How Four Major Universities Use NVIDIA GRID to Stay Best in Class

by Ismet Nesicolaci

When millions of students head back to college this week, they’ll be bringing along more technology than ever — and greater expectations for how they’ll use it.

Engineering students, who once used workstations in labs, want to drive sophisticated programs from their dorm room. Art students, who once used powerful studio computers, want to use Photoshop on their tablets.

At the University of Southern California, the typical student arrives with an average of three mobile devices. It’s much the same at other big schools, like Duke University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Massachusetts.

With the recent release of NVIDIA GRID 2.0, any connected device becomes a powerful workstation. Housed in data centers, GRID technology virtualizes graphics — that is, it runs powerful applications that reside in the cloud rather than on the device itself.

This unleashes a wide range of benefits — that go beyond server rooms. The changes GRID enables make higher education more attainable. GRID allows more flexible use of classroom and lab facilities. It enables an expanded curriculum. And it helps simplify IT management.

The latest version of our GRID technology, NVIDIA GRID 2.0, clears the way for more universities to virtualize their curriculum. It supports double the application performance and user density. It supports blade and rack server environments. And it works with both Windows and Linux.

NVIDIA GRID education
USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering is getting more out of its investment in technology and infrastructure by using NVIDIA GRID.

The bring-your-own-device program at the UMass gives students the flexibility to access applications and data from any location on any device. BYOD support was the immediate goal, powered by an application and desktop virtualization project.

For Steve Athanas and the IT team at the University of Massachusetts, NVIDIA GRID-supported virtualization has helped relieve the demand on IT resources. “With GRID in the data center, we don’t need to worry about the rush for the fall semester,” said Athanas. “Having all our applications run on virtual desktops eliminates the need for us to manually load workstations with the latest OS and applications.”

Over the long term, they also hope to attract a broader, more diverse student body by making education more accessible. One single mom at UMass credits the new technology infrastructure for allowing her to take more classes, and complete her degree, because of the new flexibility offered by the university.

USC had many reasons to integrate GRID into its data center to virtualize its engineering workflows. The university faced the costly proposition of needing to build more labs to accommodate its expanding curriculum. It needed to keep up with the demands of scheduling existing classrooms. And it needed to keep every computer up to date with proper application licenses, patches, maintenance and upgrades.

Duke University in Durham, N.C., is using NVIDIA GRID to address the explosive growth within medical imaging. It’s giving clinicians, students and scientists everywhere access to data that was once available only to an elite few. The data sharing GRID makes possible helps Duke students and researchers understand the most complex illnesses.

GRID Helps BYOD Pass the Graphics Test

Historically, poor performance with graphics-intensive 2D and 3D applications has been an obstacle to the deployment of virtual environments.

At the Georgia Institute of Technology’s College of Engineering in Atlanta Georgia, classes in aerospace, bio-medical, civil and mechanical engineering all make use of 3D software such as ArcGIS, CATIA, Creo, Siemens NX and SOLIDWORKS. These applications all need much greater graphics processing power.

With GRID in the data center, the engineering school has increased performance across the board. Students are no longer tied to individual PCs. They can more flexibly work around their schedules and engage more fully with the curriculum. Instructors planning future courses can test and select applications far more quickly than before. And deploying those applications to students is fast and easy.

Michael Goay, at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering, sums up the university experience with GRID: “GRID allows us to get even more out of our investment by increasing user density while maintaining 100 percent application compatibility and full workstation performance. This allows us to greatly expand our ability to serve more applications, classes and students while opening the door for new online or on-campus classes to use 3D applications.”