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Softgrid @ University of Central Florida & Purdue University. Casey Hill – UCF Microsoft Systems Architect Bret Madsen – Purdue System Administrator – Windows Labs. Universities’ Fast Facts. UCF Purdue. What is SoftGrid?.

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Softgrid @ university of central florida purdue university l.jpg

Softgrid @University of Central Florida & Purdue University

Casey Hill – UCF

Microsoft Systems Architect

Bret Madsen – Purdue

System Administrator – Windows Labs

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Universities’ Fast Facts



Enterprise Learning Technologies

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What is SoftGrid?

Is a solution to deliver applications without begin installed and can be delivered dynamically to staff faculty or students independent of the computer.

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Background - UCF

  • Over 10 years using Novell

  • Deploying new applications

    • Trial by fire

    • Most of the time simple change required complete reimage

    • 3rd party tools

  • Students could store 5MB on a central server and was cleaned out once a week

  • Over 400 computers, 3 Novell servers, Zenworks, Ghost, default passwords were given out to students

  • Reporting activity usage – challenging!

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Goals - UCF

  • Automate identity management

  • Migrate public labs to Active Directory

  • Simplify updating computer labs

  • Ability to deploy applications within five days

  • Provide annual usage reports

  • Strengthen security

  • Other items

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Background - Purdue

PCR-dist used as deployment mechanism (support ended in 2001 with no Windows Vista support) – 4 Unix File Servers

Expectations to have 2 week turn-around on software deployment to 2500 Windows computers with nightly updates possible

Each user logs on with unique credentials and the machine must return to a known state between each user in less than 5 minutes.

Roaming Profiles and 500MB User Directory used to store personal data.

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Goals - Purdue

  • Consistent environment for each user (Deep Freeze)

  • Ability to send updates and new software to machines daily (SCCM)

  • Manage program conflicts (Softgrid)

  • Time between logout and next available login less than 5 minutes (Deep Freeze and maintenance windows)

  • Able to handle Windows Vista, Terminal Servers, and mobile clients (SCCM and Softgrid)

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Architecture – Purdue

  • Faronics Deep Freeze

    • Client computers utilizes a commandline interface for daily operations

    • Console allows mass thawing/rebooting of labs

  • Symantec Ghost

    • Multi-cast imaging of entire labs

    • May be replaced with SCCM functionality once multicast is in place

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Architecture – Purdue

  • SCCM 2007

    • Currently 50 applications being sent through traditional Software Deployment method

    • Shortcuts to Softgrid applications also being sent to the machines

    • Single server being utilized but second planned to be added this spring

    • Maintenance periods set to deploy only during the night

  • Softgrid

    • Currently 74 applications being published through Softgrid

    • Approximately 200 more applications are currently on-demand installs that will also be converted to Softgrid

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Architecture – Purdue

  • Update Process

  • Startup Script

    • Custom script checks if machine is thawed and begins shutdown process if true

  • Shutdown Script

    • Custom script checks if machine is thawed and begins monitoring for SCCM applications

    • SCCM is set to deploy applications when no one is logged on and uses SMS installer to run a thaw command for Deep Freeze before installing

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DeploymentPreparation @ UCF

  • Create a realistic time line

  • Read Softgrid documentation

    • Google -> Microsoft softgrid concurrent sessions

  • Design Infrastructure (purchase servers)

    • It all depends (Virtual Application Server, SQL, Management )

  • Proof of Concept (Sequencing too)

    • See the magic work

  • Defined a list of Applications to deploy

    • Possibly remove some too

  • Identify a testing group

    • Lab managers

  • Reporting

    • Concurrent sessions, Application usage, Lab usage

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DeploymentArchitectural decisions @ UCF

  • Virtualize all but one server (Softgrid Application Server due to memory requirements)

    • 1 physical server 3.2GHZ, 4GB, Quad NIC, & Raid 5

  • Load balance Softgrid Application Server using Windows Load Balancing Services (WLBS)

    • 1 physical and 2 virtual

  • Upgrade network to 1GB

  • Upgrade RAM on older hardware

  • Published all applications end users

    • Plan to change this in 2008

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DeploymentPublic Lab Time Table @ UCF

MDOP Purchased

Proof of Concept

Soft roll-out



Infrastructure and Sequencing



Stress test on everything













  • Fully automated deployment test

  • Pay for Print test

  • Load test on Softgrid Application server

Application testing group worked with applications

Decision on which applications would not be published


Softgrid Application Server

Active Directory

Pay for Print

Deployed Softgrid Application, Management and Database servers

Several conversations with SoftGrid Engineers

Add Redundant SoftGrid Application servers via WLBS

Discussed AD groups

Deployed to only one lab

Training lab managers

Gathered student feedback

Deployed Self Service

Service Packs

Applications customized more for end user experience

Sequence and publish applications based on AD groups

Desktop Speeds

Desktop Applications

Student Interaction

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Deployment Software @ UCF

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DeploymentSoftware usage @UCF

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ReportingApplication Sessions @ UCF

*Just over 4000 unique users during this week

~ 1 session per user spread over 400 workstations

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ReportingLab logins @ UCF

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Where do we stand?@ UCF

  • Looking back at the project

    • Did we meet our goals? absolutely

    • Were management expectations met? “This is cool stuff” by Director of CS&T

    • Technically are we satisfied with Softgrid? 8 out of 10

    • Would we do it again? You better believe it!

  • Looking forward

    • Provide Softgrid applications as a service to the university

    • Eagerly awaiting the new version of SoftGrid 4.5

    • Early 2008 - deploying to core UCF IT staff

    • Positioned to be dynamic

      • For the first time,, manage mobile units

      • Provide applications based on roles

    • Virtual labs via SoftGrid next fall?

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Lessons Learned@ UCF

  • Work closely with your Microsoft Technical Sales Rep

  • Size up your environment properly

    • Sizing is over complicated

    • 1 GB Network, Modern Server (3.2, 4GB, 4 NICs) = 3000 computers easily

  • Proper Identity Management rules = Dynamic applications

  • Consider applications with deep integrations

    • IE and plugins, Office suite, java dependant apps

    • New challenges with application isolation

  • Application cache redirection

  • SoftGrid client management training for staff

  • Dedicated staff resources

    • Approximately 9 months to have an acceptable deployment

  • Off load Quality Assurance to those who use the products

  • Training is only the tip of the iceberg to getting started

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Tips and Tricks@ Purdue

  • Microsoft Best Practices (must read)


    • Create Q drive on Sequencing machine and install there if possible

    • 8.3 folder names if possible

    • Suite Tags should be unique

    • Limit the desire to ‘clean up’ the captured information

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Tips and Tricks

  • Softgrid Guru


  • AppDeploy (starting to have Softgrid info)


  • Softgrid Team Blog


  • Windows Hi-Ed News group

  • Tmurgent Technologies