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    "Best practices were followed and we trail-blazed a few of them, resulting in a successful, highly-available, and secure VDI solution that can be applied to other enterprise projects."

    Jason Kaplan-Coleman
    Enterprise Architect/Engineer
    Enterprise Networking Solutions, Inc.

     

     

     

     

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Case Study

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

Jan 2014

State of California Department Empowers Mobile Workforce with Highly-Available, Secure, and Scalable VDI

Utilizing multiple leading-edge technologies, this California government department deployed a scalable VDI solution with the flexibility to accommodate a large number of variably configured desktops and mobile devices. The VDI solution design leveraged multiple technologies that provide highly available remote access from any client device and in compliance with the strictest security guidelines.

(CS018)

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CUSTOMER PROFILE

This State of California government department has over 3000 employees and more than 30 field and regional sites statewide.




Solution Overview

BUSINESS SITUATION: As a part of transformation and optimization of their virtual infrastructure, the department sought to implement a secure VDI solution to empower remote access and workforce mobility through a variety of end-user devices.
SOLUTION: Utilizing multiple leading-edge technologies, the department deployed a scalable VDI solution with the flexibility to accommodate a large number of variably configured desktops and mobile devices.
BENEFITS: The VDI solution design leveraged multiple technologies that provide highly available remote access from any client device and in compliance with the strictest security guidelines.
TOPICS COVERED:
  • VMware Horizon View®
  • VMware vSphere®
  • Unidesk Desktop Layering for VDI
  • RSA 2-Factor Authentication
  • F5 Networks
  • VDI Best Practices


Challenge

This State of California department is transforming and optimizing their information technology infrastructure. As part of this, they have implemented a Virtualization Strategy. The project involves implementation of infrastructure architecture that provides upgrades or enhancements including, but not limited to, server containment, application virtualization, business agility, consolidation, operational recovery, disaster recovery, performance monitoring, etc.

One facet of the project was an upcoming large desktop refresh for which they wanted to break the cycle as well as reduce the high cost of managing physical desktops. Tying that in to the their ongoing remote access project and the need for secure user remote access, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) provided a highly secure and agile solution for the department’s increasingly mobile workforce requiring real-time access to desktops and applications.

“We looked at VDI in two business dimensions - providing remote and field workers with full desktop capabilities anytime, anywhere, and reducing the high cost of managing physical desktops within our office space,” stated the department’s Chief Information Officer. “We needed a solution that was capable of not only delivering desktops on any device, but would simplify management of our diverse desktop and application configurations.”

VDI enables users to access the enterprise networks from arbitrary locations and on various devices while protecting the enterprise from those user devices.



Process

Working closely with the department’s IT team, ENS-Inc’s highly certified VDI engineers/architects developed a converged solution of leading edge technologies, each piece enabling a particular functionality that was required to meet the end goals. Partnered with each vendor to vet out individual components, the integration of these products created an easily operated environment that scales simply and provides excellent access to the infrastructure.

Unidesk, desktop layering for VDI, provided desktop provisioning, application distribution, and user persistency. The Unidesk desktops are deployed on the department’s private cloud powered by VMware vSphere®, with secure access provided by VMware Horizon View® through a wide range of fixed and mobile endpoint devices. VMware View provides a solid foundation on which to run virtual desktops, brokering client connections while providing PCoIP protocol for enhanced performance and user experience.

“We worked closely with the department during the pilot to validate desktop virtualization concepts and directions,” said Chad Hodges, vice president of business development, ENS-Inc. “VMware Horizon View proved to be great at brokering high performance access to desktops, but it became clear that an advanced VDI management platform was required if they wanted to reduce desktop OpEx. Unidesk offers the simple, powerful application delivery and image management capabilities that make VDI less expensive to operate than physical PCs, and it is architecturally compatible and well-integrated with View and VMware vSphere.”


The Unidesk desktops are accessed through a combination of energy-efficient zero clients, employee-supplied devices, and repurposed PCs. The desktops are hosted on HP blade servers connected to EMC and NetApp storage. By storing Windows and application layers only once per data store, Unidesk reduces VDI storage capacity requirements upwards of 70%. Flash memory caches provide the IO necessary to ensure a high-performance desktop experience, aided by Unidesk’s layering technology. Because a single stored instance of Windows and all applications are used by many Unidesk desktops, this frequently accessed desktop data remains “hot” and never leaves the high performance flash memory.

EMC’s RSA security, compliance, and risk-management solutions utilized 2-factor authentication for remote user security. F5 Networks provided remote access and high availability for the connection brokers, individual servers that process incoming client connections and route them to virtual desktops.

“Our design leveraged the dynamic application delivery of Unidesk to satisfy the requirements of a large and diverse user base,” confirms Jason Kaplan-Coleman. “Incorporating RSA and F5 enabled us to provide a highly available remote access solution that complies with the strictest security guidelines.”

Phase 1 of the desktop virtualization solution has been completed. Over 200 virtual desktops are now in production. The department’s scientific, engineering, geographic information systems (GIS), business automation, office productivity, and computer-aided design (CAD) applications are packaged as separate Unidesk layers. Custom desktops are provisioned simply by assigning application layers in different combinations with the same clean Microsoft Windows 7 operating system layer. Layers are patched or updated once to update all desktops.

The VDI solution design is modular and can easily scale up to 10,000 users.

Teamwork, Training, and Knowledge Transfer

ENS-Inc consultants worked closely with the department’s IT teams in the development and implementation of the VDI architecture. All desktop stakeholders and desktop support staff were interviewed to determine application requirements. The staff then participated in highly focused training sessions, each focusing on a specific aspect accompanied with detailed documentation.

Training materials included installation guides, operational guides, and backup guides. Design documentation was provided for both the as-built infrastructure design and the virtual desktop design.

This highly-informed teamwork approach enabled a transformative implementation of the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure.



Benefits

The move to cloud-hosted desktops is giving the department’s geographically dispersed workers and field operations specialists increased access to critical applications, while reducing desktop Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and enabling IT to focus more of its time and resources on service delivery.

VDI solution design benefits include:

  • High availability: The solution design can accommodate hardware or software failures at any tier without service interruption.
  • Accomodation of arbitrary application loads: User apps are not constrained by factors such as drivers or DLLs.
  • Storage efficient persistent desktops: Layering design eliminates storage of redundant data while allowing unique user data to persist.
  • Remote access from any client device: BYOD anytime, anywhere computing.


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