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A University model for End-point evolution in the post-PC era

By Duane Schau, Director, Client Services- University IT Services, Indiana University

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Duane Schau, Director, Client Services- University IT Services, Indiana University

IT and Education: Our Shared IT Legacy

Most universities today manage their desktops and servers in a decentralized, departmental (client-server) model, similar to the one developed in the 1990s around the personal computer revolution. During this period, the rapid pace of device and operating system change required staff to work closely with university faculty as IT intermediaries, introducing, advancing and integrating IT with teaching and research.

In 2015, this model is still functioning in the form of localized, workgroup-based IT organizations that deploy hardware and software management tools, implementing service-delivery strategies largely using the same standards defined 20 years prior. These organizations, confined by limited budgets, politics or culture are often not in the position to adopt and leverage economies of scale. Hence, staff in these operations often rely on customized deployment solutions that manage and automate to the greatest extent possible, and standardize desktop hardware and software assets.

But an ever-increasing body of students and researchers are using the popular "consumer market" technologies and devices at home and then introducing them in the classroom and workplace. This new “Consumerization of IT” era gives universities a chance to develop strategies that automate device management and application delivery to meet a growing need of creating digital university on personal devices.

The Emerging Post-PC Model

Some educational institutions like Indiana University are catching on to the efficiency and potential cost savings of consolidating services and a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategy. That, along with an understanding that networking is persuasive, alters our understanding of business processes for the digital university, in powerful ways.

Designing a common service delivery approach, which consolidates numerous departmental services into one multi-tenant service in the university data center, can significantly reduce overall institutional expense for running desktops and delivering applications. These common services are configured to meet uniquely defined departmental use-cases. Services that fit well into this model include unified device management for personal computers; Mac, Android, iOS and Windows mobile devices; and desktop virtualization.

Enterprise mobility management solutions give institutions the ability to offer fully encrypted, policy-enforced containers within personal devices with institutional email, apps, and data specifically to those containers on personally owned devices. If a device is lost or stolen, the service allows authorized IT pros to wipe the institutional content without disturbing personally owned mobile assets. These types of less intrusive approaches open new opportunities to deliver the university beyond institutionally owned devices.

Desktop virtualization can be an ideal fit for a new fixed and mobile device strategy, moving the delivery of Windows desktops and applications from fixed in place only to any personally owned device. The emerging model assures a user’s personal device has total access to course, applications and data associated with the learning experience.

Our path to a new future starts with the state of endpoints and their management today

The emerging post-PC model is demonstrated with Indiana University’s desktop virtualization environment for student labs, teaching clinics and online courses. Called IUanyWare, it is a Software-as-a-Service resource based on Citrix technology that delivers Microsoft Windows desktops, applications and faculty digital content in a secure and standardized environment. In 2013, the service earned a TechPoint Mira Award in the category of Technology in Education Excellence & Innovation.

The post-PC model is demonstrated at Indiana University in the following areas:

• Student mobile computing lab: The IUanyWare mobile student lab delivers 24/7 access to 300 applications on-demand to 60,000+ active users across all Indiana University campuses on a range of devices and platforms. The environment enables local storage and connects to a variety of public, cloud storage solutions.

• Clinical training: IUanyWare delivers a patient application (Axium) for dentistry students, available anytime on any device. It is a secure application aligned with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

• IUOnline Virtual PC: Still in pilot, this service delivers a customized virtual desktop to online students anywhere in the world. This lets them start learning on the very first day of class by simply logging into vPC–with all the necessary software applications, course data and files at the ready.

• Kumo: This service makes it easy for students, faculty, and staff to share and access their data from wherever they are. It seamlessly connects users of virtual apps and computer labs to their files in Box, Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, on-premise file-shares, and SharePoint servers. Kumo maximizes the value of virtual application delivery and cloud-based storage in higher education.

• Kumo Broadcast: This service automatically pushes necessary course files to course sections, saving time and reducing the difficulties of course file distribution.

The Future

It is assumed that the future of IT in education is based on the premise of a single personal (mobile) device that, along with the appropriate peripherals, serves all the IT needs of the individual. The post-PC environment will emphasize virtual and subscription-based services from Gmail, Exchange, SharePoint, Adobe and others that will be hosted from the cloud. It is clear; the new BYOD era begins now with smartphones or tablets. As miniaturization continues, however, these devices may become watches, key fobs, even jewelry.

Our digital future begins today as we work to reduce the resource-intensive models from the 1990s by building new models that address the growing demand to deliver the digital university better aligned with the consumer marketplace. 

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