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General Information

Access Requirements

A valid account - this can be an NCSU account, an account from one of our participating academic partners, or a generic VCL account (requires approval).

A computer with an internet connection. We recommend a broadband connection, some of the applications environment are graphic intensive and require faster connections. Dail-up modem has been tested and is being used but is not recommended for user satisfaction.

If connecting to a Windows VCL environment - a Remote Desktop Connection client is required.

Remote Desktop Connection Clients

How do I get started

The basic steps of using the Virtual Computing Lab.

Step 1 - You will need a valid account. This can be an NCSU account, an account from one of our academic partners, or a standalone VCL account.

Step 2 - Depending on your personal computer's operating system, you might need additional connection software such as Remote Desktop Connection or ssh(secure shell appilication). For details please see Additional access requirements.

Step 3 - Start the reservation process:

How do I make a VCL Reservation?

  1. Click the 'Make a Reservation' or 'New Reservation' link.
  2. If you are not already authenicated, you will be presented with a login screen. Select your affiliation and proceed to login.
  3. Once authenicated and based on you level of access, you will be presented with a menu of VCL application environments to choose from.
  4. Select the VCL application environment you would like to use.
  5. Select the time you would like to start the reservation, for an immediate session select 'Now'.
  6. Select the duration of your reservation, by default the initial duration is 1 hour. Once the reservation is active it can be extended to a total of 6 hours. Under special cases longer durations are available.
  7. Submit your request.
  8. You will be taken to the Current reservations page. Here you will see a pending signal while the assigned compute node is being prepared.

How it Works

Though the details of VCL can get complicated, the concepts behind it are simple.

One of the primary goals of VCL is to deliver a dedicated compute environment to a user for a limited time. This can range from something as simple as a virtual machine running an office suite to a machine room blade running high end software (i.e. a CAD,GIS,statistical package or an Enterprise level application) to a cluster of interconnected physical (bare metal) compute nodes. For years both ITECS (technical suppport for the College of Engineering) and the Central IT department, now called Office of Information Technology, struggled to efficently provide remote access to high end computers for researchers and students.

How to print from a remote VCL windows computer.

Printing within VCL can be difficult due to the number of different printers that exist. Some printers that are locally attached through Remote Desktop Connection will be reconigized by the default Windows printer drivers, others printers will not. To work around this, most VCL windows environments should have pdfFactory installed. PdfFactory will show up as a virtual printer and is selectable as a printer within the windows applications. This will print the output to a pdf and then you can copy this pdf file to your machine and print as you normally do.

If your local printer is not supported by the default windows drivers, then you must select the pdfFactory and print to a pdf file.


My reservation timed out. What does this mean?

If you have disconnected or logged out of your assigned machine. You will have up to 15 minutes to reconnect before the system assumes you have left the reservation. Once 15 minutes has been reached, the VCL system time out your reservation and will start the reclaim process. The reclaim process involves reinstalling the machine and you will loose any work you have left on the remote machines's hardrive. 

Make use of any network drives at all times to make sure you don't loose any work. 

Note: Server reservations or reservations greater than 24 hours are excluded from this timeout.

What features will be offered in the future?

The technologies implemented in the VCL project have the flexibilty to allow for remote access to many different operating systems loaded with varying software. The infrastructure is flexible enough to allow access to Windows/Macintosh lab environments, as well as departmental computing resources, though these have not yet been implemented and will only be implemented if the education process is furthered by their inclusion in the VCL Project.

What rights do I have on the machine?

  • On a Windows XP environment you have administrative rights.
  • On a Realm Unix/Linux lab machine you have the same rights as you have in the computer labs.
  • On a Non-Realm Red Hat Enterprise Linux environment you have elevated rights.


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