Established November 29, 1863, in Milan, under the name Royal Technical College, Politecnico di Milano is an Italian state university focused on technology and the sciences, with programs in engineering, architecture and design. It offers bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees. Currently, the university has more than 41.000 enrolled students.
The university was faced with the classic problem of supply and demand. It had more students, faculty and administrators who needed to access IT workstations and important applications than equipment to support them. The university was also faced with a major upgrade: Its 1.000 midrange desktop workstations were close to obsolescence, and its 400 graphics workstations were also near the end of their useful life. What Politecnico di Milano needed was a cost-effective and efficient way to upgrade its machines and give students, faculty and administrators remote access to the critical applications they need.
In its upgrade effort, the university turned to Citrix. “It was able to meet our requirements of strength and scalability and complied with our medium and long-term technical and financial objectives,” says Fabrizio Pedranzini, manager of information and communication technologies at the university. The Citrix commitment to providing extensive technical support was also instrumental in the decision. “Citrix is so competent and available, which is critical in a project of this complexity,” says Pedranzini. It also helped that other important Italian universities are already successfully using Citrix solutions.
To facilitate the upgrade of its workstations and to provide access to important applications, the university virtualized with Citrix XenDesktop and opened the IT environment to user-owned mobile devices such as tablets, smartphones, PCs and thin clients. The result? The university did not need to provide as much hardware support and could significantly improve productivity and collaboration throughout the organization. XenDesktop gave students, faculty and administrators the ability to work anywhere, anytime, on virtually any device.
In addition, to optimize the user experience, the university adopted Citrix NetScaler to better deliver the applications. Thanks to the sophisticated load balancing, data compression, caching of contents, SSL acceleration, and other NetScaler features, the university was better able to handle peak usage periods and can now effectively serve 1.000 concurrent users.
By easily selecting apps from an app store, students and faculty now have fast access to the critical tools they need. That translates into a more engaged and more dynamic learning environment. “Students are very interested in connecting and working from any location, and they really welcomed this project,” says Pedranzini.
With virtualization, the university is able to make smart resource decisions on where to spend its valuable IT euros without sacrificing the quality of its IT service. With Citrix solutions, the university can focus its energy and resources on upgrading all of its 400 advanced graphics workstations. It was also able to purchase fewer PCs and, at the same time, offer more usable workstations. “Thanks to Citrix, we arrived at an optimal solution,” says Pedranzini.
Politecnico di Milano is already planning on increasing the number of virtualized workstations from 1.000 to 2.000; but this, says Pedranzini, is only part of a “broader and more complex effort—a first step toward implementing new and better IT services at the university.” The IT department, for example, wants to offer special sharing services when students are tested in the classroom.
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