We're a good sized Linux shop, with 300 desktop systems for faculty, staff, and graduate student office use, and 283 desktop systems used for laboratory instruction. Our desktop environment has been XFCE on Linux Mint LTS for several years, with X2Go taking over from FreeNX for remote access since 2013.
The labs serve over 4,000 students each semester, primarily for Calculus I, II, III, and Differential Equations classes. Students have access to typical commercial mathematics software in the labs and, where permitted by the license, they can access it outside the lab via X2Go sessions into our login servers. These login servers are virtual machines, each with 16-24 vcpus, 48-64GB of RAM, and Gigabit Ethernet, with load balancing accomplished by simple round-robin DNS. We have seen in excess of 60 simultaneous sessions on a single VM. While the mathematics software packages typically have a heavy Java interface, the minimalist XFCE desktop allows impressive scaling. The demands have decreased recently with new licenses in place allowing students to install software on their personal systems, but X2Go remains an essential part of our lab environment.
Faculty, staff, and graduate students can similarly access their XFCE desktop environment via X2Go into departmental servers. This has worked quite well, even over less than optimal Internet connections, and we foresee providing X2Go services well into the future.
- Steven L. Johnson, Ph.D.
Sr. Systems Analyst
Dept of Mathematics, Texas A&M University