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Digital Campus ICT and eLearning Infrastructure
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Digital Campus ICT and eLearning Infrastructure

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Overview of the Digital Campus thin client and elearning infrastructure and our services oriented approach

Overview of the Digital Campus thin client and elearning infrastructure and our services oriented approach

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  • What issues do universities face in improving student computer access? increasing student numbers, but limited computing facilities available PCs are expensive and hard to maintain Windows based PCs generally end up being unsupported and virus-ridden Computer labs often broken and/or closed Maintaining a lot of PCs takes a lot of time and effort Lack of ownship by ICT teams Teachers need skills in how to use the ICT effectively in their teaching
  • How are these issues currently being dealt with? Purchase and/or donation of new hardware Employing more ICT staff Elearning teams to train teachers
  • Yet still there are problems PCs (or any other hardware) purchased come with no support and go out of date in relatively short time (3-4 years) ICT staff lack the resources & skills to properly support the infrastructure Viruses wipe out data (no backups, everything stored on local PCs or transferred using flash drives or CDs) Students have no identity (they don't 'own' their desktop - shared/generic usernames and passwords, nowhere they can reliably store their data) Teachers only beginning to use ICT effectively
  • Our experiences so far with thin client labs (after nearly 2 years): Much better uptime than Windows PC labs Ayder lab has worked much better as the network is more reliable Very poor network connection between Arid lab and server in data centre caused a lot of problems Students had very few issues with using OpenSolaris as a desktop Lack of ownership by ICT (if ICT had taken real ownership we probably wouldn't be thinking about providing services) Most issues encountered have been human factors, not technical
  • Digital Campus Services Approach A fully installed thin client infrastructure with support agreement (turnkey solution) Make best use of existing hardware (servers, old PCs etc) Every student has their own user account and can access all their data and applications from any connected terminal Open Source software (Windows only applications can also be supported) Elearning training and support Training, support and development for ICT team
  • Centralised server(s) provide all the processing, applications and data for remote terminals (attached over the local network) From the terminal a user logs into the server to provide their desktop environment Makes the most of the processing power in the server(s). The processing power in a PC is rarely (if ever) used to its maximum potential Traditional v Thin Client Click1: traditional standalone devices have a loose coupling with the network Click2: thin client devices have a tight coupling to the network Click3: user logs into the specific device, user account specific to the terminal (yes can alter this with LDAP etc) Click4: user authenticated on the server only Click5: data stored on devices (and possibly also on server) Click6: data stored on server only Click7: so user has no real 'home' as it's different on each device. User may often be attached to a particular physical device for a familiar desktop environment Click8: user has a home on the server and it will be the same environment whichever physical device they use to log in Click9: applications need to be installed and maintained on every device Click10: applications only need to be installed and maintained on the server Click11: processing is done on each device, inefficient use of processor power as often devices are idle Click12: all processing done on the server, more efficient usage of processor power and far more scalable
  • Note that one 5kW UPS can be enough to power a lab of 40 thin clients to cover electricity fluctuations/brown outs. So electricity infrastructure requirements much lower
  • This slide it to explain that it's not a black and white decision between thin client and standalone PCs, that there is spectrum of possible architectures and models for computing labs, from standalone PCs over to ultra thin client
  • +Reduced burden on the electricity supply to the labs
  • Performance Providing the server and network are working, the clients can connect Performance depends on the servers, not the clients Not dependent on the specification of the client hardware Reduced risk of data loss (during power disruptions, providing the server is still on, no data will be lost). Also using a UPS in the lab can keep even the terminals on during short power fluctuations. Would be hard to have enough power for this when using PCs Significantly improved up-time of terminals over Windows PC labs
  • Benefits for the university Significant cost savings Turnkey solution Reuse existing PCs and servers Smaller ICT team required to manage server/network infrastructure Support development of local IT economy Much easier to manage software installations (only needs to be installed once on the server) Vastly reduced risk of viruses Lab attendants don't need to spend time fixing viruses or rebuilding PCs Much reduced electricity costs Effective data backup Once teachers can rely on the student access and infrastructure, they can make better use of ICT in their teaching Use of smart cards for user identity (can combine with student ID)
  • + Smart board integration for more interactive lessons
  • Benefits for the student Access the same desktop environment from any connected terminal Personal desktop environment - every student has their own username and password Don't need to use specific computer labs for specific applications (all applications are available from any terminal) All data (documents, assignments etc) available from any connected terminal, no need to copy to flash drive or CD
  • server and client hardware installation of terminals and server within building networking installation (and equipment) full time support staff (based on-site during normal working hours) creation of student user accounts data backup (and recovery) within building electrical installation (and UPS) webcam in each lab (for security) basic software services: internet, email and office elearning server installation and support elearning certification for 100 teachers UPS to keep servers and labs running during short (up to 10 mins) power interruptions
  • inter-building network connectivity power supply to the building furniture (tables/desks, chairs) lab attendants specialised software (eg AutoCAD, SPSS etc) generator to keep power running during power interruptions (more than 10 mins) internet connection
  • would require network connection of 100Mbps for each computer lab (low latency) we have full access/control to all the network equipment between the server and the lab remote access to server (via SSH) labs would be open access for students 24x7 student all have email addresses (either on uni system or using private accounts)
  • Guaranteed x number of terminals working for y years. It terminal fails we replace it Service level agreement based on measurable performance metrics. Usage reporting Spread the risk and cost (wouldn't all be paid for up front). If our service doesn't deliver then stop the support and they still have all the equipment. Include penalties in the SLA. Staff training and development (Also, we should consider variable pay rates for performance for our staff) Any existing hardware (or other new hardware such as surfboards) can be built into the system

