Research Computing offers a virtualization service called the Virtual Computing Lab (VCL). Originally developed by NC State University in collaboration with IBM, the VCL provides users with anytime, anywhere access to custom application environments created specifically for their use.
By simply using a web browser, users can make a reservation for an application, either in advance or immediately, and the VCL will provision that application on a centrally maintained server, and provide the user with remote access to that server. Connection to the remove server is then made via Remote Desktop Client if it’s a Windows-based application, or SSH Client if it’s Linux-based.
VCL provides users remote access to hardware and software that they would otherwise have to install themselves on their own systems, or visit a computer lab to use. It also reduces the burden on computer labs to maintain large numbers of applications on individual lab computers, where in many cases it’s difficult for some applications to coexist on the same machine. In the VCL, operating system images with the desired applications and custom configurations are stored in an image library, and deployed to a server on-demand when a user requests it.
VCL can also be a useful classroom tool. Instructors can request a “block allocation”, to preload a number of servers with a specific application environment for use in the class. Students would then have immediate access to the application during that time.
Some basic help on using the VCL can be found here. Procedures such as making a reservation, creating and updating images, and changing your user preferences are documented here.
All you need to logon to the VCL is a web browser and an onyen account. To access a Windows-based environment reservation, you’ll need the Remote Desktop Client, and to access a Linux-based reservation you’ll need an SSH client. Note that as of 3/30/2012, connecting to Windows-based reservations using Remote Desktop Client from off-campus, will require that you connect to the campus network using the VPN client. Information on the VPN client can be found at https://help.unc.edu/help/restrictions-on-connecting-via-remote-desktop-protocol-rdp-from-off-campus/ .