Accidental Benefits

November 19, 2012

by Alex Osorio, Nexus Practice Manager, Data Center – End User Computing

Sometimes the best discoveries are those that happen by accident.  Penicillin was discovered by Alexander Fleming because he didn’t clean up his workstation before going on vacation in 1928.  For one of our customers, it was that his Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) had become a strategic corporate asset.  Here’s the story.

Our customer had a problem.  He’d found this specialized application for one of the corporate departments that would help them share information and collaborate more efficiently.  It would also help everyone to measurably increase their productivity.  But, after stirring up lots of excitement about the new application in the department, our customer realized that he was in a bit of a predicament.  The application only ran in a Windows 7 environment.  Everyone in the department used Windows XP.

Implementing this wonderful new application would mean new desktops and laptops with a new operating system for every end user.  Existing applications would have to be upgraded to the new environment and end users would have to be trained to use the new operating system.  Our customer sat down and calculated that the cost would be high and that implementing the solution would take nine months.

VDI looked like a good alternative.  So, working with our team, we put together a VDI solution that enabled our customer to roll out the new application in just sixty days.  Department members were ecstatic and our customer was a hero.  But, after a few months more, our customer discovered that his VDI implementation was doing much, much more for him than he’d expected.

  • It saved him lots of money – So much money in fact, that he was able to take those funds and invest them into a new storage and server environment that improved the performance of applications used by the entire company.
  • Software upgrades become a “snap” – With only one software image to manage, upgrades that had taken weeks in the past, took minutes instead.
  • Calls to the help desk were reduced by thirty percent – Users and technical support didn’t have to worry about the idiosyncrasies of the devices and applications anymore – and the calls went away.
  • It increased the security of corporate data – Access to corporate applications and data is provided only through a virtual desktop that is centrally controlled, and the company no longer had to provide laptops to contractors to ensure the security of the system.
  • It enabled the company to provide mobile access to applications and data – VDI made it simple to integrate mobile access for tablets and other wireless devices.

In fact, our customer was so successful, that other business units within the company came to him wanting their own VDI environments!

VDI was a pleasant surprise for our customer.  Initially, it was just a solution to a specific problem.  But VDI’s “accidental benefits” have transformed it from a tactical solution to a strategic corporate asset.


3 Statistics to Make You Think – Round 1

October 25, 2011

Earlier this year, we compiled a short video to highlight how pervasive technology has become. This clip is the first in a series of excerpts from that video. Each one contains some fairly startling statistics, and all of them will make you think. Is your network ready? 

Security and Availability are Job #1

August 9, 2011

Global Cash Access is a leading provider of cash access, cash handling & information services. Surprisingly, over 65% of the money wagered in casinos doesn’t walk in the door, but is accessed from within the casino itself. In 2010, GCA processed 90 million financial transactions and delivered over $18 billion in cash to casino floors. That’s $52 million per day, $2.1 million per hour, or $35,000 per MINUTE. For a company with that much cash on the line, uptime isn’t just a necessity, it’s mission-critical. And since millions of customers have entrusted their personal and financial data to the company, security is no less vital.

So when it came time to upgrade their data center, GCA sought out partners who were uniquely positioned to help them in their mission: To ensure that cash can be delivered to casino patrons in a fast, reliable and secure manner. With help from Nexus, GCA migrated its data center to Switch Communications’ SuperNAP – one of the greenest, most powerful data centers in the world. Its network and data center infrastructure now includes:

If you’re ever in Las Vegas, the 407,000 sq ft Switch SuperNAP is well worth a tour. They are the world’s most powerful and greenest data center, and have recently announced a planned  expansion to 2.2 million square feet, making it the largest commercially available and independent technology ecosystem in the world. Security is unparalleled, with armed guards and elaborate protocols required just for the tour. So while the idea of an incident ever striking the facility seems highly unlikely, GCA’s entire data center setup is replicated at their corporate offices for backup and redundancy.

In addition to 100% availability, security and reliability, GCA has realized the following benefits from their data center upgrade:

  • Gained unprecedented scalability and ease of management, freeing engineers for critical projects and reducing operational costs.
  • Saved $800,000 in capital costs and is expected to reduce database licensing costs up to 40%.
  • Reduced carbon footprint by several hundred thousand tons per year.

GCA plans to complete its IT implementation in 2011 and begin migrating its credit-card processing operations in-house in late 2011 or early 2012.

Virtual Collaboration

July 29, 2011

With the consumerization of IT in the workforce today, businesses are spending more and more time chasing down support for virtually unlimited types of devices. From iPads, to PCs, Macs to Android devices, every day seems to introduce a new device that employees want to use.

By decoupling applications from operating systems, we can deliver information securely to virtually any device today – and devices that have yet to be introduced – without significant effort. With virtual collaboration, applications can run on devices such as iPads, Cius tablets, zero client backpacks, PCs, and Macs transparently. Applications such as WebEx Connect can run in a virtual environment, yet still control physical phone devices on the user desktop.

