CSD Engineers

CSD Engineers: Mobilising Mission-Critical Applications While Improving the End User Experience

This Swiss engineering firm is disproving the common misconception that graphics-intensive apps cannot be used in virtual environments. Unidesk has enabled CSD to virtualise all 300 of its apps - including CAD.

CSD Engineers

"Some of our graphics-intensive and driver-level apps like AutoCAD, Kaspersky, and NVIDIA either could not be virtualised with other application virtualisation solutions or the cost was so high that it didn't make sense for us. Unidesk is enabling us to build workspaces that fit our users’ needs without compromise. We can now manage and deliver 100% of our apps, including user-specific, custom apps - some of which we in IT have never even heard of."

Benoit Noteris
Network-Security IT Manager, CSD Engineers

CSD is a leading engineering consultancy firm in Europe, with over 700 engineers based in 30 offices throughout Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Lithuania. It offers global engineering solutions across a wide range of disciplines including nature and the environment, water and green energy, construction, real estate, and government.

csd engineers
CSD needed to ensure that its engineers could work on-site at client locations at all times, and be able to securely access the 300 Windows applications required by the firm's consulting business.

In order to better serve its clients, CSD needed to ensure that its engineers could work on-site at client locations at all times, and be able to securely access the 300 Windows applications required by the firm's consulting business. Windows workspaces that enabled this mobility became a top priority and long-term strategy for CSD, as did having an application management framework that would make delivery of the 300 applications fast and easy. Desktop virtualisation software with VMware Horizon and application lifecycle management software with Unidesk are making this possible.

Building a Better End-User Computing Foundation

CSD had three main goals in transitioning from laptops to a new end user computing environment built around virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). First was achieving enterprise mobility and user flexibility between all five branches of the firm.

Explains Benoit Noteris, Network Security IT Manager at CSD, “We had grown from 400 to 700 employees and expanded to five locations in Europe. As vendors’ systems changed over time, it became difficult for us in IT to ensure that everyone in each location had the same system and was running the most current version of all our software. Additionally, employees demanded flexibility to work from home with the same tools that they use on-site or in the office. With VDI, we saw a way to standardize our environment, give our employees freedom to use iPads, mobile phones, or other devices to access their apps, and foster collaboration.”

CSD was also managing more than 300 complex engineering applications, including AutoCAD, Building Design Suite Premium, GIS, and visualization tools. These applications were difficult to manage remotely on each laptop. The frequency with which some of the apps changed created even more administrative overhead. The hope was that new application management solutions available for virtualised desktops would make managing these apps much simpler than physically installing them over and over on every laptop.

The last goal was data centralisation. CSD engineers often shared huge CAD files, project plans, satellite images, and topology maps that amounted to more than 35 TBs of data across the 30 offices. IT needed a better way to manage this data, make it accessible to everyone from anywhere, and ensure secure file transfers. VDI would eliminate the need to copy date between file servers, and instead allow it to be centrally accessed in the datacenter for more secure remote access.

Getting Application Management Right

The CSD IT team conducted an evaluation process to identify the right solutions for its new end user computing architecture. Application management quickly became a top priority.

Comments Benoit, “Our executive management team made it clear that virtual desktops had to be implemented for everyone or no one. That meant we had to satisfy all use cases and deliver all apps. We knew from research that apps such as AutoCAD, Kaspersky, and NVIDIA, as well as custom apps and driver-level apps could not be virtualised with app management solutions such as App-V, ThinApp, or App Volumes. Or, the cost to virtualise them would be so high that it wouldn't make sense for us. We looked for an app management solution that could deliver all of our apps. That’s what led us to Unidesk.”

Unidesk application layering technology separates any app from the Windows OS as a virtual disk "layer" with an ordinary installation. Once captured as a virtual disk, an app can be attached to any number of virtual machines without any further installations. Unlike traditional app virtualisation solutions such as App-V and ThinApp, which isolate apps in process "bubbles" for conflict avoidance, Unidesk layering works for all apps, and provides the experience of a local installation.

Explains Benoit, “With traditional app virtualization tools, we had issues with lengthy packaging times. Also, apps in bubbles meant they couldn’t talk to each other. The skill sets required to use these tools was very advanced. And there was always some app that couldn’t be virtualized, so we would have to put it in the Windows image and we would have had many gold images to patch and update in our environment. These are all of the reasons why we chose Unidesk."

