Jul 18 2013

Governments Deploy VDI to Meet Mobility Goals

Virtual clients give state and local workers the personalized desktops they need in the field.

Most people don’t think of North Myrtle Beach, S.C., as a technology mecca, and for good reason. It’s a busy beach resort during the summer and a fairly quiet retirement community during the remainder of the year.

That’s why Rick Wall was caught by surprise when he learned that his city was ahead of the curve in deploying VMware View VDI technology. “We didn’t realize we were early adopters, but that’s the way it worked out,” says the city’s IS director.

About three years ago, North Myrtle Beach rolled out roughly 30 Panasonic Toughbook computers loaded with VMware View to its public works employees. The employees log on to a VMware client to access the city’s public works system.

“It’s really valuable for the public works team to be in the field and determine what kind of pipe is underground,” Wall explains. “In the past, they would have had to drive back to the office and look up the information on paper maps.”

Wall says another 10 building inspectors use Toughbooks and VMware View to work closely with builders on job sites. With their Toughbooks in hand, inspectors can answer questions that builders may have directly in the field rather than returning to the office.


The percentage of IT managers surveyed who attribute VDI success to the ability to enable easier maintenance and support

SOURCE: The State of VDI Web Market Survey (Dimensional Research, January 2013)

“We’re also using VDI with iPads for our beach services people,” Wall says. “They use them to keep track of orders of beach chairs and umbrellas.”

Systems Administrator and Virtual Environment Analyst Patrick Sanders says VDI inherently improves North Myrtle Beach’s IT security. “Now, when a notebook is lost or stolen, we don’t lose any confidential data,” he says. “The only thing we lose is the physical machine.”

Brett Waldman, IDC research manager for client virtualization software, says with the price of VDI dropping over the past couple of years, more governments are taking advantage of the technology. He says North Myrtle Beach’s experience is typical of many organizations in that it conducted a phased deployment.

“Most organizations have to prove that it can work for one department. Then they get the green light for other rollouts,” Waldman says. “It’s been a great tool for governments, especially as they look to reduce costs by having more people work on the road or from home.”

VDI Pilot for Social Services

Monterey County, Calif., also sees VDI as a way to deliver mobile access to its staff. But first, the county will conduct a VMware View pilot for 76 Department of Social and Employment Services call center workers, says CIO Dianah Neff.

Neff says Monterey County’s IT staff aims to prove that VDI can streamline the overall management of desktops. “The first phase of the pilot will be done by mid-August,” she says. “For the next phase, we will test tablets loaded with VDI for social services case workers.”

3 VDI Deployment Tips

Brett Waldman, IDC research manager for client virtualization software, offers three tips for IT managers seeking to roll out a VDI pilot or a full deployment.

  1. Optimize storage. From a storage perspective, some organizations’ current systems may lack the robustness to support VDI. Some IT departments may want to consider products from manufacturers such as HP 3PAR or NetApp, or alternatively look at products that include solid-state storage.
  2. Segment servers. Too many agencies run pilots in a development environment and then move production onto the same servers in which they run their other virtual machines. VDI requires some hefty I/O and network throughput, so servers need to be able to handle the load. Segment them into a cluster dedicated to running the VDI workload.
  3. Investigate other client virtualization apps. There’s more to client virtualization than VDI. Look into virtual user session software such as Microsoft Remote Desktop Services and Citrix XenApp, or application virtualization such as Microsoft App-V or VMware ThinApp.