Bridgwater College Passes Desktop Efficiency and Continuity Test With 2X by Parallels

Featured image courtesy of Bridgwater College.

“2X will remain at the core of our ICT delivery well into the future.”Dave Foster, Head of IT Services, Bridgwater College


Company Overview

Bridgwater College in Somerset is a highly successful multi-site provider of education and training, boasting Beacon status and an Ofsted Outstanding rating. It caters for over 16,000 full- and part-time students and employs more than 1,000 staff across its two main centers and other outreach locations across the southwest.

Providing excellent service and computing facilities to its students and staff cost-effectively is a key element in Bridgwater’s IT strategy. Access to IT facilities is at the core of much of its effective learning and it has to maintain a large number of concurrently and constantly used desktops across its varied locations.

The Challenge

Bridgwater originally chose to pursue a server-based computing and thin client desktop IT strategy to achieve cost-effectiveness and control in serving a large and varied user base across different sites. Effective load balancing of users’ desktops to server resources was essential due to the “big switch on” that happens daily in educational establishments.

“Because the organization runs to strict timetables, we frequently have many users logging on to desktops at the same time”, said Dave Foster, Head of IT Services at Bridgwater College. “We realized that effective load balancing was critical if we were to maintain a cost-effective server-based computing infrastructure that could deal with these specific user dynamics.”

Over time, Bridgwater’s server upgrades have increased the number of users that can be provisioned from each server, extending the criticality of its load balancing. “We have 600 users logged onto the system at any one time and have reduced our server numbers by approximately two thirds in the last five years. This gives us the advantage of consolidating server budgets but means that we needed a best in class but cost-effective load balancing solution.”

The Solution

Not convinced of the return on investment it would achieve from load balancing products within market-leading virtualization suites like Citrix, Bridgwater chose to investigate alternatives. “The cost of some load balancing solutions meant that it would have been cheaper to upgrade our server infrastructure and incorporate a ‘cushion’ of capacity than pay for a load balancer that would efficiently manage desktop provisioning from our existing server resources,” said Foster. “But by surveying the market we realised there were far simpler, easier and more cost-effective ways of doing this.”

Bridgwater chose to use Parallels 2X RAS working in harmony with Microsoft Servers. Users logging in to Windows Server are first connected to  Parallels 2X gateways which selects servers based on the workload.

The 2X LoadBalancer continually calculates the load across each server and feeds that information to the gateways to ensure correct selection and routing of users to the least loaded terminal server. This simple and effective solution is invaluable for Bridgwater as Foster explains. “In the space of ten minutes we could have 500 users logging on and requiring instant classroom-based access to IT resources as part of timed lessons. Effective delivery of learning now requires 99.9% success in providing access. The 2X LoadBalancer is the critical link in ensuring that terminals are correctly mapped to server resources.”

“It has become even more critical over time as we have sought to rationalise our server infrastructure on fewer machines, each provisioning many more users. Parallels 2X RAS  adoption have massively increased the potential to do so.”

Since using 2X LoadBalancer, Bridgwater College has been able to maintain a highly cost-effective and reliable desktop IT infrastructure meeting the needs of its large concurrent user base across multiple sites. With ICT availability an essential part of the college’s outstanding performance as a learning institution, load balancing and the Parallels solution have become some of the most important aspects of its technology environment.

Parallels provides scalability at a far lower cost than competitor products. This has enabled Bridgwater to achieve an impressive ROI against the cost of increasing its server infrastructure and would not have been possible with competing load balancing solutions.

Bridgwater’s success with Parallels at the core of its server-based computing environment were proven by its recent analysis of converting desktops from thin clients to PCs. Foster comments, “with 2X in place and able to optimise load balancing across our server resources we have saved significantly. 2X will remain at the core of our ICT delivery well into the future.”

Bridgwater College |