European insurer Groupama has overhauled its desktops using a Citrix virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) that has enabled it to become quicker and more consistent at deploying applications and patches.
The insurer did not reveal the how much it has spent on the deployment, but Paul Marshman, customer support manager for IT at Groupama, told Computing that the solution costs more than 350 new physical desktops.
The solution was implemented in its Manchester and Portsmouth offices with the help of IT consultancy Centralis.
Technical support manager Donald Debono said that the insurer was due for a desktop refresh in 2011 but decided that going down the thin client/VDI route made more sense than buying 350 new PCs.
"We started looking at the market and other companies that were using VDI. Instead of deploying 350 new physical desktops with locally installed operating systems, we wanted to deploy them on servers and to have 350 users that can connect centrally to these servers to be presented with a normal desktop and all of the applications they need to do their work," he said.
The desire to improve security was another key motivation.
"We wanted to improve the perimeter of how data could be transferred and eliminate the need for third-party software to prevent users from taking data out of the company," he said.
The company looked at a number of solutions, including a Microsoft VDI and a solution from VMware.
"VMware did work but it didn't meet all of our requirements. We were looking for a solution that was based in our Croydon datacentre so that all of the access was done using a LAN," said Marshman.
"We didn't want any equipment or server deployed on site but VMware wanted to deploy equipment on site."
The insurer then opted for a solution that comprised VMware hypervisors, a Citrix XenApp application management system and AppSenses user virtualisation platform.
Marshman said that by using VDI instead of desktops, the company has benefited in several ways but added that not all of the benefits can be measured.
"We have saved on our desktop power and cooling but it is impossible to measure our electricity consumption or the amount of carbon emissions that we have reduced.
"However, what is tangible is the speed and consistency of deployment of applications which is far greater than a desktop set-up would have been. We have saved a lot of time that we previously used on patching systems," he said.
Debono said that the solution's flexibility make mobile working and hot-desking easier. He said that the company now believes it can reduce the amount of data over the network because users are able to work on data sets from a central source rather than copying them to a local server.
He added that there was no user training required but some of Groupama's technical staff attended Citrix training courses to enable them to understand the solution better.
Groupama piloted the Citrix solution in March 2011 for a month. The technical team then worked on any reliability and performance-related issues before deployment began in September. The rollout was completed in six weeks.
The insurer is now looking to follow the implementation with a wider rollout for its other offices in Borehamwood, Croydon and London. This should be completed by August 2012.
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