Proposal

No annual report

Introduction

Proposal ID 2015-040
Submitted January 16, 2015
Owner gmessmer
Department Electrical Engineering
Category Remote Computing
Funding Status Fully Funded
Metric Score 3.96

Contacts

Primary
  • Name
  • Title
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Mailbox
  • Goron Messmer
  • Senior Computing Specialist
  • gmessmer@uw.edu
  • 206 221 5446
  • 352500
Budget
  • Name
  • Title
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Mailbox
  • Tina Montgomery
  • Administrator, Electrical Engineering
  • kmontgom@uw.edu
  • 206 616 5819
  • 352500
Dean
  • Name
  • Title
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Mailbox
  • Michael B Bragg
  • Frank & Julie Jungers Dean of Engineering
  • mbragg@uw.edu
  • 206 543-1829
  • 352180

Descriptions

Abstract

A combination of physical computer labs and remote access computing is used by Electrical Engineering students, both for general computing and for education use of math and engineering applications. The existing Windows remote desktop server is aging, reaching performance limits, and has no GPU/graphics hardware on board. A number of engineering applications would benefit greatly from adding additional CPU and GPU capacity. Students greatly benefit from having remote access to the applications in question.

Category Justification

This resource is dedicated entirely to remote access service, so the remote access category was selected. Students will have no direct physical access to the hardware, but will always have remote access.

Background

Electrical Engineering students use both physical computer labs and remote access to Windows servers in order to run many specialized math and engineering applications that are required for their education and coursework. Recently, there has been a shift toward increasing use of remote access resources. The existing Windows remote desktop server is aging, reaching performance limits, and has no GPU/graphics hardware on board. A number of engineering applications would benefit greatly from adding additional CPU and GPU capacity. Here’s a short list of applications licensed by EE which would run optimally in a new remote access server as described herein.

Mathworks Matlab
Altium Designer
AutoDesk AutoCAD
COMSOL Multiphysics
Coventor ConventorWare
MapleSoft Maple
Dassualt Sytems SolidWorks

Benefits to Students and the University

Students will be able to use the expensive engineering and math software on the machine from anywhere in the world at any time on most any device. This is more convenient and less expensive that maintaining traditional computer labs, both for the students and for the department. Students are able to live and work farther away from campus when good remote access is an option. Students who do not have a Windows device or an expensive, high end machine will be able to use the compute-intensive Windows applications on the server from their Mac, iPad, iPhone, Linux, or Android device. The addition of a Graphics Processing Unit will allow all the math and engineering applications to run with a full feature set, instead of with a reduced feature set as is the case when no GPU is present in the server. In the last 3 months, 385 different students have used the existing remote access server, and many more would use remote access if GPU resources were available.

Departmental Endorsements

EE 420 is our Capstone Design course for communications. The course was revamped two years ago, and includes state-of-the-art software-defined radio platforms, which students connect to Linux or Windows desktops in lab (using Matlab or GNURadio), and conduct two or three-way experiments in wireless communications. Students typically checkout one platform each, and work in groups of two or three either in lab or at home. Because of the limited number of platforms we have (14) the course is always capped at this number, and a waiting list develops.

We are now exploring adding a remote access functionality to these SDR platforms. If implemented, this will provide significant added capacity to EE 420 in years to come. We will no longer be so tightly limited to the number of platforms, and will be able to take in quite a few more students. The paradigm here will be that groups of two or three students will now reserve, and lock down two or three remotely connected platforms, for a few hours, and release the platforms for use by other teams at other hours. I believe we should easily be able to support at least 20-24 students this way, since the platforms will no longer be physically in possession of students at all times, and since the chances of two groups wanting to work on 4-6 platforms simultaneously is quite low, and can be managed via a schedule.

The requested remote desktop server will greatly help us in this regard and in fact will be the enabling hardware for it. I strongly support its purchase and setup.

-Payman Arabshahi
EE Faculty Computing Director

Right now I am teaching a large class. I have disabled students, students leaving town due to death in the family, students with broken limbs from skiing, and, most affecting me students who have flu symptoms and are not welcome in my class because I have low resistance to flu after recent chemotherapy. I require use of software not available on their Macs, and sometime PCs. All these students would greatly benefit from remote access to our machines.

