Hosted Virtual Desktops & Labs

Slope of Enlightenment
UMN Assessment
Doing Well
Time Frame
Less Than 2 Years
Last Updated on Sep 12, 2014

A "virtual desktop" runs an operating system and software applications, but, unlike a physical computer, it does not store that software, rather it provides access to software stored on a server. Virtual desktops have the potential to provide greater access to expensive software, streamlined software management, improved security, and has the added benefit of reducing the University's carbon footprint. On the down side, a disruption of service may impact many clients. One challenge to implementing virtual desktops as a delivery solution is the variability of software licensing protocols.

Hosted Virtual Desktops & Labs at the University of Minnesota
The only virtual desktop environment that OIT manages now is in Elliott 121, which provides a secure Windows desktop for students taking tests in that proctored environment. Psychology 1001, which has as many as 1,400 students each semester, typically uses the space to deliver quizzes and a final each semester. Prior to using virtual desktops in Elliott 121, OIT individually managed 64 large form factor computers individually. Management costs have decreased dramatically with virtualization, allowing for the centralized maintenance of all of the stations so that updates can be made almost immediately from a remote management console, instead of machine by machine. Further, the thin client terminals that replaced the Dells use 90% less energy and have a much smaller footprint. This is particularly important in this somewhat small space, which had cooling issues with 64 big computers that have almost become non-existent since the introduction of the 64 thin clients.