Digital Campus ICT and eLearning Infrastructure Digital Campus ICT and eLearning Infrastructure Presentation Transcript

  • Digital Campus ICT and eLearning Infrastructure
  • Key issues faced
    • Increasing student numbers but limited computing facilities
    • Desktop PCs are expensive and complex
    • Lack of ownership by ICT teams
    • Teachers need skills in how to use ICT effectively
  • Current solutions
    • Purchasing new standalone PCs
    • Employing more ICT staff & technicians
    • Elearning teams and training for teachers
  • Yet some issues remain...
    • Standalone PC labs poorly maintained
    • Fragile infrastructure
    • Teachers lack skills in using technology effectively
    • PC's become obsolete
    • Students have little computer access
  • Our experience with Thin Clients
    • Much better uptime than standalone labs
    • Poor network causes problems
    • Lack of ownership by ICT
    • Most issues have been human factors not technical
  • Our Approach
  • Services oriented
    • Fully installed thin client infrastructure with service level support agreement
    • Reuse existing hardware
    • Every student has their own account and desktop environment
    • Full time, onsite support staff
  • Upskilling local staff
    • Encouraging local ICT enterprise and opportunities
    • Training and support for local ICT staff
    • Elearning certification for elearning team and teachers
  • Sustainable Business Model
    • Incubation of Digital-Campus Ethiopia
      • Development of skilled, well paid local staff, performance related salaries
      • Economically sustainable and scalable for-profit organization
    • Digital-Campus in Europe
      • Platform Development / Investigation
      • Sequestering used servers and network equipment
      • Training and support for Ethiopian staff
  • Thin Clients
  • Traditional Standalone Architecture Thin Client Architecture Loose network coupling Tight network coupling User has different account on each device Data spread across different PCs and server User desktop different on each device Same account on every device Stored centrally on server Same desktop environment from all devices Applications installed on every device Applications installed on server only Processing happens on local device Server handles all processing
  • Standalone v Thin Client: Hardware Standalone Thin Client Maintenance and Support Each device needs to be maintained separately Client devices require no maintenance, only the network and server Scalability Low: doubling the number of PCs will double the support requirements Very high, adding many more clients adds little to the overall support requirements Performance Varies from device to device depending on processor/memory. To increase performance each device needs to be upgraded Performance based on the server and network. Can increase performance/capacity by adding servers Security Devices contain valuable components, so every area hosting a device must be well secured Few valuable components within the devices (only the monitor). Data centre needs to be well secured Robustness Devices susceptible to component failure (fans, disk drives etc regularly fail) Devices very robust (no moving parts). Ergonomics Fan noise and heat generation. No noise, low heat.
  • Standalone v Thin Client: Software Standalone Thin Client Application management and support Software needs to be installed/ upgraded/patched on every device Software only needs to be managed on the server Data management Data may be distributed over all devices and moved from device to device with USB disk or CD Data stored centrally so easy to manage and back up Virus resistance Poor (with Windows OS): every PC needs to have it's anti-virus program updated Very high virus resistance with open source operating system. System resource efficiency Low: most of processing capacity idle and disk storage empty Very high: centralised processing and data storage means best use can be made of all system resources Usage Monitoring Hard to report on usage as distributed across many PCs Easy to generate usage reports
  • Standalone v Thin Client: Costs Standalone Thin Client Hardware cost per seat High Low Longevity/ replacement costs PC generally have approx 4 year lifespan Thin client terminals can still be useful after 8+ years. Energy efficiency Low, desktop PC (excluding monitor) is typically 100W High – can save 60-80% on electricity costs. Thin client devices (excluding monitor) are typically 5-10W. Total Cost of Ownership High – each desktop PC requires maintenance and administration Low – only the servers need to be maintained
