The company searched the market from a suitable expert partner and chose independent application and desktop delivery specialist Centralis. Despite this relationship and in order to ensure maximum value for money, the IT team evaluated the markets for each component of the new desktop infrastructure and carried out a pre-production pilot. "Centralis understood our concerns and put together a plan that enabled us to build confidence in the technology before we committed the bulk of the budget," said Marshman.
Once the pilot was complete, the main components of Groupama's VDI roll out were chosen. These included the existing VMware server virtualisation platform, application virtualisation tools from Citrix XenApp and AppSense's user virtualisation platform accessed via Wyse thin client terminals. To address concerns around additional wide area network (WAN) capacity and costs, Centralis recommended the inclusion of a Citrix Branch Repeater as part of the pre-production pilot for the acceleration of Citrix traffic between locations. And additional storage area network (SAN) capacity completed the investment.
Groupama's centralised server infrastructure now supports desktop presentation services for 350 users and is expected to deliver significant savings over the long term in a number of areas. The main benefit outlined by Marshman is centralised desktop management and support, with the introduction of hot-desking and secure flexible working for users. "The objective is to get around 600 users onto one model of VDI or another," he said. "We have about 120 laptop and high-end workstation users, which are expense to maintain. So we're now looking at a number of VDI options here too."
Donald Debono, Groupama Insurance's technical support manager, also picked up on the IT management benefits mentioned by Marshman. "For us, the VDI environment is also easier for us to manage from a security perspective because we can patch and update servers, operating systems and applications from one central location. And the cycle is longer seven years in terms of replacing traditional desktops, while they also save on electricity costs." The reduced desktop power and cooling requirements of the VDI thin client terminals equates to about 140,000 kWh or 85 metric tons of carbon emissions per year.
The first phase of the Groupama VDI project was finished at the end of 2011, and the next stage is already underway. Debono said: "In phase two, we are working with users with more complex workloads and those that need to access our IT infrastructure via the internet. There are already a small number of mobile users, but internet-based access will allow them to work with any device, wherever they want."
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