Bernstein Shur Counselors at Law

Bernstein Shur Counselors at Law: Successfully Implementing VDI Firm-Wide

Unidesk, Cisco, and VMware are helping this leading law firm give attorneys a more consistent and stable desktop experience as they move between offices, courts, and client appointments, while minimizing the amount of time IT spends managing desktop and applications.

Bernstein Shur

"To deliver different sets of apps to different users, we would have needed multiple golden images within VMware Horizon, and the complexity would have been a helpdesk nightmare. With Unidesk, we have no images - just one Windows layer with different app layers. And one pane of glass to manage everything."

Matt Kramer
Director of IT, Bernstein Shur

Bernstein Shur has 300 attorneys and staff members, all supported by a five-person IT team. The firm decided that Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) was the best way for a small IT staff to more efficiently manage a large number of knowledge worker desktops.

End users also saw the benefits of VDI. The firm’s attorneys are always on the go, moving between offices, courts, client appointments, and home. A more consistent and stable desktop experience would improve staff efficiency and, in turn, client service.

VDI would also improve security. Sensitive client information would no longer be stored on endpoint devices. It would instead be safe on virtual machines hosted in the data center.

Goal: "No-Compromise" VDI

Bernstein Shur’s Director of IT Matt Kramer researched the VDI market for a long time. “We needed to find a VDI platform that was easy for us to manage and provided a good end user experience. We weren't willing to compromise on either."

His team initially experimented with using non-persistent desktops, profile management, application virtualization, and storage optimization tools. Said Matt, “With so many pieces to the VDI puzzle, management would have been far too complex.”

Application delivery was a particularly difficult challenge for Matt’s team. The firm uses a large number of applications and plug-ins, including Microsoft Office, HP WorkSite Autonomy for document and email management, LexisNexis for legal research, AccessData Summation Pro for legal review, Winscribe Dictation for transcription, and inData TrialDirector for trial preparation. Most were too hard to package with application virtualization technology.

“We have 10-15 different plug-ins for Microsoft Outlook alone, and each one has different release cycles,” said Matt. “It would have been far too complicated getting them to interoperate, and to juggle the different versions and one-offs if we isolated apps.”

Building the applications into the Windows image wasn’t a viable option, either. “That would have required us to manage too many different images to account for all of our different use cases,” added Matt.

Solution: Unidesk-Managed VDI

VMware Horizon was Bernstein Shur’s choice for VDI connectivity given the firm’s success with VMware vSphere for server virtualization. Stated Matt, “For all of our VDI management challenges, the answer was Unidesk.”

Cisco Invicta (formerly Whiptail) SSD storage, Cisco UCS servers, VMware vSphere, Unidesk, VMware Horizon View, and 10ZiG are now enabling Bernstein Shur to achieve its VDI objectives.

300 virtual desktops have been provisioned by Unidesk and are now in use. End user mobility has been greatly expanded, with users using VMware View to access their desktops from the 10ZiG clients, Apple iPads, smartphones and home computers.

Layering Legal Apps and Plug-Ins

Unidesk layering technology is making it easy for Bernstein Shur’s IT team to package and update the 100+ applications used by the law practice. With Unidesk, they are avoiding the pain of sequencing and linking application packages that comes with first generation application virtualization technology.

Explains Matt, “With Unidesk, it’s very easy to package and update our applications in a seamless manner. It doesn’t get confused about what order the application is installed. The Unidesk architecture is quite resilient and is able to figure out how to bind all the files and Registry keys together and deploy them as one usable desktop for the end user.”

Avoiding Image Sprawl

With Unidesk, all desktops are built using a single Microsoft Windows 7 OS layer. Windows patches are made once on the central layer, and Unidesk handles rebuilding all desktops with the updates. Bad patches can be undone with a few clicks.

Says Matt, “With Unidesk, it doesn’t matter if you are deploying a Windows patch or a new application. It’s all the same process and takes the same minimal amount of time. Update the layers, attach them to desktops with a few clicks, and decide when you want the changes take effect based on your maintenance schedule.”

Full Persistence, Less Storage

Unidesk’s ability to provision persistent desktops on 70-80% less storage than full-sized VMs gave Bernstein Shur two major advantages.

First, the storage savings made deploying VDI on an all-flash storage array from Cisco affordable. Commented Matt, “We knew that IOPS can make or break a VDI project. With Cisco Invicta, our desktops fly.”

Second, attorneys and staff love that their customizations are saved and the user experience is consistent across any device. They can resume working from any location and the persistent desktops remember exactly where they left off.

Compelling ROI

Before VDI, the firm’s standard PC replacement cycle was five years. To sell VDI internally, Matt and his team calculated the cost of new physical desktops and maintenance. Then they added the costs of image management, application patching, remote access, power, and desktop break/fix, which industry analyst Gartner estimates is often 3-4 times the cost of buying new PCs.

The cost of VDI was calculated by factoring in servers, storage, zero clients, software, and the same operational costs of desktop management. Over five years, aided in part by Unidesk’s storage reduction, VDI was estimated to be $75,000 less in capital costs alone. Adding in the staff hours that Unidesk saves in image management, application patching, and desktop support, and the savings increased to $110,000.

“VDI became a no-brainer when we realized we would get added flexibility, security, and mobility in addition to cost savings,” said Matt.

Looking Ahead

Bernstein Shur is now almost 100% virtualized for servers and desktops. A mobile device management solution is being used to add the VMware View client to iPads, tablets, smartphones and home computers to accelerate VDI access. With VDI in place, the IT team is spending less time on tactical break/fix, and more time enhancing productivity, accessibility and security for the firm as a whole. Unidesk is making it possible.

Deployment Details

  • Application Management
    Unidesk
  • Storage
    Cisco
  • Server
    Cisco
  • EUC Platform
    VMware Horizon
  • Users
    300
  • Application Layers
    87
  • More Info
  • Unlimited desktop access through zero clients and BYOD for attorneys and staff
  • $110K estimated savings over 5 years
  • No images - desktops provisioned from single Windows 7 OS layer and different app layers