Delivering a fantastic user experience with XenApp from Citrix

“The Citrix solution allowed us to present a familiar desktop look and feel so we wouldn’t ‘scare’ anyone. The licensing model also worked for us in terms of numbers and the levels of concurrency we expected. XenApp enabled us to deliver a wide range of applications as a familiar desktop experience.”

Richard Lynch, Head of IT Operations and Support, Robert Gordon University

Robert Gordon University (RGU) in Aberdeen traces its roots back over 250 years. Today, it is one of Scotland’s top universities. More than 17,000 students from 120 countries are enrolled. The 2017 Guardian University Guide ranked Robert Gordon University as the best university in Scotland for graduate prospects.

Richard Lynch, Head of IT Operations and Support at Robert Gordon University, explains the contribution IT makes to the university’s success:

“From an IT perspective, this means we are delivering lots of services to lots of people who have a very high expectation for reliability, flexibility of access and availability of software.”

PC Based Model Creating Restrictions and No Central Control of IT

RGU needed to provide a consistently good student and staff experience anywhere, on any device.

When Richard first arrived at RGU, he was tasked with devising a replacement cycle for the university’s PCs. However, he soon concluded that a different approach was needed. He explains:

“When I started speaking to the faculties about their requirements– I realised that the PC-based model was creating constraints. Certain software was only available on certain machines. We actually had rooms named after the software that was available within them! Restricting software to specific PCs was tying up real estate, limiting the usefulness of PCs, restricting students’ access to learning resources and driving all sorts of decisions.”

RGU’s IT policy was heavily devolved, with faculties making independent purchasing decisions leaving Central IT responsible for campus-wide infrastructure and some general, university-wide software. As a result, students experienced high levels of inconsistency in IT services, resources could not be easily shared across the university and, lacking visibility across the estate, the Central IT department found it hard to manage software licence compliance.

Richard concluded that instead of a five-year refresh cycle, they needed a remote access strategy, establishing what applications users needed and making them available wherever required.

  • Constraints in PC based model
  • A different approach
  • A remote access strategy

Centralised Provisioning of IT Services Through Virtualisation

Richard and his team worked with Incremental Group to evaluate alternative solutions, with a focus on providing flexible access to software and processing power.

XenApp was the favoured option, using virtualisation to deliver IT services from a data centre the University had recently invested in.

“The Citrix solution allowed us to present a familiar desktop look and feel so we wouldn’t ‘scare’ anyone. The licensing model also worked for us in terms of numbers and the levels of concurrency we expected. XenApp enabled us to deliver a wide range of applications as a familiar desktop experience.”

Incremental Group installed 24 XenApp virtual servers in the data centre and, in the first year, deployed 950 HP thin-client terminals in the new building. Incremental Group’s collaborative approach passed knowledge to the internal IT team: Incremental Group deployed the initial template for the servers, and worked with the internal IT team, following a process to scale the project out.

Remote and on-campus wireless access to the XenApp environment was enabled for any device running the Citrix Receiver client.

“Incremental Group not only had the technical expertise we needed in Citrix – they took the time to understand our specific requirements, largely based on the fact that we have two client groups – students and staff.  Incremental Group understood our requirements and designed a solution that covered them all. “

  • XenApp, using virtualisation to deliver IT from a data centre
  • Remote and on-campus access
  • Familiar desktop experience
  • Requirements of students and staff met

Student Satisfaction

  • Reliable wireless access to more than 600 applications for 8,000 student devices each day
  • Students logging in are presented with a familiar Windows desktop and there have therefore been no barriers to adoption
  • Students have the freedom to access their apps and data from anywhere
  • Improved supportability and reliability of the entire IT infrastructure
  • Centralised IT control
  • Built in redundancy
  • Scalability

“In higher education, student satisfaction is a key measure of success and you have only one chance to get it right. If a new student has a poor IT experience when they arrive in September, it affects their view for the next four years of their course. The Citrix environment helps us make the most of that one chance.”

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