As students and administrators seek anytime, anywhere access to the cloud, higher ed IT teams must face their fears and get to work.
Today’s mobile lifestyle finds many organizations vying for anytime, anywhere access. So what do IT managers who have opted for a private cloud need to know if they want to deliver ubiquitous access to client applications over such an infrastructure? Here are six tips to get you started.
In the past, notebooks and desktops had local storage. With a private cloud, application data runs on servers, so IT managers need to make sure there is enough server space with ample processing power, input/output capacity and memory to handle all the traffic. If the organization is only virtualizing some applications that will run over a browser, the requirements for server power are relatively limited. If the goal is full client virtualization, the organization will need some heavy-duty server hardware with a lot of CPU cores, memory and storage for handling many simultaneous users.
With client virtualization, the organization will need increased throughput to storage so the desktop will respond as if data were stored locally. Because most IT departments building a private cloud are heavily virtualized and have already consolidated servers, it also makes sense to finish the job and upgrade to a 10 Gigabit Ethernet switch to handle the organization’s expanding bandwidth needs.
Under this setup, the organization will have dozens to hundreds of clients accessing applications from their systems, so the IT department will want to make sure that the network is set up well, with no extraneous local switches or bad wiring that might slow down connections.
If the organization is considering full client virtualization, a high-performance storage area network in the data center is needed. A client connecting through the cloud can create a bump in traffic when starting applications, initiating the client session and saving files. Multiply that by dozens or hundreds of clients, and the need for storage that’s fast and able to deal with many simultaneous requests becomes clear.
Knowledge workers running multiple apps are not the best candidates for client virtualization. Nor are point-of-sale systems with serial interfaces. Video applications are challenging, but can run over the cloud if they are configured correctly and there is ample bandwidth. A good place to start is with people working in call centers running only one or two applications. One reason schools and colleges implement client virtualization is because they can restrict access to specific subject matter. Government agencies such as the Defense Department use the cloud so soldiers can access their personal desktops virtually during classroom training sessions.
Everything that happens with the cloud depends on a persistent Internet connection. High availability is always a concern, but the organization will need to consider an HA solution if it intends to deliver applications consistently over the cloud. In this case, high availability refers not only to the connection, but also to the servers and other infrastructure. The IT department may want to cluster the servers, have dual paths from the network to the servers and ensure that the applications can handle failover if one server goes down. Otherwise, if one server goes out, none of the organization’s users will be able to access the applications they need.
Although the organization won’t have to buy new PCs or notebooks, it will need a gigabit connection to every client machine, plus a high-end server with lots of memory. Look for long-term savings via improved management, enhanced security and easy delivery of cloud-based applications. Other benefits include the ability to more flexibly deploy new applications and respond to new-user requirements.
If deployed properly, private clouds and client virtualization can make an organization more flexible and responsive. Proceed carefully. Don’t just take a provider’s word that their solution will be a good fit for the organization. Do some research. Find out if the applications the organization hopes to roll out can be easily deployed and supported over the cloud. Talk to IT managers at similar organizations and ask them how they deployed virtual applications over a private cloud. Equipped with such information, organizations are much more likely to succeed.