-Alexander Mamishev

For the courses I teach in UW EE: the EE233 Circuit Theory course uses National Instrument’s MultiSim software, the EE235 Continuous Linear Systems course uses MathWorks Matlab software, the EE447 Control Systems Analysis course uses MathWorks Matlab software, and the EE547 Linear Systems Theory course uses MathWorks Matlab and Simulink software. Due to the recent requirement for all students to use laptop computers and due to the recent removal of desktop computers from Sieg 232, where most of the above classes or labs are held, the students need to access the UW EE remote desktop server. It is critical that the server is working properly to handle the increased load of remote logins.

-Linda Bushnell

We run compute intensive decoding simulations for both LDPC and turbo codes. Additional resources will be used to support our comm classes that in which students study these modern decoders.

-James Ritcey

The graduate students in my group use remote desktop to access programs very often to perform important design and simulation work for their dissertation/thesis research.

-Lih Lin

EE desperately needs to upgrade its Windows remote desktop server. It is old, is hitting performance limits, and has no GPU/graphics hardware on board. A number of engineering applications would benefit greatly from adding additional CPU and GPU capacity. These would benefit UW EE students directly
-Joshua R. Smith

I use Matlab and Maple in teaching undergraduate courses such as EE 233 and junior / senior courses in circuit design. Students do homeworks and write lab reports using remote server for simulation and computation since the class and lab times are insufficient for these tasks. Considering the very large number of EE students in these courses that need remote access, a higher performance server would be very beneficial to our students in learning the materials.

-Mani Soma

I strongly support your proposal for purchasing a new remote desktop server. Students in my EE454 and EE455 make heavy use of some of the software packages that run on this server for their homework assignments and end-of-quarter projects. It is thus essential that they have access to reliable, high performance computing resources.

-Daniel Kirschen

I think it would be extremely useful for our Department to support our students (and not just the EEs) with remote desktop server capability. Contemporary trends in computing are strongly favoring extremely powerful remote/cloud systems, and recent advances in virtualization mean that our students can very powerful computing via relatively lightweight portable (laptop) computers.

This solution is cost effective and powerful for our students, and in addition is more cost effective for us to maintain and secure. I strongly recommend that we proceed with all efforts to provide remote desktop servers for our students. I would take advantage of this to support the classes I teach in circuits, electromagnetics, and radar.

-John Sahr

Undergrad students are heavily using their remote server to run their Matlab for undergrad coursework, often remotely. This would be immensely useful for them.

-Visvesh Sathe

Using a remote server is critical for my research group, and that’s not just a sales pitch. Our work involves a lot of circuit simulation, chip layout, and design. When a student is getting ready to fabricate a chip, he/she will work 24-7, particularly on simulation. Often times very late at night, or during bad weather, the student wants to login to see the status of their simulation, or perhaps do some layout. Personally, this is something that I use quite a bit, particularly when I’m on the road. I would really like to have a fast remote server in the building.

-Chris Rudell

I used the remote access to host Lumerical FDTD for my course on nano-photonics. Lumerical is a very costly software, but they were kind enough to use it for free (10 licenses) for the course work. From my class evaluations, it is clear that students really like to get to use this, as the whole industry is also moving towards this software. Without a proper remote access, such valuable training will be difficult to continue.
-Arka Majumdar

I support substantial improvement in EE's remote desktop access. My students in EE 452, Power Electronics Design, use remote desktop to access Multisim for their project needs any time, any place. In EE 457/559 Electric Energy Distribution, we use Windows-only GridLAB-D software. Remote desktop access allows students with Apple technology to easily use this software. The same is true in EE 456 Power Systems Design.

-Rich Christie

I am writing to most strongly endorse the request of the EE department for Student Tech Fee funds to support a new remote desktop server. Increasingly, our students are using their personal laptops to access engineering design and analysis software on the server, for course assignments as well as for individual research. This includes software that is quite expensive or otherwise difficult for students to purchase on their own. A new, more capable and reliable remove server would greatly enhance the educational experience of these students.

-Howard Chizeck

I am responsible for a large number of students’ assignments and laboratories which use the EE remote desktop server. This server serves critical roles for my classes in digital signal processing. For example, almost all my classes’ weekly assignments use Mathworks MATLAB and some also benefit from MapleSoft Maple.

By allowing students the capability to use the remote desktop, they can then benefit from the deep academic discounts without having to commute to UW unnecessarily. This allows students to have more time to focus on the technical aspects of their work. Some students also use this remote desktop facility while commuting, since wi-fi is common on much of our region’s mass transit.

