For Sweden’s Luleå University of Technology, being at the forefront of delivering innovative education solutions is key to securing a competitive edge.
“It’s a do or die situation,” says CIO Daniel Ström. “As international offerings increase, domestic universities risk losing competitiveness over time. It’s better to be ahead of the pack.”
Luleå’s four campuses produce groundbreaking research in Arctic studies and space engineering. It also has a leading school of computer games design.
The university is aware that as education becomes more digital, it is also becoming increasingly international, a fact represented by the 60 nationalities that make up Luleå’s 15,000-strong student body.
“Students today have a global outlook,” Ström says. “If people in northern Sweden are looking at the likes of MIT or Harvard, which are delivering education online, we have to consider what makes Luleå stand apart from the rest.”
Ström worked with Platinum Citrix Solution Advisor Atea to deploy Citrix cloud services on Microsoft Azure to give students anywhere in the world access to the university’s state-of-the-art education.
The first step in Luleå’s cloud journey was to migrate most of the back-end infrastructure to Azure. The next step was to update two games design computer labs from traditional workstations to thin-client terminals using the Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops cloud service.
The solution allows students to not only access their apps and desktops from any thin client in the lab but also from any of their devices and from any location.
“These are demanding, resource-intensive apps to handle the 3-D graphics rendering involved in games design”, Ström says. “If it works for this, it will work for everything.”
With the flexibility to do their assignments and computer lab work pretty much anywhere, “teaching becomes space-independent,” Ström says.
“Students can do assignments on their own devices from their dorms if they wish rather than booking a machine in the computer labs,” he continues. “And, of course, we can deliver that desktop to any of our four campus locations or on an international scale. A student in Australia can access the same desktop as on campus.”
Luleå’s cloud strategy helps the university become internationally competitive by allowing it to offer courses to students around the world. It also makes it easier to meet the needs of increasingly demanding, tech-savvy students.
“Young people today are raising the bar,” Ström says. “When you build a new computer lab under the traditional model, you get only 12 to 24 months when it is modern. After that, the students get less and less satisfied. By the time you get to years four, five, and six of a typical refresh cycle, every student is dissatisfied. But, with the Citrix model, we can add new machines in the background as the technology evolves, so the computer labs are always new and fresh.”
“Historically, capex-driven IT costs couldn’t scale up and down with the size of the organization. If, because of demographics, the university had fewer students one year, IT costs were largely fixed. With the Azure-Citrix cloud model, because everything is operational cost, we can quickly scale down if we need to and have a cheaper delivery,” Ström explains.
The approach Ström and his team are piloting is something of a first for Swedish universities, and others in the sector are observing closely.
“We are a university of technology,” Ström says. “Education and research are in our DNA. It is expected that we are the forefront of IT, too.”
The strategy is yielding benefit for the IT department as well as university staff and students.
“Nothing comes close to Citrix. It’s the first product that comes to mind for remote desktop use cases,” he concludes. “And, of course, the Citrix-Microsoft partnership has made it easier for me to make this strategic investment for the university. With this Citrix-Microsoft solution, we can transform the delivery of education.”
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