UConn switching to AnyWare from SkyBox

The University of Connecticut is switching from SkyBox to a similar software, AnyWare. (screenshot/anyware.com)

The University of Connecticut is switching from SkyBox to a similar software, AnyWare. (screenshot/anyware.com)

The University of Connecticut is phasing out SkyBox in favor of similar software called UConn AnyWare, said Vice Provost for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Michael Mundrane.

Both programs let users run university-owned software like Matlab and Microsoft Office without needing to download it to their computer. However, they do it in slightly different ways, Mundrane said.

“With SkyBox, you sit locally at your computer, but Windows [operating system] itself is running remotely, somewhere in our data center,” he said.

This means every time someone wants to run a piece of software using SkyBox, computers owned by the university need to start a new instance of the entire Windows operating system.

UConn AnyWare eliminates that need, Mundrane said.

“Instead of using an entire version of Windows to run software, we just run the software itself,” he said. “AnyWare shares resources much more effectively across our set of customers, whereas SkyBox duplicates more of the resources.”

That means AnyWare saves computing power for the university, he said.

UConn AnyWare has all of the same software as Skybox, according to Mundrane.

“AnyWare will have 100 percent of anything we make available that a student could access,” he said.

AnyWare has been running in beta for about a year, but has only been promoted for broad use this semester, according to Mundrane.

Mundrane said that while SkyBox was helpful for students who wanted to run software on their personal computers, that wasn’t its primary use.

“The overwhelming use of SkyBox was actually in support of ‘thin client workstations,’ like in the library,” he said.

AnyWare shares resources much more effectively across our set of customers, whereas SkyBox duplicates more of the resources
— Mundrane

By running SkyBox on library computers, the university could simulate the Windows operating system and run high-end software on less expensive machines than would normally be required.

But since most of the library’s computers were replaced with high-end machines this year, Mundrane said it no longer made sense to use SkyBox as the primary means of software virtualization.

“It was always an expensive and resource-extreme approach to software virtualization,” he said. “We’re certainly promoting AnyWare as a better way to experience a particular software.”

SkyBox isn’t going anywhere for the time being, because there are still some “thin client workstations” in the library, Mundrane said.

“As long as I have thin clients, I will still give students access to SkyBox,” he said. “There’s no reason to restrict access to it as long as I have it.”

But AnyWare is the better option for most students because it’s more lightweight and efficient, he said.

“I’m going to run [SkyBox] for the foreseeable future,” he said. “But [students’] experience with AnyWare should be better.”

Students can access UConn AnyWare by visiting the UITS software catalog.


Charlie Smart is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via charles.smart@uconn.edu.