CARES Act Funding to Assist with Distance Learning

The CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEER) guidelines state that funds can be allocated for any costs due to changes to the delivery of instruction due to Covid 19. Amongst other allowances, Institutions may use their funds to purchase equipment of hardware and software in support of their Distance Learning initiative.


VMware Horizon VDI- Distance Learning Portals

Zunesis is stepping in to assist our Higher Education customers. We have found that before expanding (or establishing)  VMware Horizon VDI-driven learning portals, we must first shore-up the underlying infrastructure.  In many instances, we find legacy hardware that is not compatible with VMWare 6.7 and higher. This is necessary to ensure a secure and robust environment capable of supporting applications such as graphics heavy applications like Adobe Creative Suite or AutoDesk.  Without the hardware upgrade (Gen10 technologies, enhanced memory and GPU), the Distance Learning experience risks students dropping off when frustrated with slow rendering speeds.

Zunesis considers two major requirements in creating/expanding VMware Horizon Distance Learning portals:

  • Solution must show overall ROI for Institution
  • Design must showcase enhanced management efficiencies and increased security


ROI Justification

The ROI for the upgrading infrastructure to support these VDI expansions will be realized in both time and money savings for IT organizations far beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.  Having all servers in a central location means easier system maintenance and upgrades.  All users get each upgrade in near real-time.

IT can also assign the exact resources each user needs, so none go unused.  This is especially important for engineering applications such as AutoCad, where issuing each user a workstation would be costly – and most need the app only occasionally. Virtual environments enable multiple users to share resources, thereby increasing hardware utilization. They also reduce the need to buy and support expensive workstations.

Additionally, the enhanced Distance Learning portal will enable IT departments to save money on application licensing costs. Users who need consistent access to engineering applications may get a personalized virtual desktop with their own account. Others who need only occasional access can use pooled desktops on a time-share basis. License servers here can potentially require fewer licenses while serving up client connections more efficiently.


Enhanced Management and Security

With ease of management and enhanced security a key concern, we also considered the number of improvements VMWare has made in vSphere 6.7 and HPE has made with their GEN10 Servers.

  • There are a multitude of enhancements in VMWare vSphere 6.7. For busy IT teams, the update to the management console (vCenter Server 6.7) includes a new vCenter Server Hybrid Linked Mode that enables management insight across both on-premises and cloud-based resources.
  • Upgrading legacy servers to HPE GEN10 technology enhances datacenter security with HPE’s Silicon Root of Trust. This protects the organization against firmware attacks. It detects previously undetectable compromised firmware or malware. It also helps to rapidly recover the server in the event of an attack.


In conclusion, the success of any Distance Learning initiative can be measured by the number of students that continue to participate.   A properly designed infrastructure that can support the intensive requirements of applications will minimize downtime. It will enable thinly staffed IT departments to function efficiently.

Contact Zunesis to find out more about the CARES ACT and the best solutions for higher education needs.


Additional Resources:

Digital Transformation in Higher Education

4 Ways VMware is enabling Business Continuity for Government & Education Customers


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