS at any time for more details on ways you can support your organization.

author avatar
Nate Freidhoff