Upper Dublin School District Says Goodbye to Computer Lab Refreshes with Google Cloud Desktops

Written by Alexander Shapero on Jul 18, 2019

Computer labs. The internet cafes of the classroom.

Somewhere in every high school in America is that big room packed with 30-something Windows desktops where kids work on “computing,” opening up Excel, AutoCAD and more to learn valuable technical skills. We take these rooms for granted, along with their occupation of valuable space, long hours fixing broken devices, and occasional lack of engagement with the teacher as each student finds their learning space dominated by humming hardware.

Is there a better way?

The Challenge

Upper Dublin school district in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, asked themselves this question when their hardware was due for a refresh. Was it possible to escape not just the hardware recycles the IT department needed to deal with every five years, but the dedicated labs altogether? Why not have every student work on Windows apps from their Chromebooks instead? This would empower teachers to leverage classroom space creatively to support collaborative and individual work.

The reason is Adobe, CAD apps and other legacy apps still require an install on a Windows machine. This thorn stops many school districts looking to go total Chromebook and embrace mobility. A viable answer is a virtual desktop solution for students. Deploying remote Windows apps would keep all the simplicity and mobility of Chromebooks while granting them the power and the necessary OS to run Adobe, CAD, and more anywhere.

Despite these obvious benefits, a traditional VDI solution is complex and practically guarantees heavy license fees and a virtualization engineer or two. That’s when the Google Cloud team suggested itopia, Google Cloud’s Premier Tech Partner and go-to for remote desktops.

Use case

itopia makes remote desktops viable and affordable for schools for many reasons:

  1. itopia is software that simplifies and automates Google remote desktop environments. This means Upper Dublin doesn’t need a Google Cloud engineer or VDI expert to run Windows on Chromebooks. 
  2. itopia enables Google remote desktops and applications. This means Adobe and CAD on Chromebooks, as direct and simple for students as possible.
  3. itopia allows uptime scheduling of VMs in Google Cloud. This means Upper Dublin pays only for what students consume. Combine this with itopia’s simple low license fee, and high-power remote desktops are affordable.

Once these benefits were clear, both teams got to work on a POC. We built out a classroom of Google Cloud VMs and figured out what VM size and user load was best. Upper Dublin eventually chose a custom VM size that held up to seven students per VM, and after working out the numbers over a five month period, they decided that the freedom and timelessness of Google Cloud remote desktops (Google Cloud VMs never need to be “refreshed”) provided a lot more value than continuing to buy hardware that wears out just to support computer rooms.

Conclusion

Google Cloud + itopia simplifies management of student desktops and clears valuable space. But really, it’s all about the students. The speed of Google’s fiber and its universal access enriches instruction in ways traditional VDI cannot.  Philip Vinogradov, Director of IT at Upper Dublin, agrees, and says: “We are excited to explore this frontier with itopia and Google Cloud. It is a potentially scalable solution that will provide us with flexibility moving forward.” 

And when it comes to students’ education, flexibility is priceless.

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