  • Generic user v Identified user Generic User Identified User Data Management User needs to manage and backup their own data. Risks losing their data as can easily be deleted by other users. Users data is kept secure under their account, can't be deleted by other users. Applications Set up according to generic preferences (or the last user) Users can configure/setup application setting to suit them, their changes won't be lost Device affinity/ownership Users tend to use one particular physical device User owns the desktop environment, so can use any physical machine Application integration User must log in separately to each application (and remember to log out properly) Users can be automatically logged into the email and other systems Monitoring & reporting Cannot monitor individuals usage Can monitor and report on individuals usage
  • Many architectures Standalone PC Thin Client Ultra Thin Client Standard Desktop PC N-computing, Surfboard + more SunRay Spectrum of solutions for student computer labs
  • Open Source
    • Digital Campus focused on using Open Source technology
      • Allows for greater flexibility
      • License fee-free
      • Virus resistant
      • Easier to change between different open source systems
  • Modular Applications Modules Digital Campus Infrastructure
  • Benefits
  • Flexibility Client devices may be:
    • Refurbished Pcs
    • Surfboards
    • SunRays
    • Other thin client devices
    Servers may be:
    • Existing servers
    • Refurbished servers
    • New servers
  • Scalability & Integration
    • Hyper-scalable
    • Add many more terminals with little extra effort or support
    • Server architecture is expandable – add rather than replace
    • Extend the useful life of existing hardware
  • User Provisioning & Reporting
    • All user accounts created and maintained
    • Integrate with existing systems (e.g. Student information system)
    • Generate regular usage reports
  • Performance
    • Network and server dependent
    • Not dependent on specification of client hardware
    • Significantly improved up-time and availability of computer labs
    • UPS can power whole lab during short electricity cuts
  • For the University
    • Significant cost savings
    • Turnkey solution
    • Managed and supported ICT infrastructure
    • Well trained staff
    • Support local ICT enterprise
  • For the Teacher
    • Move away from lecture oriented teaching
    • Training and certification
    • Reliable ICT infrastructure for elearning activities
  • For the Student
    • Personalized desktop environment available from any client device
    • Reliable computer access
    • Reliable data storage
  • Example Scenario
  • Scenario
    • 500 thin clients
    • 5000 students
    • 3 year support
    • 50 instructors trained per year
  • Scenario includes
    • All server, network and client hardware installed and configured
    • User account provisioning
    • Full time support staff
    • Basic software services: internet, email and office
    • Elearning support and certification
  • Scenario excludes
    • furniture (tables/desks, chairs)
    • lab attendants
    • specialised software (eg AutoCAD, SPSS etc)
    • internet connection
  • Scenarios assume
    • Access to network equipment
    • Remote access to server
    • 24x7 lab opening
    • Students all have email addresses
  • Service Level Agreement (SLA)
    • Focus on the service, not hardware!
    • 3 year service on-site:
      • User provisioning and face-to-face support
      • Lab maintenance (power, network, hardware)
      • Local system administration / remote 2 nd tier support
    • Low-cost Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
    • Quantifiable success metrics / penalties
  • SLAs
    • Number terminals working (95%)
    • Moodle service uptime (95%)
    • Call/ticket response time (<8 hours)
    • User provisioning (<8 hours)
    • Power (<5 min outage in labs)
  • Statement of Work
    • Contract
      • Work steps
      • Scope
      • Terms and conditions
        • e.g. payment: 50% - 25% - 25%
      • Responsibilities
      • Legal entity
  • Summary
  • Overview
    • Reliable, well maintained ICT infrastructure with service level agreement
    • Hyper-scalable: build in new/existing hardware
    • Integrated elearning systems
    • Usage reporting
    • Staff training, development and certification