Nov 02 2011
Data Center

Client Virtualization Fosters Flexibility

Public safety officials can access customized desktops from a pool of machines.

When the Greenwich Police Department in Connecticut moved to a new building two years ago, Capt. Mark Kordick wanted a fresh start.

“My goal was not to bring any legacy equipment with us. I wanted entirely new hardware and infrastructure,” says the operations division commander.

To achieve this without breaking the bank, Kordick relied heavily on client virtualization, which enables users to access a server-based profile of applications from any desktop or notebook.

A majority of the department’s 155 sworn officers and 40 civilians log on to the network via VMware View virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) from Wyse Technology’s V10L thin-client terminals. Others access VMware View via the mobile data terminals in patrol cars, ambulances and fire trucks.

Not only has client virtualization enabled the department to accomplish a zero-legacy move, but it also has boosted uptime and flexibility because users are not tied to a particular piece of hardware.

“Most of our police officers don’t have an assigned workstation they can call their own,” Capt. Kordick says. “For instance, patrolmen use a pool of machines to file their reports or submit notes after interrogations.” With VDI, they can access their own customized desktop from anywhere in the building.

Standard Operating Procedure

Bernard Golden, CEO of consulting firm HyperStratus and author of “Virtualization for Dummies,” finds VDI to be a perfect match for the dynamic nature of public safety. “VDI aligns with the way they work and provides appropriate levels of security,” he says.

For example, if a notebook melts in a fire or is stolen from a police car, IT doesn’t have to worry because applications don’t reside on the device. Also, users can be up and running on a new device within seconds, saving time and money on setup and help desk costs.

Golden also applauds VDI’s support of standardization. IT can use directories to establish and update profiles, making deployment almost instantaneous. “There is a commonality to application sets that is easier to manage,” he says.

Standardization is what drew Marvin Sommerfeld, manager of technical operations for the city of Overland Park, Kan., to Citrix Systems’ XenDesktop virtualization more than a decade ago.

42 Number of seconds of unplanned system downtime the Greenwich Police Department has had since implementing client virtualization two years ago, compared with monthly crashes previously

At that time, the city needed a solution that would allow 150 fire personnel to have profile-based access to more than 20 applications via shared desktops at five fire stations. “With only two people in IT, VDI was the only way we could properly support that much software and that many workstations,” Sommerfeld says.

Using Citrix’s XenServer, IT centrally manages the 30 workstations across the city as application pools. Sommerfeld believes VDI has extended the life of the workstations because all the horsepower comes from the server. “In the past, we only got five years out of our workstations. Now we are obtaining eight years, if not more,” he says.

This success has led the city to expand the use of virtualization to individual police department applications. With Citrix XenApp, IT has published several legacy applications, including those for 911 dispatch, which were not directly compatible with new Windows clients. Making them available virtually avoids force-fitting or breaking them.

“Eventually we hope to offer full VDI to our police department and phase out our oldest workstations,” Sommerfeld says.

VDI Tips from the Pros

Ready to get started with client virtualization? VDI veterans share the following tips:

  • Make sure you have the back-end infrastructure to support VDI, including server, storage and bandwidth capacity.
  • Review your software licensing to ensure it is compatible with virtual clients. Consider switching to concurrent licenses versus individual user licenses to save money.
  • Study your users’ business processes to figure out how to group applications and profiles. This will help smooth the standardization process.
  • Test-drive virtualized versions of streamed applications, such as video conferencing, before widespread deployment to detect and resolve latency issues.
  • Ask about optimization options that could improve overall performance.

Learn from Your Peers

What can you glean about security from other IT pros? Check out new CDW research and insight from our experts.