Had a lightbulb moment this morning - went to a presentation from riverbed this morning on their wan optimisaation kit.
Now a problem we have been grappling with is this:
Students do not necessarily use university provided computers these days, by preference they use their own to access university facilities. This in part because most of them have part time jobs and can't just drop into a computer lab for a couple of hours any more.
So the solution is to provide them access to a standard computing environment.
One way is that we provide a classic thin client environment using Citrix or Sun global desktop and that means we provide the apps, the disk and the execution space. SGD and Citrix have a low demand and run on anything (more or less) and make little or no assumptions about the line speed and because it's lightweight as far as the end machine is concerned, don't impact heavily on the performance of the machine.
Using VMPlayer and a pre rolled virtual desktop makes the execution happen locally and comes with a whole bag of assumptions about the architecture of the machine and the amount of grunt available. Coupled to this we can't predict the line speed so accessing remote documents might just suck. Even using compression technology like the riverbed desktop client (or the bluecoat one) tends to make assumptions about the amount of grunt and resources available locally.
In a corporate environment where you control the environment you can make the environment predictable by ensuring everyone has adequate hardware.
Not in a university. Students have everything from super sexy MacBooks through boring but adequate Dell or Acer laptops (or indeed any of the nameless rebadged brands from office superstores - Medion anyone?) through to tatty old desktops running linux. all in all an evironment that is only predictable in its unpredictability.
Under these circumstances the only strategy to go for is the most lightweight lowest impact most multi platform solution, and that looks like Citris (or SGD)