Proposal

No annual report

Introduction

Proposal ID 2015-049
Submitted January 16, 2015
Owner skrause@uw.edu
Department Forest Resources, College of
Category Remote Computing
Funding Status Fully Funded
Metric Score 4.24

Contacts

Primary
  • Name
  • Title
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Mailbox
  • Shane Kraus
  • Sr. Computing Specialist Lead
  • skrause@uw.edu
  • 206-616-5414
  • 352100
Budget
  • Name
  • Title
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Mailbox
  • Wendy Star
  • School Administrator
  • wkstar@uw.edu
  • 206-685-2047
  • 352100
Dean
  • Name
  • Title
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Mailbox
  • Lisa Graumlich
  • Dean of College of the Environment
  • envdean@uw.edu
  • 206-221-0908
  • 355355

Descriptions

Abstract

In 2012 SEFS requested STF funds to create and launch a virtualized student lab of the future, based on VMWare’s Horizon View product and nicknamed “Gibson”. In addition to other related equipment in the grant, we were funded for the initial 30 concurrent user licenses and 2 cluster nodes. Using recycled SAN equipment for storage, we got the system up and running. Since that time the system has been in full production and gained a substantial user base with the School investing in it, supplying additional data storage and bringing us up to 7 cluster nodes and 70 concurrent user licenses. Last summer we moved the equipment to UWIT’s 4545 datacenter, providing a more reliable and secure physical environment and better network bandwidth.

With the current setup we support all SEFS undergraduate and graduate students with both physical labs and BYOD connectivity ranging from thin clients and cellular devices up to regular computers, using free client apps or simple web browser access from anywhere in the world. This means a student can log into the system using any computer without needing to install anything, and access software and resources as if they were on campus in a regular computer lab. For example we currently have Peace Corps students in Sri Lanka and other worldly locations who log in regularly to check in and upload/process their data. We also now support the College of the Environment’s QSci course classes, offering Gibson to all UW students who take those courses. To date, Gibson has seen over 1100 unique users since its inception.

We are now regularly reaching capacity of our current licensing and hardware and are ready to take the next step. We would like to add 70 more licenses for a total of 140 concurrent users, and move to “hyper-converged” nodes which house extremely high I/O storage in the same physical unit, providing unsurpassed performance capacity. These new-technology devices save space and power over classic server/SAN topology, and are more economical than upgrading our existing SAN equipment to support the increased user base.

We see use of this system continuing to grow, replacing the need for many discreet computers and extending the useful life of others through use as client stations. Feedback from students and faculty has been excellent, and they especially appreciate how their desktop environment in the system is consistent and appears to follow them to different physical locations.

Category Justification

This computing environment is based on a central system housed in a datacenter and accessed remotely via the network using client hardware or client software. Therefore we would categorize it under “Remote Computing”.

Background

The School has historically housed a drop-in lab environment, providing School curriculum specific software unavailable elsewhere and in-house computing support for students. In 2012 this environment was made virtual, retaining a physical presence but providing additional flexibility and 24/7 availability including remote connectivity. The physical lab is housed in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences with maintenance through a combination of funding from the School (staff support and maintenance), and STF grants. This lab has been supported by STF for over 17 years and is an integral and indispensable part of the School. Student utilization of this computing environment continues to grow each year. As faculty incorporate even more technology into their delivery of instruction and course requirements the need for emerging technologies increases. To meet the demands of the students the computers must be powerful enough to process large sets of data, generate and manipulate graphics, run complex simulations, and provide the software to run these programs.

Benefits to Students and the University

This system offers flexibility and ease of access to resources unavailable elsewhere. This provides undergraduate and graduate students in the School’s programs a focused and adequately equipped workplace with all the software they require for their coursework. With this new equipment, more students will be able to do their work faster and more efficiently and we will be able to expand use going forward.

Departmental Endorsements

This request is supported by the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences Director Thomas DeLuca, Associate Director Greg Ettl, IT Director Marc Morrison, Senior Computer Specialist Shane Krause, and the students and faculty of the School. It is also supported by the College of the Environment.

