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July 12, 2002

Using Cytrix in the education environment

The Education Technology group here at Tech has to support over a hundred machines in classrooms, and keep them in sync with common software. Using a Citrix terminal server might make it easier to support one-off applications rather than having to install them on every machine.

I attended a "Talk with with the CTO" lunch a few weeks back with other Tech IT staff. There was some conversation about what they have to do to support the interactive classrooms tech has been building out over the past few years.

The comment was made that Professors sometimes want to install software on the shared computers in the classrooms. That's a problem, because the classroom computers are all supposed to be set up the same way, so a professor can count on finding a common setup even if they have to move classrooms. The professor has two choices: bring in a laptop and plug it in, or convince the central IT people that the program should be installed on all the classroom machines.

I have another idea, based on what CNN.com did for rolling out their common content management tools: have a Citrix terminal server installed centrally, and have the ability to log into that server from each classroom machine. The Citrix server doesn't replace installing common local software on all machines, but rather gives the professor an alternative: if they have a program they think would be useful, the IT folks could install it first on the Citrix machine, where it would then be available from any classroom. If the program proved useful, it could be installed more widely, or perhaps just left on the Citrix server until the Prof didn't need it. That would allow the IT people to be more responsive to their clients with less overhead.

Citrix isn't the answer for everything, but with high speed local networks and a reasonable load, I'll be it would be pretty reasonable for more applications.