Behind the scenes of most technology projects at SEFS—whether in your office, the classroom or out in the field—are a number of resources that help support your research and studies. Among the least visible, yet also the most powerful and versatile of these resources, is our own virtual desktop environment, known as Gibson.
Named for the supercomputer in the movie Hackers, Gibson provides fully secure, 24-hour remote access to high-end software previously available only by visiting SEFS computing labs. The core system is a commercial product, but the SEFS IT Team specifically configured Gibson to meet the needs of classes and research in our school, from remote sensing to data analysis and statistics—all while using only a fraction of the power of a normal computer.
Much of the impetus for developing this system, after all, was hearing about students who had to drive or bus a half hour into campus just to run a certain program for five minutes. Now, all of our students can access Gibson’s programs and features anywhere there’s an internet connection. You can even save preferences and data, and when you later log on to the virtual desktop—no matter where you are in the world—you’ll have your personalized computer waiting for you, along with the full suite of SEFS online resources and software at your fingertips.
Gibson, in short, provides the ultimate mobile computing experience. “It’s like having your own personal cloud,” says Shane Krause, senior computer specialist for SEFS.
Launched by Krause about two years ago, the pilot of Gibson was funded by the Student Technology Fee, along with research funds from Professors Stanley Asah and Soo-Hyung Kim, both of whom were looking for a more mobile system to help their students. Since then the system has grown and evolved with a number of infrastructure improvements, including adding faster hardware and recently moving the entire system from Bloedel Hall over to one of the UW’s main datacenters.
Gibson is now available to all SEFS students, faculty and staff, and the system has seen expanded use on campus, including in other units of the College of the Environment, and at remote sites such as the Arboretum, ONRC and Pack Forest. In fact, the system has already served nearly 1,000 unique users, and there’s plenty of room for more, say Krause and Marc Morrison. So jump in there and get connected—Gibson is ready for primetime!