I have a dream … teaching with real-world IT environments
21 October 2006 1 Comment
When IT students graduate they are expected to have some experience with managing computer systems that are integral components of global networks. The students must be familiar with both client and server software packages and how they can be secured and operated reliably in potentially hostile network environments, not just in theory but in practice.
Hardaway et al (2005) put the case well, “The modern IT professional requires hands-on server administration experience to complement traditional skills in software design and development. As we enter the era of enterprise computing, there is a growing demand for system developers who understand the operational and security demands of the code they create.” As a result of this need at Saint Louis University they implemented “a 24/7 remotely accessible computer laboratory where students could receive full server administration privileges to use
in developing their server, networking, security, and database administration skills”. So that students had access from anywhere on the Internet this computer lab was outsourced to a local company.
This model can now be achieved using virtualisation software running on central servers that provide each student with one or more virtual machiens. I have a dream that:
- each student is administrator of one or more Unix* and/or Windows virtual machines run on shared servers
- all administration tools and permissions are availabe on each machine (non-crippled OS)
- each machine has unrestricted Internet access and can be controlled on and off campus
- students are free to download and install any software on their machines
- if any virtual machine is accidentally corrupted by a student or attacked across the Internet it can be restored/replaced in minutes
With these facilities we recognise that every OS, even Windows XP, is a powerful network OS and allows students to build, deploy and administer software for client-server, peer-to-peer, network and database services, and web-based scenarios. In other words real-world computing.
Will Bond ever be able to “live the dream”?
Don Hardaway, Mark J. Hogan, Richard G. Mathieu, “Outsourcing the University Computer Lab,” Computer, vol. 38, no. 9, pp. 100-102, Sept., 2005.