Health Network Labs

Health Network Labs: VDI with Unidesk and EMC XtremIO Exceeds Expectations

This laboratory diagnostic testing leader implemented VDI as part of a data center refresh. A multi-vendor technology stack - with Unidesk for efficient app management and EMC XtremIO for high-performance storage - has produced stellar results.

Health Network Laboratories

"For us, the recipe for VDI success was best-of-breed. That may seem counter-intuitive to those who think more vendors means more complexity. But Unidesk is a good example of why it's easier. Its power and simplicity enables my help desk to manage VDI. And it gives us the flexibility to satisfy 16 different testing departments, along with the personal desktop experience our workforce wants."

Harvey Guindi
Chief Information Officer, Health Network Laboratories

Accurate Test Results Demand Exceptional Desktops

Health Network Laboratories (HNL), headquartered in eastern Pennsylvania, provides high quality, advanced laboratory diagnostic testing services to the Lehigh Valley Health Network and other hospitals throughout central and eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Accredited by The College of American Pathologists (CAP), HNL is consistently rated highly by patients, physicians, nursing homes and clients in all areas of laboratory performance and customer satisfaction. A talented team of more than 900 pathologists, scientists and staff take pride in providing patients and physicians with fast, accurate test results.

Delivering these results requires reliable, high performance access to Windows desktops and applications. A new Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) comprised of best-in-class solutions from Cisco, Citrix, EMC, Imprivata, and Unidesk is enabling HNL to meet its "patient-first" requirements. Unidesk is at the heart of the VDI deployment, providing essential desktop provisioning, application delivery, Windows patching, personalization, storage optimization, and break/fix capabilities in one powerful, easy-to-use solution.

Data Center Refresh Presents Opportunity for Desktop Transformation

To meet the increasing demand for its laboratory services, HNL decided to relocate its main operations in 2014 to a new facility that is twice the size of its previous one. Faced with this major move, CIO Harvey Guindi proposed refreshing HNL's outdated data center infrastructure to better accommodate growth and provide for business continuity. The technology refresh was also the perfect opportunity to implement virtual desktops.

Many of the lab workers at HNL are mobile, moving internally between different stations and externally to collaborate with other care providers. VDI would take HNL's existing 7-year terminal server implementation to the next level. Instead of having remote access to a few published applications, employees would be able to access any Windows application from any device at any time. They would also enjoy a much more personal desktop experience.

Explains Guindi, "We wanted the VDI experience to be second to none. Our goal was to have everyone saying 'I don't want this physical desktop with all of these limitations, I want to be on the VDI environment.' The best way to do this was to give them a personally assigned virtual desktop that would stay with them no matter where they went, that would preserve all of their changes, and that would out-perform a physical desktop counterpart."

Getting the Software Right: Unidesk, Citrix, and Imprivata

Guindi's VDI team, led by Security and Technology Officer Eric Rounds, researched VDI software solutions.

Says Guindi, "When we came upon Unidesk, we quickly realized we could achieve a level of application delivery and image management sophistication and flexibility that wouldn't otherwise be possible. We have so many different testing departments - microbiology, pathology, etc. - each with their own custom application needs. We still have Visual Basic apps that we rely on. All of this fit very nicely with Unidesk's layering technology. Managing our environment in any other way would have required a lot of different Windows images, application packaging overhead, and a lot more IT resource. With Unidesk, we can layer even our legacy apps in minutes and assign them from the help desk. When we have to update the OS, we patch our Windows 7 layer once. Unidesk has freed up 4-6 IT administrators to focus on other projects. And with Unidesk's Personalization layer, everyone gets their own personal desktop without the overhead and complexity of profile management."

HNL's experience with Citrix HDX from years of publishing applications with Citrix XenApp led them to choose Citrix XenDesktop for VDI connectivity.

Comments Guindi, "Medical imaging for testing, Microsoft Lync for collaboration, and 1080p YouTube videos for training and certification are the go-to applications for our workforce. We tried other protocols - they just weren't as good as HDX. We had people compare a YouTube video running on VDI through Citrix Receiver with the same video running on a local workstation and they couldn't tell the difference."

