[Video] Western Carolina University Extends Digital Workspace Solutions Campus-Wide

May 31, 2017
Vernon Apperson


Vernon is a technology writer for VMware, specializing in customer storytelling.

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Nestled in the mountain town of Cullowhee, Western Carolina University (WCU) is the westernmost school in the University of North Carolina system. From the residence hall to the science lab, the school is extending digital workspace solutions to all corners of the campus and beyond.

WCU was the first campus in the University of North Carolina system to require its students to bring a computer to school. Now its 10,800 students show up with a variety of devices, from desktop and laptop computers to tablets and smartphones. The University needed a way to provide consistent and easy-to-access resources to each student, no matter what kind of device they have or whether the student is on or off campus.

Read the complete case study.

Single Sign-on, Simple Access

The University tied their existing student portal to VMware Workspace ONE using SAML and VMware Identity Manager. Now only one login is needed to access apps, from Microsoft Office 365 to specialized programs for academics. With Workspace ONE, users log in once, then they can launch any desktop, RDSH or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications they have access to.

“The fact that we can consistently and conveniently offer all this software is a huge benefit to our community.”
— Mark Ellersick, Technology Support Analyst, Western Carolina University

Apps are distributed and customized with VMware App Volumes. App Volumes customizes desktops based on student profiles. When a student finishes a class, their access to apps for that class is withdrawn—saving money for WCU’s IT department.

Any App at Any Time

VMware Horizon provides nonpersistent virtual desktops for students. “The great thing about the technology is that students don’t notice it,” said Mark. “They walk into a lab, log in and do their work. When they walk out of that lab and go to their residence, or even to another town or state, they can access that same resource. Now the lab is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

To access published apps, the WCU IT staff uses Horizon’s RDS Hosted Applications feature. If someone doesn’t need access to a full desktop (McGraw cites the University’s IT ticketing system, as an example) they simply authenticate to Horizon and then launch a published app, save files and use network resources from a remote RDSH server as if it were on their local device.

With VMware User Environment Manager, dynamic personalization management manages specific experiences around locations or user groups. For example, campus printers are made available based on users’ locations, and UEM makes it easy to add or take away card-key access to electronic locks on campus.

High-Powered Graphics—Not Just for Engineering Class

WCU uses products from VMware partner NVIDIA for both academic and personal computing. NVIDIA GRID cards bring the power of the NVIDIA graphics processing unit (GPU) to Horizon virtual desktops, speeding graphics performance and rendering for applications such as 3D modeling and computer-aided design. To support all the streaming services and videos that students watch in their free time, the WCU IT team is also expanding NVIDIA cards to each host box they deploy.

Windows 10 Made Easy

WCU is finding that virtualization is a big help in getting their community acclimated to Windows 10 as the University begins to upgrade.

Patrick McGraw, virtualization and tier one engineer, said, “Some people are hesitant about adopting Windows 10 because it’s a big change. We created a pool of Windows 10 desktops so people can play with the software and get to know it. Then when we upgrade their machine, they’re already used to the technology, and that makes them happy. We’ve gotten a lot of positive responses.”

“We’re excited, as a university and as an IT department, to give students a consistent experience and really level the playing field. We’re breaking down barriers and making resources more accessible. We’re excited that we can bring everything together in a very intuitive and easy-to-use package.”
—Mark Ellersick

Learn more about the technologies powering WCU’s digital workspace:

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