Egan Company

Egan Company: Desktop Virtualization Transforms Construction Services

Twin Cities construction company accelerates growth and streamlines IT operations with VDI, Unidesk and Tegile.

Egan Company

"Unidesk minimizes how many times the Windows OS and apps are stored, which really cuts down the capacity needed for our virtual desktops. I only wish we had implemented Unidesk sooner. Unidesk makes deployment and delivery of images and applications so easy, our IT interns can do most of our day-to-day VDI management."

Jim Nonn
CIO, Egan Company

Building the Business Case for VDI

Egan Company is an 800-person, 68-year old manufacturing and construction company located in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Egan specializes in mechanical, electrical, curtain wall, fire and life safety, industrial controls, and outside electrical services. Egan’s projects include the Central Corridor Light Rail connecting St. Paul and Minneapolis downtowns, the biggest construction project in the history of the state, and the Minnesota Vikings’ new NFL football stadium.

For Egan Company, the move to Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) had to be made. First, the company wanted to manage continued organic growth without additional IT staff. Next, a switch to VDI would enable the IT department to more easily support remote sites and foremen while they were out on jobs. Switching to VDI also meant greater security, with data no longer accessible on edge devices. Chromebooks and the freedom to use other mobile devices would give Egan employees access to Windows desktops and applications anywhere, anytime. Thin clients would require less energy and less management.

Explains Jim Nonn, Egan CIO, “We’re growing like gangbusters, and we didn’t want to double or triple our helpdesk staff just to manage our growing number of desktops. The VDI combination of Unidesk for layered application delivery and image management, Tegile flash-driven storage arrays for high performance desktop I/O, and VMware Horizon View for secure, high performance desktop virtualization has been a godsend for us. It’s so much easier to add more users, push out apps they need, keep Windows patched, and handle support cases. I only wish we had implemented Tegile and Unidesk sooner because they have made our process of deploying and managing VDI much smoother, and given us a better user experience.”

Laying a Foundation for Growth

Egan Company also wanted an end user computing environment that could help streamline acquisitions. The firm has made more than a dozen in recent years, all of which must be kept confidential until the paperwork is signed and the transaction is official.

At that point, explains Jim Nonn, “All eyes turn to IT. Everyone wants to know when we’ll get the new companies converted to our systems. If the answer isn’t ‘immediately,’ we’re in trouble. The last thing you want is to have delays, or have new employees uncertain about how they’ll get their jobs done. With Unidesk, we can give them virtual desktops customized with just the apps they need the second they’re on our payroll.”

Architecting the Right Infrastructure: Unidesk, Tegile, and VMware

Egan began its VDI deployment with VMware Horizon. The user reaction and new found flexibility confirmed that virtual desktops were the right way to go.

As Jim Nonn puts it, “I love VMware. Our server environment is entirely virtualized with vSphere. The client support, security, and PCoIP performance we get with View really met our needs initially. But as we started to scale, we realized two things were missing.”

Unidesk: Making App and Image Management Easy and Efficient

Customizing and updating desktops started to become a challenge for Egan’s lean IT team as more PCs were virtualized. Most of Egan’s employees are knowledge workers who require a variety of different applications and a high degree of desktop customization.

Adds Nonn, “Every time we recomposed a desktop, a user would lose something. They were spending too much time trying to figure out what had changed and then changing it back. We needed a management solution that was easy to use and would reliably retain the full user state.”

Egan also saw the number of Windows images swell to 15. This equated to long hours patching and updating each image.

Says Nonn, “We had a lot of trouble virtualizing our 70+ apps, so we ended up having 15 different master images with the apps built-in. Having to patch Windows 15 times was far better than having to patch 300 physical PC workstations, but we really wanted to get down to one.”

Unidesk was the answer to these management challenges. Unidesk layering technology provides the same modular application packaging and delivery benefits as legacy application virtualization technology, but without the isolation side effects or lengthy packaging times. Adobe Writer, Microsoft Office, Firefox, AutoCAD, Google Chrome, Microsoft Project, and numerous drivers and plug-ins are just some of the applications that are being delivered by Egan as separate, modular Unidesk layers.

Comments Nonn, “With Unidesk, we have layered all of our apps separate from Windows. Even though we have a lot of desktops with a wide variety of complicated software, we’re down to only one OS layer, giving us even more efficiency from VDI. With Unidesk application delivery and image management being so easy, our IT interns are handling most of the day-to-day VDI management.”

Unidesk's ability to deliver the Windows OS and all applications as independent virtual disks (VMDKs) that are shared by many VMs significantly reduces space requirements for all of Egan's desktops. Now that all unique customizations are being reliably saved in the Unidesk personalization layer, desktop patches and updates no longer cause employees to waste time re-personalizing their desktops. Calls to the help desk have also been reduced. The calls that do come in are now handled by the Help Desk without escalating to Nonn's Tier 2 and 3 IT administrators.

Tegile: High Performance, Easy-to-Manage VDI Storage

The other big challenge faced by Egan’s IT team once VDI began to scale was delivering sufficient IOPS to provide a satisfactory user experience and simplifying the management of the firm’s growing data. A Tegile flash-driven storage array was the answer.

Says Nonn, “Tegile’s use of SSD technology provides enough IOPS to ensure every user has a great desktop experience, even with the demanding apps we use. Unidesk minimizes how many times the Windows OS and applications are stored, which really cuts down the capacity that’s needed for each virtual desktop. Add in Tegile’s de-duplication and compression features, and we’re able to store almost 20 times more desktops on our array, giving us more bang for the buck.”

Stellar Results

The combination of Tegile, Unidesk, and VMware Horizon is hitting the mark with Egan end users and IT.

Egan's first desktops deployed with spinning disks used to take hours to rebuild. With Unidesk and Tegile, 300 desktops now take less than 45 minutes. Storage use was 8-10 GB per desktop; now it is 2.5 GB per desktop. IOPS used to peak at 5,000; now the peak is 110,000. Rack space was 14U; now it is 2U. End users previously rated desktop performance as “laggy;” now it is “fast.”

Concludes Nonn, “It’s shocking how much more we can get done remotely now. VDI has turned us into a 24X7 operation, which is good for our customers, good for our employees, and good for IT. We would not be having this level of success if it weren’t for Tegile and Unidesk.”

Deployment Details

  • Application Management
  • Server
  • Storage
  • EUC Platform
    VMware Horizon
  • Users
  • Application Layers
  • More Info
  • 1 Windows 7 OS layer - no images
  • Help Desk Managing VDI

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