Our undergraduate, graduate, and professional master’s program are helping to educate our students to be future technical leaders. As is common industry practice, being able to access design tools is a common experience. While students still usually need to attend classes, it is still necessary to modernize our remote desktop server to give students an up-to-date experience of our department and university. It seems a very appropriate use of the student technical fee, which is to allow students to more easily learn and discover concepts in engineering.

-Les Atlas

Installation Timeline

If this proposal is funded the new server will be purchased as soon as the funds are available. Students would be able to start using the machine within two weeks of delivery, regardless of the academic calendar.

Resources Provided by Department

The department has invested heavily in a server room equipped with power, cooling, and network. A server rack has been identified in that room for the hardware. The server room is secured and monitored at all times to maintain an optimal environment and ensure proper function of the hardware. EE has an extensive library of licensed software applications, valued in tens of thousands of dollars, that will be installed on the server for use by students. The department computing team consists of server administrators and technical support staff who will receive, insure, deploy, secure, and maintain the server hardware and software for the best use of the students. In short, this request is made to extend the investment already made by EE, and EE will provide server hosting, networking, power, cooling, monitoring, security, many licensed software applications, and an entire server support ecosystem including dedicated IT professional services.

Access Restrictions (if any)

The server will be available by remote access software on Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Windows Phone, iOS, and Android devices anywhere on the internet. There will be no restrictions on the use of the server, excepting those required by the STF (no research use, etc.) Use of the server will be open to all EE students at all times except during monthly scheduled maintenance. In addition, the server will be made available to other engineering students upon request, as long as performance limits allow. It is not possible to open the server to all UW students, as concurrent use must be limited so as not to degrade the experience by allowing too many simultaneous users.

Student Endorsements

I live off campus, it will be very helpful for me to have remote access, which will give me more time to study.

-Han Ye

My name is Mason Possing, I commute from an hour away and having a remote desktop server allows me to access key engineering tools in the evening and over the weekend to complete assignments.

-Mason Possing

I use the EE's remote server all the time for my EE classes (In-fact, it is open in the background right now for my EE 471 class). I think it would be super to have more server support. The current server operates rather slowly when I'm trying to run heavy computations, or graphically dependent programs, limiting my productivity. In addition, I need the EE's servers in order to run demanding programs (Quartus II, Solidworks, etc.) while mobile since my laptop is not capable of running them by itself.

-Alex Lindahl

Remote access is a valuable learning tool. It allows students to access expensive soft wares what are available only on school computers from anywhere we have internet access. This grants us better access to the resources that we cannot afford on our student budget. In addition, the tools that are available to us on the remote access server are primarily used for educational purposes, which means your investment in improving this server is going to make a huge difference in our education. Lately, my peers and I have experienced many technical difficulties involving the remote access server such as frequently losing connection even though we are still connected to the internet, lagg or frozen screen when we run different applications on remote access, and other similar problems which suggests that the server needs an upgrade. I strongly urge you to invest in a new remote access server because it is a widely used and beneficial educational tool.

-Thang Phu

It will definitely be great to have a new server! I use mac but having remote server connectivity to windows PC with the applications installed for my classes has been a great help throughout the years of my career at UW. Improving the performance will be really helpful.

-Muhammad Osama

I support this.

-Alex Hao Chiem

It’s great to have a new server!

-Haoming

This is EE grad student Alexa Yao. I support the new upgrades of the remote desktop server. The EE remote server has been a very critical and useful tool throughout my undergrad and graduate studies. It really enabled me to work on school projects/research whenever and wherever w/o the limitation of physically sitting in the labs at late nights.

-Alexa Yao

I support and endorse making these upgrades. as an engineering student many of these applications and software is crucial to our academic advancement.

-Nina Yang
B.S. Electrical Engineering
University of Washington
nyang5@uw.edu
(206)-992-9780

Remote desktop access has greatly assisted me while I pursue my graduate education. Not only does it give me access to the latest Matlab software, but it also allows me to easily pick up my work where I left off when I transfer between my laptop and the school computing labs.

-Cassandra Hooper

Support. It'll be very helpful for us. Thanks.

-Shunfu Mao

It allows us to use software that is offered in the EE labs but not available for free for students to download to their personal machines, regardless of where we are at the time. The RDP has always been very responsive with minimal input lag.

-Jordan

In the past, remote access was very useful as a student allowing me to complete homework (using Matlab or Ansoft licenses) or read journal articles (using the UW browser bookmark to access journal archives for free) for Masters research from home. My commute is very long (over an hour), so it is inconvenient to remain in the EE computer lab all day and evening long. Unfortunately, the server has suffered a large latency when using this service, almost to the point of being too slow to operate anymore. A new server would be very convenient for my work from home.

