Bolton College is rolling out desktop virtualisation to give its students and staff flexible access to computers and laptops.

The Greater Manchester college has implemented VMware View, VMware's enterprise virtual desktop technology, at one of its sites, and plans to extend it to its six other sites as well.

The college has 15,000 users, with around 1,100 laptops, 400 thin clients and 500 desktop PCs that run a combination of Windows XP and Windows 7. It also runs more than 100 virtual machines, including Oracle, Exchange and SQL.

When it moved into a new building in 2009, the college had to decide whether or not it would continue with physical desktops or switch to thin clients.

"Another driving factor was we wanted to allow flexible access for the end user," said Irfan Patail, technical services leader at Bolton College.

The college has reduced the number of desktops over recent years, because desktop use restricted mobility, and is phasing out the 500 desktops, which will be replaced with thin clients or a laptop.

All students can access laptop trolleys, which can be moved around, using swipe cards.

Using VMware View, Bolton College can enable users to access their personal virtual desktop via any device.

The college can also use the software with iPads, and when it upgrades from VMware View 4.5 to VMware View 5, it will be able to extend the service to Android devices.

It currently has around 50 iPads for its staff and each one has the VMware View client on it, allowing staff to access their desktop from wherever they may be. Students with their own iPads can also have the VMware View client installed on them.

Bolton College decided to move 95 percent of its infrastructure into a virtual environment, with VMware, in 2007. This led to significant cost savings, as well as the organisation being able to refine its IT infrastructure.

"When we needed to provision new services, we didn't have to procure new hardware. It takes half an hour. It has become more streamlined and cost-effective for the college," said Mick Foran, project manager of technology at Bolton College.

Moving its infrastructure in stages, Bolton College had Windows 2003 with Novell servers, which it moved to Windows overall, including full servers, email servers and SQL databases. It also had 40 physical servers, 35 of which were migrated into the virtual environment.