QCEC2009 Virtual IT Teaching Laboratory

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A description of the Virtual IT Teaching Laboratory in use by the School of IT at Bond University. A talk at the Queensland Computing Education Conventicle 2009.

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  • Currently we keep student machines in an archive for a couple of years as required by our assessment rules. So far no student has asked for a copy of their VM image but this is possible even though the images are several GB.
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  • Nice to see Linux in the mix.
    I wonder if students can download their VM to keep their completed work for future reference etc?
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QCEC2009 Virtual IT Teaching Laboratory

  1. 1. Teaching IT Subjects with Real-World Software Virtual IT Teaching Laboratory Michael Rees School of Information Technology Bond University mrees@bond.edu.au
  2. 2. Overview • Problem with practical assessments – Software scope – Dedicated teaching labs • Solution: use virtual teaching lab • Pilot semester • VITTL: Virtual IT Teaching Lab – Operation to date – Extensions • Lessons learned and way ahead © 2009 Michael Rees Queensland Computer Education Conventicle 2009 2
  3. 3. The Problem • Make industrial-class software available for student practical assignments: – Licensing usually not a problem – Hardware/network support is a problem • Physical teaching labs: – Dedicated machine for one software package expensive – Shared installs are complex with interference problems – Students need extensive access to labs outside class – No administrator access – No permanent settings © 2009 Michael Rees Queensland Computing Education Conventicle 2009 3
  4. 4. The Solution – Virtual Labs VMware Solution © 2009 Michael Rees Queensland Computing Education Conventicle 2009 4
  5. 5. Virtual Center • VITTL administrator controls all aspects of the virtual laboratory: – start/stop virtual machines and change the capacity of virtual devices – instantiate new virtual machines, make clones and delete existing ones – monitor the performance of each virtual machine and the overall loads on VITTL1 and 2 – trigger the migration (VMotion) of a virtual machine between VITTL 1 and 2 © 2009 Michael Rees Queensland Computer Education Conventicle 2009 5
  6. 6. Virtual Machine Images • Students allocated one or more virtual machines per subject with virtual networks where needed • Virtual machine images: – Built by lecturer to exact requirements: • Base OS: students install and manage software • OS with required software installed – Internet access for download/install – 24/7 access from any on-campus machine and via Internet using Citrix server – Allow students administrator access (if needed) – Constant running for server work and compute- intensive apps – Broken VMs replaced by clones in minutes © 2009 Michael Rees Queensland Computing Education Conventicle 2009 6
  7. 7. VM Access • Any on-campus machine • Internet machine via Citrix © 2009 Michael Rees Queensland Computing Education Conventicle 2009 7
  8. 8. VITTL Experience To Date • Pilot semester 082 (2 dedicated servers): – Web apps 20 x Winserver 2003 – Computational Finance 6 x Windows XP • Full production: – Used by 9 advanced IT subjects over semesters 083, 091 and 092 – Web apps, middleware, ecommerce, BI, databases, mo dular programming – 50 to 100 VMs per semester – Mix of Windows XP, Vista, Server 2003 and Ubuntu © 2009 Michael Rees Queensland Computer Education Conventicle 2009 8
  9. 9. Discoveries • Portability: students can demo problems/assignments on instructor machines in lecture rooms, labs and staff offices • VITTL servers able to support more VMs than planned • VITTL server main memory the limiting factor • Take great care when showing students network adapter and firewall configurations • Compute-intensive VMs run slower than expected • Port access and virtual networks need careful planning • Student acceptance very high • Some IT students surprisingly lack machine admin skills © 2009 Michael Rees Queensland Computing Education Conventicle 2009 9
  10. 10. Way Ahead for VITTL • Extensions: – Automated VM cloning and deployment – Single sign-on accounts – Central VM connect for students • Handover to central technical support: – Develop model VM create/clone/deploy/monitor/teardown cycle – Archive and backup policy © 2009 Michael Rees Queensland Computing Education Conventicle 2009 10
  11. 11. Resources • Talk links at: – http://dotdolfin.com/talks/#qcec2009 • Virtual IT Teaching Lab site: – http://vittlproject.pbworks.com © 2009 Michael Rees Queensland Computer Education Conventicle 2009 11

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