Dear Review Panel Members:
I am writing this letter with strong support for the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences grant proposal for Student Technology Funds. Over the past two years, the information technology (IT) group within the School has provided faculty, staff and students with a new means of remote access of computer resources using a VMWare product nicknamed Gibson. This has proven to be a great resource for teaching and research. I strongly support the proposed increase remote connectivity which would greatly increase our capacity to offer computer based courses to students and further increase remote access to computer resources.
The Gibson program has been a fantastic tool that our students use daily. Not only do they use it in classroom instruction (e.g. Patrick Tobin’s QSCI 381 Winter 2015) here on campus, our students who work in remote locations can access the network and upload valuable data from the field. As a result, our students who serve in the Peace Corps are able to continue their work to complete their degree in a timely fashion. International students can go home for a visit, yet still maintain some connection to their labs. I have personally been able to take advantage of the Gibson program while I conducting research in Sweden during summer 2014 and uploaded data for my lab to access before I returned back to UW.
The program has proven so popular that we cannot keep up with demand and thus we need to have more licenses to stay compliant and that is part of our proposal. We also are seeking to improve the speed of the system. When we have many students using the program at once (for instance, during a classroom lab instruction during QSCI 381) it affects the productivity of the system and therefore we are seeking the expansion of our ability to deliver this service.
Once again it is my pleasure to recommend this proposal for funding under the Student Technology Fund. Please feel free to contact me by email (Tom DeLuca, deluca@uw.edu) or phone (206-685-1928) if you have any questions or concerns regarding this letter. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Sincerely,
Thomas H. DeLuca
Professor and Director
School of Environmental and Forest Sciences

The Gibson system is a key component of teaching my remote sensing course (ESRM 430) which as grown this year to 70 students. It allows the students access to software regardless of their location and provides them with a work environment accessible even after the lab hours associated with the course. As the number of users of the system increases I believe it's critical to expand Gibson capacity to serve a larger student user base as well as provide the most up to date technology, analytical and storage capabilities. The virtual client environment is something our graduates are bout to face in their post academic job environment and having an opportunity to work in this environment while at schools enhances the students learning environment. Moreover, the students in my Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis research lab find the ability to perform their statistical analyses on Gibson a powerful tool needed for their graduate research.
The further support of Gibson by STF will ensure a computing infrastructure for not only students in my class or lab but the large body of students in SEFS, justifying its funding.
Dr. L. Monika Moskal
Associate Professor of Remote Sensing

I am happy to write this letter in support of your STF grant proposal for upgrading ‘SEFS Virtual Computing Lab’ using Gibson/VMWare. As you know we have migrated the CINTARFOR and PCMI graduate students’ lab computes to the Gibson based virtual computing system. Accordingly, the CINTRAFOR and the PCMI students are regular users of Gibson and we are very happy to have a SEFS virtual computing system in place. Moreover, as the graduate programs from these two labs require extensive international travel, our graduate students have always felt the need of a computing system that can be accessed from anywhere in the world. Gibson allows the students to use the software they need and have access to their files from anywhere in the world. Moreover, some of my colleagues and I emphasize on the use of Gibson in the lab oriented classes we teach at the University.
As Gibson is gaining popularity among the SEFS student community, some of my graduate students have indicated that they are facing system slow down issues and access delays during the peak usage hours of the day. I believe an upgrade of the system and adding additional concurrent user licenses are essential elements for keeping up with the students’ need.
Virtual systems similar to the SEFS Virtual Computing Lab is mandatory to maintain the much needed computing support for SEFS students, and I completely support the proposed upgrade.
Sincerely,
Indroneil Ganguly
Assistant Professor (Research), University of Washington
School of Environmental & Forest Sciences
Center for International Trade in Forest Products (CINTRAFOR)

Installation Timeline

New equipment will be ordered as soon as funding is received. We hope to have the new equipment installed and available for student use well before start of Fall quarter 2015.

Resources Provided by Department

The School has donated Bloedel 156 for a physical presence of this environment, previous hardware/license upgrades which will remain in use, and space to house the new equipment in UWIT’s 4545 datacenter. SEFS IT staff members are funded by the School and available to support users.

Access Restrictions (if any)

Computer lab drop in hours are 8am-5pm Monday-Friday. Remote access will be available 24/7.
The lab is set up for SEFS undergraduate majors. Access is granted for all other students with a UW Netid.

Student Endorsements

Dear STF Committee,

My name is Kiwoong Lee, and I am a student at SEFS pursuing a PhD. I am writing to support SEFS Gibson upgrading for funding for the students of the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences. I am using Gibson a lot, whenever and wherever I need.I think upgrading Gibson will play a vital role in furthering students' research.

Sincerely,
Kiwoong Lee
Ph.D. Student
Sustainable forestry lab
School of Environmental and Forest Science
College of the Environment
University of Washington

Dear STF Committee,

I am writing in support of a request by SEFS IT to acquire an upgrade to the Gibson remote computing system. The Gibson system has been of utmost importance to my academic experience, particularly, as I spend most of my year away from access to campus computers. Through Gibson, I am able to utilize a plethora of software ranging from statistical analysis programs to mapping to basic word processing. Increasing the capability in this system will suit a large cohort of students in SEFS, particularly graduates who are researching from remote locations or field stations.