Mobile Access to Mission-Critical Apps

With Unidesk, the CSD IT team is now able to independently manage and deliver 300 applications, and update them without having to touch the firm's standard Windows 7 gold image. Some of the apps that have been successfully virtualised with Unidesk are Kaspersky, printer drivers, NVIDIA, Internet Explorer, VMware Horizon View agent, Firefox, Skype for Business, Java, Flash, Evernote, Bechtle, Photoshop, and Adobe Acrobat.

Even graphics-intensive apps that are often hard to deliver in VDI such as AutoCAD, GIS, and Building Design Suite Premium are all being delivered apart from the Windows OS as Unidesk layers.

Says Benoit, “Unidesk is enabling us to build Windows workspaces that fit our users’ needs without compromise. We can now manage and deliver 100% of our apps, including highly user-specific, custom apps that you may have never heard of, and that some of us in IT have never heard of either! ”

With all apps managed separate from Windows, a single Unidesk Windows OS layer can be used as the foundation for all virtual desktops. This is making it considerably easier for CSD to stay in compliance with the latest Microsoft Windows updates.

Explains Benoit, “We wanted to update Windows once and patch it once to save time and make our IT team more efficient. With our many complex engineering apps and different user requirements, this would not have been possible without Unidesk. Not only are we getting the efficiency we hoped for, but Unidesk's simplicity is enabling our Tier 1 IT staff to carry out routine patches and updates, lowering the overall cost of delivering our custom workspaces.”

Other Key Elements of the VDI Solution

CSD’s IT team implemented VMware Horizon as its end user computing platform to provide secure connectivity to the new virtual workspaces. Benoit credits VMware's improved mouse sensitivity in Horizon 6.1 for helping improve application responsiveness and providing users with an experience that more closely matches locally hosted applications.

The firm is also using Teradici PCoIP hardware accelerators and NVIDIA Grid graphics cards to optimize the performance of its graphic-intensive apps for all connection speeds.

Selling VDI Internally

CSD used innovative techniques to market VDI internally. First, IT deployed virtual desktops and virtualised apps to themselves.

Says Benoit, “We gave our on-site IT engineers virtual desktops to try out first. That way, we could test the deployment without affecting our users. Eventually, we rolled them out to a few key evangelists and asked them to spread the word to their peers. Hearing from colleagues made our users more willing to adopt it than being forced by IT. We also made sure we involved our in-house application experts early in the process to make sure we had all of the apps and configurations correct."

Next, the IT team migrated the Finance, HR, Marketing, and Q&A departments to VDI, but continued supporting their existing laptops.

Explains Benoit, “We gave users the option to use VDI without enforcing it. They were excited that they could use an app like AutoCAD on their iPad - which most users think cannot be accessed from anywhere but their desktops. One employee in Belgium had a broken leg and couldn’t come in to the office for 3 months. The virtual desktop allowed him to work from home and collaborate with his team in spite of being bedridden. Other employees who travel often and those with young children who sometimes have to stay home became early adopters as well. Once everyone realized the benefits of virtual desktops and applications, the technology sold itself.”

Business Benefits with VDI and Unidesk

CSD is realizing numerous business benefits from its new virtual desktops and virtual applications:

  • The life of the consulting firm's existing workstations and laptops is being extended by reusing them for virtual desktop access.
  • Engineers and specialists can now work remotely and still collaborate with their on-site colleagues.
  • Access to all mission-critical applications is now available to all users from the devices of their choosing.
  • Greater desktop resilience and improved efficiency have been achieved by standardizing on a single Windows OS image.
  • Patch management and application updates have been operationalized with helpdesk staff, freeing up senior IT resources.
  • Application management time and effort have been reduced by an estimate of 70%.

Concludes Benoit, “Unidesk has been an excellent solution for us. I'm convinced our virtual desktop implementation would not have succeeded without it. Not only is Unidesk providing simple management of all our applications today, but we also know we have an easy migration path to the cloud should we decide to move some of our applications out of our own data center. It is comforting to know that we have our options open for the future - one less thing to worry about is always good for IT.”

Deployment Details

  • Application Management
    Unidesk
  • Server
    HP
  • Storage
    NetApp
  • EUC Platform
    VMware Horizon
  • Users
    700
  • Application Layers
    300
  • More Info
  • NetApp All-Flash Storage.
  • 80% of users provided with vGPUs.
  • Key Apps Layered: Kaspersky, Printer Drivers, Nvidia, Internet Explorer, VMware Horizon View Agent, AutoCAD, GIS, Building Design Suite Premium, Firefox, Skype for Business, Java, Flash, Evernote, Bechtle, Photoshop, and Adobe Acrobat.

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