Replacing Pepperdine University’s computer labs with low-cost PCs would have cost almost $25,000, so campus technology officials turned to virtualized computing, connecting many PCs to a single computer and saving nearly $18,000.
Pepperdine IT administrators presented their cost-saving strategies Nov. 4 at the 11th annual EDUCAUSE conference in Denver, where thousands of college decision makers came to see the latest in campus computing.
Gerard Flynn, director of technology and learning at Malibu, Calif.-based Pepperdine–a school of 8,300 students–said the university’s language and athletics departments, among others, requested computer upgrades as PC speeds slowed and students complained.
When Thomas Hoover, the university’s director of instructional technology, realized that replacing aging computers would cost $24,800–money that would strain the school’s IT budget during tough fiscal times–he studied the costs of virtualization. Using equipment from NComputing, Hoover found that small devices that cost $70 apiece could trim the price of a computer upgrade to $7,100.
Using the NComputing device, the keyboard, monitor, and mouse for each of 30 students are connected to a shared PC.
"You’re talking about tremendous cost savings," Hoover said, adding that desktop virtualization has an environmentally friendly component. Pepperdine used 19,000 kilowatt hours annually while using traditional PCs. Virtualization cut kilowatts to 2,208 per year.
"You can change one unit and upgrade an entire lab," Hoover added, referring to the shared PC.
Pepperdine’s IT staff surveyed students to gauge satisfaction with the campus’s new computing strategy. Some students said web pages lagged while they scrolled, and others said there was an occasional lag when watching videos online. The internet slow-down was most evident when many computers were being used simultaneously on one virtualized NComputing hub, Flynn said.
Twelve percent of Pepperdine students surveyed said video on the virtualized PCs was "bad," while 35 percent said video quality was "good." Forty percent said video was "about the same." Forty-seven percent of respondents said computer speed was average, and 8 percent said it was slow.
Six out of 10 Pepperdine students said they were aware of the desktop virtualization.