With Unidesk and Citrix Desktop forming the perfect combination for VDI management and connectivity, HNL turned its attention to streamlining authentication and access. Not all of HNL's applications are federated through Active Directory, so multiple usernames and passwords were a pain for everyone. Imprivata OneSign was the answer.

Explains Guindi, "We were losing a lot of valuable time logging into desktops. We didn't want to drag this inefficiency into our new VDI environment. Now with Imprivata, our users can tap in with their badge and have instant access to all of their applications through Single Sign On. We estimate that it's saving us 10-15 minutes per day per employee. We're even getting benefits we didn't plan for, such as self-service password recovery and RFID integration. Workers are also less inclined to do bad things like share Windows logins, so we’ve improved compliance."

Getting the Infrastructure Right

HNL took the same best-of-breed approach in selecting its VDI hardware components:

  • Cisco UCS C240 servers for high-performance compute.
  • EMC XtremIO array for scaling to 1,000 desktops and the I/O to support graphics-intensive lab applications and high-definition video.
  • NVIDIA GRID K1 boards for richer graphics and a higher quality user experience.
  • Dell Wyse zero clients for desktop access in remote offices.

Explains Guindi, "We decided to go with the EMC all-flash array to ensure that IOPS wasn't an issue. XtremIO offers de-duplication and compression, which complements Unidesk layering technology for outstanding VDI storage efficiency. We got up to over 600 desktops provisioned and with Unidesk shared layers, we were still using only 500 GB on the XtremIO. In our earlier attempt at VDI before we had XtremIO and Unidesk, 600 desktops required 30 TB."

VDI Exceeding Expectations

More than 830 desktops are now in full production at HNL and the laboratory is on track to virtualize the remaining employees. According to Guindi, VDI has exceeded expectations.

"We had areas where we thought we'd be forced to keep physical desktops, but we're now changing them out, too. The virtual platform is faster, easier, and makes for continuity of work so much better. It has delivered everything we hoped. We're even taking it to all of our remote locations that are connected through our VPN and WAN."

Guindi summarizes the benefits of VDI as follows:

  • Medical technologists can move from one lab to another, tap out, tap in and pick up exactly where they left off in seconds.
  • Workers can use BYOD for office, home, and on-the-go access. Chromebooks, iPads, and home PCs are all supported.
  • Help desk staff are managing VDI day-to-day and solving break/fix problems in seconds, freeing up Tier 2 and 3 network analysts for more strategic projects.
  • HIPAA and overall security compliance are greatly eased now that data is taken off endpoint devices and desktops can be remotely wiped clean at any time.
  • An active-active DR design provides greater business continuity than PCs, with virtual desktops being accessible 24x7.

Unidesk - Bridging Terminal Services, VDI, and Cloud

With Unidesk as the central management solution, VDI has produced stellar results for HNL, making no-compromise desktop virtualization possible. Unidesk's support for terminal services, VDI, and the cloud is exactly what HNL needs as it modernizes its end user computing environment.

Concludes Guindi, "In the healthcare, pharma, and biotech spaces, technology doesn't move as fast as other sectors. We still depend on decades-old applications and multiple desktop and app delivery methods. The only way to manage all of these worlds is Unidesk. We can use it to manage our multi-tenant presentation servers with XenApp and our new persistent desktops with XenDesktop. Knowing Unidesk supports Azure and will support other cloud platforms will enable us to bridge desktop and app delivery gaps as we move into the future."

Deployment Details

  • Application Management
  • Server
  • EUC Platform
    Citrix XenDesktop
  • Storage
  • Users
  • Application Layers
    30 Application layers, 1 Windows OS layer
  • More Info
  • Help Desk Managing VDI
  • Key apps layered by Unidesk - Microsoft Office, Microsoft Lync, Dragon NaturallySpeaking, Imprivata OneSign
  • Citrix for BYOD and mobility management; Imprivata OneSign for authentication and access

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