• July 1, 2019

The Alphabet Soup of Desktop Virtualization

Greg M. Smith
  • by Greg M. Smith

Let’s face it, end-user computing can be complicated. The whole idea of selecting and deploying hardware every year, procuring the equipment, developing and managing images, managing the assets, and then providing technical support for the next three to four years on that device is daunting. There is an easier way, a modern approach to end-user computing, but as with all things technology it comes with its own language and set of acronyms. Propeller is dedicated to making technology easy so that educators can focus on the learning rather than the tech support. In that light, let’s break down the alphabet soup that is modern end user computing. 

People throw around terms like VDIDaaS, Thin ClientZero ClientWeb Client, but what does it all mean and how does it make sense in your environment? Let’s start with the difference between VDI and DaaS.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is the legacy approach for desktop virtualization. VDI takes a lot of hardware and complicated software, installs it in your basement data center and provides services to your campus users. The idea of VDI is great, but there are challenges around cost, scalability, and performance. 

Desktop as a Service (DaaS) is a modern and flexible approach for providing virtual desktop environments to your campus. DaaS leverages the power of a public cloud provider, like Amazon Web Services (AWS), allowing you to economically and quickly scale services across your campus freeing up resources and staff to focus on adding value beyond commodity computing services. A real world example of this quick seamless scalability came in a project I was working on to provide virtual desktops inside a classroom environment for a large university. The original scope of the project was to deploy services for 400 students. Two days before go live, I received a request from the academic leadership to instead deploy the platform to over 3,200 students. With DaaS, we were able to scale and deploy on the go live date with no problem.

Now that we have established the flexibility and scalability of DaaS, let’s look at how we access the platform. We hear terms thrown around like Thin ClientZero ClientWeb Client, and mobile access, but how do we make sense of it all and what is the best approach for your campus? Thin Clients allow you to repurpose the existing hardware you have in computer labs and across campus, increasing their usable life and allowing you to better leverage that capital investment. Propeller provides the glue to bring all of this together and provides the flexibility to mix and match the right connection methods for your needs. 

Zero Client devices are firmware based terminals with a singular purpose of connecting you to your virtualized desktop environment. You can leverage your existing Zero Client investment with the more modern DaaS approach with a few technical caveats, you must be using a Zero Client that supports the Teradici PCoIP (ideally version 6.x or higher). 

Thin Clients are very lightweight devices that run on highly optimized versions of secured operating systems and provide a more modern approach. For example, IGEL OS, is a next generation operating system specifically designed to convert any device to connect to your DaaS deployment. For those who don’t have existing hardware to convert, IGEL also has a series of endpoints running IGEL OS, including a unique offering called UD Pocket – a thin client on a USB key. IGEL’s Universal Management Suite allows thin clients to be easily managed and the configurations centrally deployed so that you never have to touch an endpoint again. 

Additional Clients can be used to interact with the Amazon Web Services DaaS offering called WorkSpaces. Not only does WorkSpaces support modern Thin Clients (like the IGEL series) and Zero Clients, but it also supports a web client and several installable clients on macOS, iPad, Windows, Android, Fire Tablet, and Chromebooks. This diversity of clients allows your students, faculty, and staff to access the services they need, when, where, and how they want to work. 

Now that you understand the differences between legacy VDI and the modern scalable approach of DaaS, and have an introduction to the power of IGEL OS and Endpoints, we would like to invite you to join us on June 4, 2019 at 2pm EDT for a co-hosted Webinar with AWSIGEL, and Propeller. We will be talking about modern end user computing and how Propeller brings the powers of AWS and IGEL together to provide a seamless experience for your students, faculty, and staff. 

Webinar Registration


About Amazon Web Services
In 2006, Amazon Web Services (AWS) began offering IT infrastructure services to businesses in the form of web services — now commonly known as cloud computing. One of the key benefits of cloud computing is the opportunity to replace up-front capital infrastructure expenses with low variable costs that scale with your business. With the Cloud, businesses no longer need to plan for and procure servers and other IT infrastructure weeks or months in advance. Instead, they can instantly spin up hundreds or thousands of servers in minutes and deliver results faster

As education IT veterans, our founders want all students to thrive beyond the bounds of a traditional campus and the confines of limited resources. We believe that technology should never get in the way of a school’s or a student’s ability to grow and engage with the world. With smart cloud computing, we saw an unmatched opportunity to help make better virtual learning possible for students on the devices they already have, freeing K-12 schools, community colleges, and universities from costly and burdensome software and hardware.

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