S-Cube completes the roll-out of Icam’s digital campus

Published on 04 December 2018

A global “virtual desktop infrastructure” solution tailored to higher education

Paris, December 3rd 2018 – S-Cube, a subsidiary of SPIE ICS, has just completed the roll-out of the new digital campus at the Institut Catholique d'Arts et Métiers (Catholic Institute for Industrial Art and Design, or Icam). This development represents a major milestone for the engineering school, making it the only higher education institution in France to go completely paperless. The total amount invested is 2 million euros(1). For this innovative project, S-Cube was awarded the “Project of the year 2018” trophy on November 27th, during Next Europe, the annual conference organized by Nutanix.

Adapting to developments in the engineering profession

Deployed across its 6 French sites (Lille, Paris-Sénart, Nantes, Brittany, Vendée and Toulouse), Icam’s digital campus is a virtual space dedicated to the Institute’s students, teachers and staff. It provides students and professors with adapted digital tools: applications, computing machines, digital simulation software, etc. These tools are available at any time in class, in project mode or at home, and from any device. In other words, the digital campus frees up access to professional software, enabling students to work in a new, more fluid and flexible way, especially when doing group work.

One major challenge for the engineering school is to transfer the new collaborative models of organisation now common in business (through virtualisation technology) in order to adapt them to its teaching methods and to better prepare students for the workplace market.

Free and unlimited access to learning resources

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) technology enables both the user and the workstation to be severed from the virtual machine, which is itself implemented on a remote server. The result is that users have access to the full range of their programmes, applications, processes and data, regardless of the device used.

For Icam, the main requirement was to ensure optimal performance for the regular use of 3D design software, which, by definition, requires more power – a challenge met by S-Cube with a solution based on two key tools:

  • 6 Nutanix infrastructure appliances offering a distributed storage system(*) specific to each of the school’s sites and a seventh, so-called “overflow” infrastructure appliance designed to guarantee a fluid work environment in all circumstances, even when the servers are in high demand, as well as off-campus access via the web.
  • the VMware Horizon View software suite, enabling overflow to the seventh hosted site when the number of simultaneous connections is too high and offering 3D CAD virtual machines (computer-aided design).

Guaranteed security for both users and the Icam

To ensure secure connections, VPN tunnels are established between the Icam sites and the seventh site, which hosts a solution that enables data flows to be redirected. Students log in via the VMware Horizon Client to display their workstation, which is executed on remote servers rather than directly on their device. In other words, the system is similar to streaming content, with no software being installed locally on the user’s workstation, thereby helping to avoid viruses and external contamination.

To ensure the security of personal data, Icam has opted to rely on virtual machine groups that are deleted after each use. The Institute manages user data via the cloud, with Google File Stream launching automatically when starting a user session.

“For Icam, the combination of these technologies ensures performance, resilience and adaptability to its new needs”, explains Benjamin Roudaut, a Business Engineer at S-Cube. “These solutions also offer the best security, especially when users come with their own IT devices.”

There is also much enthusiasm among students. “In classes, I use a conventional tablet PC that's easy to carry around but quite limited in terms of memory and computing power. Having access to a virtual machine with 3D software that uses a lot of resources for calculations is ideal. This way, I'm not having to use my own PC's resources”, explains Michaëlla Deniaux, who is currently in her 5th year.

A view shared by teachers: "The digital campus is easy to use and saves time. The software is already configured to meet the teacher’s specific needs and requirements. So all students share the same unique configuration, facilitating practical work and group projects”, notes Christophe Pennel, Head of Higher Education at Icam’s Paris-Sénart site.

(*) In a distributed storage system, shared storage is delivered not through SAN or NAS storage, but through a software layer using the capacity of the hard drives installed on the servers themselves.

(1) excluding software licences.