-David Jones

The remote desktop is really necessary to complete a lot of the homework assignments and lab work assigned in the EE department. Most students would not be able to access or use MultiSim or any really useable circuit modeling software without it. Otherwise everyone would have to go into the lab to do their work, which isn't really feasible for a lot of students, especially commuters.

-Megan Lloyd

Remote access to UW servers is imperative for any student who commutes or cannot easily access the UW servers on campus, as well as people with limited budget who would like to access the software on the UW servers without purchasing it.

-Maggie McCarthy

Remote access to the EE desktops helped me pass my EE 233, 235, and 271 classes and is currently helping me with EE 371 and EE 331 as well.

-Umaymah Khan

I am constantly using the UW remote Windows desktop to complete my assignments and further my education. There have been multiple occasions where being able to log in to the remote desktop has been a major lifesaver in getting assignments done on time. Having access to Matlab, as well as the other programs on the remote desktop, is a big help, not only to myself, but also to many of my classmates.

-Ryan Cysewski

I would fully endorse purchasing a new remote desktop server. It has been extremely useful in doing lab work outside lab, which makes work more flexible and comfortable. One recent situation were the remote desktop was useful to me was where I had to download the Quartus software however because I own a mac, it was a complicated process. This obstacle was solved, as I simply logged into the remote desktop and continued working on my project. Thus, a new and improved server will be most useful.

-Shruti Misra

As a student and a parent, it is extremely important that I am able to work from campus and at home, in order to balance my academic life with my family. Improved remote access while allow me to be efficient while at home, Allowing me to be a better student and father.

-Kevin Lybarger

I would love to see some improvements in the performance of the remote server. Remote access is useful when I need to use some powerful software like Matlab or Multisim, but can not be at one of the computer labs. Last quarter, I used remote access to launch simulations of my circuit on Multisim for EE452 from my laptop. Each simulation took about one hour, so I would launch it before eating lunch, or taking shower. I think all students would appreciate better performance of the remote server.

-Ruhi

As an undergraduate student in the University of Washington department of electrical engineering, remote desktop access is an integral part of my school work on a nearly daily basis. I use the remote desktop environment when I need to complete homework that requires specific engineering software while I'm at home. As a student that lives off-campus, the flexibility that remote access affords me is paramount to getting my work done. Without it, I would be tied to computer labs during all hours of the day. Seeing the system improved would make this an even greater asset and would be greatly appreciated by me and my peers.

-Jeff

I strongly support the idea of getting a new remote desktop server, since I've been using it numerous tiems and it helped my very much in my classes projects and in the EE235 lab section which I lead as a TA.

-Alexandr Baryshev,

Having a two hour commute, the remote desktop server has greatly increased my ability to get my school work done. If I want to alter a MATLAB program that I was working on I don't have to worry about racing to school. Likewise, when I want to do my homework assignments that involve designer software, I can do this at home on my days off and on the weekends. In such scenarios I am able to spend the time working on my projects, rather than the commute. The degrading performance of the server is becoming very noticeable and these improvements would be extremely helpful to the student body.

-Joanna Hamilton

Items

Group Funded Item Unit price Quantity Subtotal
None

Terminal Server with GPU resources

$25,000.00 1 $25,000.00
Description

Dell PowerEdge R730 with 1 NVidia Tesla K80 Server GPU
128 Gb RAM
2 Intel Xeon processors with 12 cores each
12 300 Gb 15K SAS Hard drives in RAID 10 configuration

Cost is based on estimates obtained on eProcurement and Dell websites, and should even cover taxes and shipping.

Justification

To allow EE and other students to work from any location using their own devices to complete required coursework and for general computing purposes. The addition of the Tesla GPU will allow for specialized engineering and math applications to work as designed, instead of in a reduced functionality mode.

Total requested: $25,000.00

Total funded: $25,000.00

Comments

In the mid-1990's, one reason the State of Washington legislature authorized technology fee programs such as the UW STF, was to empower students and the university to quickly acquire up-to-date hardware, software, and systems so that students' technological experiences would be relevant to current industry and research practices. The kind of server being proposed and the technological roles the proposer has identified are consistent with the legislature's intent and is consistent with resources available to engineers in aerospace and manufacturing with whom I am acquainted.

-Jack Ross, Manager and staff Electrical Engineer, UW Aeronautical Laboratory

jwross55 — January 20, 2015 @ 6:25 p.m.

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