Thank you for your consideration,
Matthew M. Aghai
---
Matthew M. Aghai
PhD Student
Center for Sustainable Forestry at Pack Forest
School of Environmental and Forest Sciences
University of Washington
aghai@uw.edu

My name is Emilio Vilanova, 2nd year PhD student at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) at University of Washington, and this letter serves to support the grant proposal by Marc Morrison for the upgrade of the Gibson platform within SEFS community. Since I started my studies in 2013, I´ve been a frequent user of this excellent tool that have provided me with access to many important, relevant, and usually expensive software for attending multiple tasks including Geographical Information Systems (GIS), image processing, and several statistical packages as well. One of the main opportunities offered by Gibson is the use of a remote tool that allowed me to perform many of these activities outside UW campus and facilities which represents a great resource for many students like me. I sincerely hope that this proposal receives the requested support.
I am more than open to offer additional information if required,
Regards,
Emilio Vilanova
Graduate Student
School of Environmental and Forest Sciences
University of Washington
http://faculty.washington.edu/ettl/
http://scholar.google.es/citations?user=JM34isoAAAAJ&hl=es
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Emilio_Vilanova

My name is Lord Kwakye Ameyaw, a graduate student at SEFS. Gibson has been very helpful to me in getting a lot of assignments and projects done while away from campus. While away doing data collection in Ghana, I was able to log on to Gibson to use all the software I needed. I still have a lot of work to do with dissertation research in Ghana and therefore I support any upgrade to Gibson. I believe it will help significantly in my research at SEFS and the UW for that matter.

Yours faithfully,
Lord Ameyaw.

I am a post-doc researcher and use Gibson on daily basis for my work. To large extend, I really love Gibson. The system is much better than the old system I used at SEFC several years ago. Previously, in order to use some programs that I didn’t own on my PC, I needed to go to PC lab or elsewhere, but I can now use those programs even from my home or when I travel.
However, I believe there is still a room to improve the system. Sometimes, the connection is very slow and I am not able to save the file correctly. Also, occasionally, some memory intensive programs, such as Adobe Illustrators or ArcGIS, do not properly perform well on Gibson system. Reliability is one of the most important features when researchers use computer system. If you could upgrade Gibson to assure the reliability, that will help us a lot.
Cloud computing system is the right direction that can help students and faculty in our school. Improving Gibson system will enhance the basis of our research and educational ability of the school.
Best regards,
Daisuke Sasatani

I currently use Gibson on a daily basis to complete my coursework and research. While Gibson has some wonderful functionality and allows me to access a suite of programs that would otherwise be very pricey, it does have some performance issues. When using high demand programs such as ArcGIS and Adobe programs, Gibson has a tendency to lag or freeze. Additionally, when there are a large number of users there can be issues with freezing or lagging. Therefore, I think that the proposed STF grant to upgrade Gibson will be a wonderful step towards increasing the efficacy of this system and will allow for a great improvement in meeting the needs of students. - Ben Roe
___________________________________________
Benjamin Roe
The University of Washington
MS/MPA concurrent candidate
School of Environmental and Forest Sciences
Evans School of Public Affairs
Tel: (919) 592-2244
Skype: Benjamin.Roe

To Whom it may Concern,
As a student in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the University of Washington the virtual desktop Gibson has become an indispensable tool for getting work done, especially when my personal computer is unavailable. I often have to travel between the Center for Urban Horticulture and the SEFS complex and do not wish to carry a laptop with me. Gibson makes it easy for me to access what I need from whichever location. Gibson is also an excellent device for backing-up data and information when on the go; be it on the other side of campus or while traveling in the field. However, Gibson does have times when it is hindered by its capacity to run certain programs like ARCGIS due to high numbers of users. I therefore, greatly support any effort on the part of SEFS IT to update Gibson’s servers and hardware so that my work and the work of my fellow students is not hindered though we all may be working away from our desks or away from campus.
Sincerely,
Steven “Matt” Norton
SEFS MS Candidate
University of Washington

Items

Group Funded Item Unit price Quantity Subtotal
Hardware

Nutanix NX-1450

$110,000.00 1 $110,000.00
Description

Virtual Computing Platform

Justification

Increased performance, capacity, reliability.

Software

VMWare Horizon View

$1,983.35 7 $13,883.45
Description

Increase of 70 concurrent users

Justification

Licensing

Shipping and Handling

Shipping and Handling

$0.00 1 $0.00
Description

Shipping and Handling

Justification

Shipping and Handling

Tax

Tax

$12,140.58 1 $12,140.58
Description

Tax

Justification

Tax

Total requested: $136,024.03

Total funded: $136,024.03

Comments

I strongly support the addition of more Gibson licences for SEFS. The computer I use on a daily basis is still running Windows XP, and probably could not handle an upgrade. In addition, there is some software that the department has licenses for which was previously only accessible at the student computer lab - now shut down due to flooding. Without virtual access no one would be able to use that software.

A virtual desktop accessible through Gibson is a godsend - I can run new and updated programs without crashing my computer, and I can access my desktop from home and work on projects there.

- Anna Simpson, PhD Candidate, SEFS

mmorriso — January 16, 2015 @ 3:32 p.m.

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