Leith Automotive Group

Leith Automotive Group: Unidesk Enables Company-Wide Desktop Virtualization

The largest auto dealer group in North Carolina started VDI with VMware and cut costs by finishing it with Microsoft. Unidesk makes this hybrid cloud flexibility and IT budget savings possible.

Leith Management

"Unidesk delivers the same, easy-to-manage desktop with Microsoft or VMware, which made the decision to use Microsoft VDI for our 1,200 desktop expansion easy. My expectation is we'll spend significantly less than what we spent for the first desktops with VMware."

David Prince
Information Systems Director, Leith Management

Modern Desktops for Today's Fast-Moving Business

Leith Automotive Group was established in 1969 in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. What began with the opening of a single-point Lincoln dealership has grown into an automotive dealership group representing 27 different car manufacturers.

Like many commercial enterprises, Leith found that its existing PC infrastructure could no longer keep pace with business needs. The company's reputation for outstanding customer service demanded that employees have access to the latest applications. Yet, with Leith's 2,000 employees distributed across several campuses throughout the state, managing and updating physical endpoints was becoming more of a challenge for IT. Furthermore, the company wanted to consolidate data in its data center to minimize the need to duplicate, merge, and synchronize different versions.

Information Systems Director David Prince knew that the time had come to replace PCs with virtual desktops. VDI could offer the application agility needed by Leith's fast-moving business, while making desktop and application management simpler for the company's IT team. Moving data off of client devices and into the data center would not only enable employees to collaborate using one centralized copy, but it would also improve security.

Phase 1 - 800 Desktops with Unidesk and VMware

Prince's team deployed its first 800 virtual desktops using VMware Horizon for desktop connectivity, VMware vSphere for virtual infrastructure, EMC XtremIO for storage, Cisco UCS for compute, and Unidesk for integrated image management, application layering, and user personalization. The results have been stellar.

Comments Prince, "We've been in production with VDI for a year, and we're thrilled with it. Unidesk application and persistent layers give our executives and administrative staff a personal desktop experience that performs better and is more secure than their legacy desktops. Application delivery is easier and more efficient than ever thanks to Unidesk layering technology. We only have to patch our Windows 7 64-bit instance and our apps once before deploying to desktops."

Unidesk is a modern approach to delivering and managing applications using virtual disk "layers." Instead of traditional and tedious application install/uninstall operations, Leith IT administrators simply assign Unidesk app layers to the desktops that need them. Unidesk attaches the virtual disks to each desktop, merging the new layers with existing layers to form a unified C: file system and registry. This approach makes rollbacks and patches just as easy as initial app delivery.

Adds Prince, "We now have about 80 app layers, including apps from different car manufacturers, our internal CRM system, and Microsoft Office. Assigning layers is so easy that we transitioned it to our help desk, freeing up our more senior IT staff for other projects."

Phase 2 - 1,200 Desktops with Unidesk and Microsoft

The initial VDI deployment was a success. But Leith soon found itself facing another challenge - how to right-size the infrastructure to provide virtual desktops to the remaining 1,200+ customer service and sales staff in the dealerships.

Explains Prince, "The rest of our desktops just need to run a few browser-based apps - nothing fancy. We saw the management benefits Unidesk gave us with our first VDI deployment, so we didn't want to buy more PCs. We just wanted straightforward virtual desktops that are easy to manage."

Prince and the IT team did some research. They found that Microsoft Hyper-V, which the company already owns as part of its Windows Server agreement, was now well-suited to VDI workloads. They also learned that Microsoft had chosen Unidesk as its image management partner for Microsoft VDI on Hyper-V and remote application delivery from the Azure cloud. Lastly, they found that Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS) and the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) could now offer a high performance user experience. Since many of the PCs would be reused as virtual desktop clients, no Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) licensing was required. The only cost for the remaining users would be Microsoft RDS Client Access Licenses (CALs), Lenovo System x for compute, and Unidesk.

Says Prince, "Unidesk offers the same application and image management simplicity with Microsoft and VMware, which made the decision to use Microsoft VDI for our 1,200 desktop expansion easy. My expectation is we'll spend significantly less than what we spent for the first desktops with VMware."

Finishing the Enterprise-Wide Deployment

More than 350 virtual desktops are now in production with Microsoft RDS on Hyper-V. Unidesk provides the same streamlined application packaging and image management. Lenovo provides the server infrastructure, while the same EMC XtremIO storage array supports both VDI instances. The VMs are performing as expected and users are happy with their new digital workspaces.

Existing PCs are being reused for virtual desktop access today, but Prince expects that they will eventually wind up with a 50/50 split between PCs and new, energy-efficient thin clients. The Leith IT team has already begun lab testing with Windows 10, and anticipates that the new Hyper-V virtual desktops will be the first to move to Microsoft's newest OS.

Concludes Prince, "Unidesk has given us the flexibility to choose whatever cloud infrastructure we want, from heavy compute for high-resource users, to less costly compute for simpler needs, thereby minimizing our costs. Today, we've gone with internal VDI on our own infrastructure. In the future, we may want to go with a public cloud solution. Or maybe go with a hybrid cloud solution where some users get internal VDI desktops and some get published desktops or apps from the cloud."

"We've also found that Unidesk makes Windows 10 migration and app re-packaging easier. Why go through the hassle of MSIs and isolating apps, when you can just create virtual disk layers and deliver them anywhere in minutes? With Unidesk, we know all of these options are open to us, helping us to be an agile service provider to the business."

Deployment Details

  • Application Management
    Unidesk
  • Server
    Cisco, Lenovo
  • Storage
    EMC XtremIO
  • EUC Platform
    Microsoft RDS, VMware Horizon
  • Users
    2000
  • Application Layers
    80
  • More Info
  • 1 Windows 7 OS Layer today
  • Easy migration to Windows 10 in near future

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