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“We have managed to overcome the power and flexibility that computer classrooms gave us”

Mondragon Unibertsitatea, one of the universities in the Basque Country that is a benchmark in innovation, has become a reference when it comes to ensuring the continuity of its classes in times of pandemic thanks to Nutanix technology.

As its CIO, Jesús Lizarraga, tells us, shortly before the state of alarm was decreed, they completed a project that allowed the students of their Faculty of Engineering develop your educational program entirely online and from their homes through remote access to the applications necessary for their training.

The virtualization project, which began as a pilot for the following year, ended up becoming an essential platform for students and teachers, allowing the continuity of the teaching activity without any incident during the months of confinement. About the characteristics of this project and the advantages offered by virtualization in the field of online education, we had the opportunity to chat with Lizarraga. This is what he told us.

[MCPRO] In which? has the project that you have launched with Nutanix consisted of?

[Jesús Lizarraga] In the area of ​​engineering we have a lot of very specific software, whether due to licensing issues, hardware requirements for graphics cards or machine processing capacity, etc. makes it impossible to run on the laptops that students bring to the classroom. Thus? that for certain tasks, students have to continue coming to computer science classrooms.

To increase the availability of those resources, in the last ten years we have tried all kinds of technologies, from application virtualization, desktop virtualization… In 2009 however, when we started doing it, the technology was not mature in these environments. Yes? it was for office environments, but for what we needed? At the Mondragon University, where large groups of students start working with virtual machines that require intensive use of resources, the solutions we tried failed.

At the end of 2019 we finally looked at Nutanix hyperconvergence solutions and
in February 2020 we launched a pilot test. They set up a test environment for us within the university itself and the results we obtained were fast and good.

[MCPRO] What other technologies have you tried before?

[Jesús Lizarraga] We had tried with VMware, with Citrix… Always in our data center. We also did some testing with cloud solutions. Some very powerful solutions that really worked, but at unaffordable prices.

We tried to compare the price of having a classroom, with 20 or 30 workstations, or ten classrooms of these characteristics and their equivalent in CPD servers. And until we got to the Nutanix solution, we haven’t found a balance between the costs of one alternative and the other.

[MCPRO] How is the VDI solution that you have implemented?

[Jesús Lizarraga] On the one hand we have the Nutanix hyperconvergence solution. As a hypervisor, the one that Nutanix has for virtualization, Acropolis, is used, and then as UDS to launch the virtual desktops.

UDS Enterprise is a connectivity solution mainly for VDI environments and is widely used, especially in areas such as universities.

[MCPRO] How many nodes do you have and how is the configuration of the solution?

[Jesús Lizarraga] At the moment we have three Nutanix nodes, with three Nvidia graphics cards and they are configured in a high availability mode (if one node fails, another one comes into operation) for 200 normal desktops, without graphics card characteristics, to which we add others 100 GPU desktops. We can reach a maximum of 300 concurrent users while maintaining high availability.

[MCPRO] Are you going to add more nodes?

[Jesús Lizarraga] We are studying a proposal to add two more nodes to the solution, which indicates how well it has gone. It is a solution that we are using more and more and not only for the training part but for administration and service staff issues, for professionals who are in a teleworking mode… as an alternative to the VPNs themselves.

[MCPRO] What are the main advantages that you have detected?

[Jesús Lizarraga] Above all, we have gained a lot in flexibility. With classrooms in which reservations had to be managed, we either found that there was no room for everyone, or that the computers were wasted. Now, on the other hand, you can always use the machine you need and you have the capacity to be able to connect 24×7. This is an impressive leap in quality.

The scenario that lies ahead is totally different from the one we had in January 2020. Not only with teleworking, online training has also exploded and there are many students who make use of these solutions.

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