Inuvika Helps UCL Accelerate Collaborative Research
The Université catholique de Louvain is located in the heart of Belgium. It has almost 600 years of history with six campuses and 14 faculties in science and technology, human science and health sciences. It serves 28,700 students of 127 nationalities with the mission to educate, conduct research and advance the local and scientific communities at large. The IT department of UCL manages the delivery of IT services to, among other users, faculty, staff, researchers, students and visitors to the nine campus libraries. The IT department’s vision is to offer their users a mobile and "work from anywhere" IT experience with the freedom to use their own devices to access University resources.
The challenge UCL faced was to deliver a diverse set of applications, designed for different operating systems, to many different devices. Traditional application delivery methods in use, such as automated scripted installation, did not support their vision of work from anywhere and required device intervention and management. The scope of their requirement was to build a long-term partnership that would allow for the development of a solution that adapts to student's and researcher's needs. The resulting solution needed to be an open, web-based platform. It had to offer an on-demand service that supports both Linux and Windows simultaneously with universal access from student and faculty owned devices. UCL also required that the solution be delivered in a cost-efficient manner, preferring to avoid large capital expenditures for an OPEX model.
During the evaluation phase, UCL explored various approaches from traditional methods to a fully hosted virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). The University uses a wide variety of applications, from statistical and modelling tools through to productivity tools developed for both Linux and Windows platforms. By its very nature, a dedicated VDI desktop is restricted to either Windows or Linux. When coupled with VDI’s heavy and demanding infrastructure requirements, particularly when scaling a solution to many thousands of users, it was discounted early on as the primary solution. In contrast, the Inuvika Open Virtual Desktop (OVD) platform with its hosted shared architecture is efficient and lightweight. It offers the flexibility of seamless delivery of both Linux and Windows applications through a unified web portal to HTML5 enabled clients. Simple to administer, OVD removes barriers that a traditional distributed approach imposes, while not demanding extensive compute resources that a dedicated VDI solution requires.
With the introduction of Inuvika’s OVD as a delivery platform, the IT team at UCL are now able to offer their users the flexibility of location, choice of device and secure access to a large catalogue of applications. Centralised delivery and control ensures that requests for applications can now be fulfilled instantly rather than the hours or days it may have taken in the past. UCL prides itself on fostering opportunities for research and development with both academic and commercial organizations. With close to 3000 researchers, 2000 PhD students and nearly 1,000 research agreements signed each year, research is truly one of the driving forces of the University. Erin Dupuis, IT director responsible for endpoint systems and software distribution said “As a university, we are keen to exploit the partnership opportunities that free open source software offers. The chance to work on this project with the Inuvika team supports the UCL culture. Inuvika’s technology is a secure, flexible and mature foundation. OVD is simple and cost efficient to deploy, support and manage. Additionally, OVD vastly improves the speed at which we can implement collaborative research projects.”
The next phase of the project is to scale the initial 200 concurrent user implementation to the thousands of campus users over the next year. Improved software usage reporting will enable better accounting of software assets and drive efficiencies in licensing management. Meanwhile, the team continues to enhance its capabilities for collaborative research with the planned integration of data sharing, social media and web based applications.