Cooperative Lab Management

This page describes a progam that is partnership between CLC and distributed IT units for the joint management of student computer labs and classrooms.  CLM has grown substantially over a decade of operation.

Contents

Purpose and Benefits

There are many reasons for cooperative lab management:

  • Participants benefit from the availability of the tools and infrastructure described below by having more reliable facilities that are easier to setup and manage.
  • Students and faculty experience a more consistent computing experience when moving between campuses or around University Park.  When students become familiar with the lab environment at one location, they can use the facilities at another location with very little difficulty.
  • LabChat online interactive help provided by the lab consulting group is available for most locations (hours vary).
  • Leveraging CLC's tools and infrastructure for managing student labs provides an adaptive and secure environment .
  • Once an environment has been migrated into CLM, most participating unit's reported a decrease in the time needed to support their facilities, allowing more time to spend on more interesting problems.
  • CLC provides quick and expert help for participating IT staff, plus a community of participantswho help each other.
  • Comprehensive documentation is provided to all enrolled participants, as well as a bi-monthly newsletter and an annual user group meeting.

Background

CLC manages 3,327 Windows 7, Macintosh and Linux computers in labs, classrooms and public areas throughout University Park, using distributed and scalable technologies. These technologies allow CLC to manage each workstation remotely, requiring CLC staff to typically touch the physical machine at most once per year. It also allows for a customized application software suite for each lab depending on the hardware and the location. Enhancements made to the process in 2005 made it feasible to extend the methods, processes, and infrastructure to support labs primarily run by other administrative departments. Also, various "homegrown" tools and our backend database have matured to the point that sharing the use of them became feasible, and the Cooperative Lab Management program was initiated.

As of Fall 2013, over 9,500 computers managed by 37 different units were in the CLM infrastructure.  They were used by 80,000 different users during that semester, totaling 3 million logons and 2.5 million hours.

Supported Operating Systems

We support Windows 7 Professional 64-bit and Mac OS X 10.8.  Click on those links for platform-specific information.

Tools and Features

Many tools and features in the program benefit distributed IT staff.  Those common to Windows and Macintosh include:

  • Hardened OS Image: the file system and system configuration have been secured to make it difficult for users to interfere with the operation of the system.
  • Endpoint Management: Computers are automatically joined to the Systems Management @ Penn State environment (BigFix or IBM Endpoint Manager).
  • Software Packages: computers install and update software packages using IEM.
    • CLC provides and supported a base set of freeware or site licensed software packages that can be deployed to every machine within CLM.
    • Any cooperating unit can add and deploy an application package that is needed in their area as long as running it does not compromise the security of the workstation.
    • Application package sharing between units is strongly encouraged, helping reduce the time needing to deploy new or updated software.
    • Licensing an application prior to deploying an application in the software repository is still the responsibility of each administrative unit.
  • Account Management: Users login with their Penn State Access Accounts using the dce.psu.edu Kerberos realm. Units have the ability to create groups and restrict who can login to machines in their CLM machines, if needed.
  • User tools include:
    • Current Lab Use: users can see how busy a location is before going there.
    • Lab Hours: a Web application for listing a room's hardware and hours of availability.
  • Administrator tools include:
    • All computers are automatically joined to TEM (BigFix) in the CLM division and can be managed from the TEM console.
    • Lab Use Data: CLM partners automatically get access to a suite of usage reports to examine lab/classroom use by semester, day, or hour.
  • Keyserver: An optional component that allows for application usage tracking and has the ability to allow pooling of software licenses using concurrent, if allowed by the applications EULA. This component is licensed per workstation and also has a yearly renewal cost.
  • Printing Control: ITS Printing Service is easily deployed in CLM.
  • Power Management: CLM machines by default use BigFix to implement aggressive power settings. Podiums by default use moderately aggressive power settings. A unit can decide to customize these settings, if they desire to do so.

Participating Areas

This is a partial list:

See the OurRooms page to query a database of campuses, buildings, rooms and units that support CLM computers in those rooms.

Cost

ITS does not charge any unit for this service, however there may be some hardware and software costs.

Hardware

  • Administrative units at University Park can leverage CLC existing server infrastructure.
  • Campuses sometimes are required to have a single file server on their campus dedicated to the project.
    • A campus can sometimes leverage the Media Commons server, if there are no special license managers or no local print queue requirements.
    • The typical cost of such a server is normally $4,000 to $5,000 and the server typically has a 4-5 year life cycle. All server hardware must be under an current maintenance contract.
  • In some cases network improvements are needed to connect managed computers to the campus server(s).

Software

  • Each unit is responsible for all software licensing costs.
  • Sassafras KeyServer is an optional component that a unit can elect to use. For ease of administration, we run a central KeyServer for this purpose and coordinate the purchase of licenses and renewals. Keyserver is licensed per workstation and each license has a renewal cost per year. For more information about the cost of Sassafras KeyServer, please e-mail admin