Nexus experts understand the data center, borderless network, and collaboration elements involved in delivering applications to any device safely and securely. This demo we recently gave at Cisco Live shows you the first phases of virtual collaboration, and where the technology is headed:

Ignore At Your Own Risk

March 25, 2011

Gartner Research recently posted the recording of a webinar they hosted called “Technology Trends You Can’t Afford to Ignore.” An intimidating title for sure, and since I’m generally of the opinion that no one in this industry can afford to ignore any technology trends, I gave it my full attention. The webinar was chock-full of surprising statistics, namely:

  • 50% of U.S. 21 year olds have created content on the Web. 70% of U.S. 4 year olds have used a computer.
  • Over 31 billion Google searches were performed —last month —vs. 2.6 billion 3 years ago.
  • More video was uploaded to YouTube in the past two months than if ABC, CBS and NBC had been airing new content 24/7 since 1948.
  • The average American teenager sends 2,282 text messages per month.
  • If Facebook was a country, it would be the 3rd largest in the world. Twitter would be 7th.
  • In 1997, a gigabyte of Flash memory cost $7,870. Today, it costs $1.25.

The world is definitely changing, and Gartner has identified 10 trends to stay on top of to ensure you don’t become extinct along the way. Some are a bit obvious – I think we’ve all heard plenty about Virtualization and Cloud Computing lately – but others are things you may not have thought of – or may not have considered the importance of to your business. Here’s the list itself:

  1. Virtualization Is Just Beginning
  2. Big Data —The Elephant in the Room
  3. Energy Efficiency and Monitoring
  4. Unified Communications —Extended
  5. Staff Retention and Retraining
  6. Social Networks —Ready or Not
  7. Legacy Migrations —Your Users
  8. Compute Density —Scale Vertically
  9. Cloud Computing
  10. Converged Fabrics

For decades, the move to “go green” has been at the forefront of consumer awareness, but with the explosion of content creation and the need for increased storage, data centers have been consuming ever more real estate, power, and cooling costs. In fact, Gartner now estimates that data centers can consume 40x more energy than the offices they support. The power issue is definitely moving up the food chain and EPA metrics aren’t far away.

The other “sleeper” on this list is the issue of staff retention and training. Not for the fact that it made the list, but how high up the list it made. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that people in today’s workforce will have 10 to 14 jobs by the age of 38. While technical depth and expertise is growing, broad general experience in IT is becoming more and more rare. Companies must find ways to increase cross-training and encourage continuous learning.

The Gifts of Cloud

January 4, 2011

It’s the New Year, and like school children coming back from their holiday break, we took a minute to compare notes on our gifts. This article by James Urquhart seems to sum up, as he puts it, “The top 12 gifts of cloud from 2010.” The “gifts” that make his list:

  1. The growth of cloud and cloud capacity
  2. The acceptance of the cloud model
  3. Private cloud debated…to a truce
  4. APIs in–and out–of focus
  5. Cloud legal issues come to the forefront
  6. Cloud economics defined
  7. The rise of DevOps
  8. Open source both challenged and engaged
  9. Introducing OpenStack
  10. Amazon Web Services marches on
  11. Platform as a Service steps up its game
  12. Traditional IT vendors take their best shots

Whether or not you agree with the list, or consider them gifts, it’s a pretty good look back at 2010 and how far the cloud has come.

As we enter 2011, it’s time to start taking stock of how the cloud will change business models and the traditional roles of IT. To kick-start your thinking (and maybe some planning), here’s a great summary of virtualization and cloud computing predictions for 2011 from leading analysis firms.

Powerful Payoffs Linked to Desktop Virtualization

November 30, 2010

Desktop virtualization can create business value by improving the ability of organizations to manage their desktop environments, according to research firm IDC. Such moves, the firm adds, enable organizations to reduce desktop total cost of ownership (TCO), while enhancing security, availability, and agility.

IDC contends organizations can maximize the return on investment (ROI) associated with deploying desktop virtualization by:

  • Focusing on the agility and flexibility that centralized virtual desktops can enable. The most successful desktop virtualization deployments are used to improve the flexibility and agility with which IT can respond to the needs of the overall business and tend to be deployed in instances where traditional management platforms are less effective, such as call center environments and offshore locations.
  • Understanding the limitations of desktop virtualization. Centralized virtual desktops (and server-based computing as a whole) have specific limitations that will affect the ways in which the technology can be most effectively used. Those interested in leveraging desktop virtualization in their environments must fully understand those limitations in order to understand how and to whom an organization can best apply the technology.
  • Providing sufficient time for piloting and testing. Organizations must set realistic expectations regarding the time it will take to deploy their environments because this will have an impact on the success of any project. Because desktop virtualization is relatively new and lacks best practices, pilots will need to be extensive in order to ensure that transitions to production environments occur smoothly.

Perhaps the most interesting finding in the report is its analysis showing that the cost of a desktop client falls dramatically as you factor in issues such as IT labor.

Hardware and software, according to IDC, “represent less than 20% of the cost of keeping an employee client enabled. The IT labor associated with installing, administering, and supporting the client represents over 80% of the annual client cost per user. And [desktop virtualization’s] effect on reducing that labor requirement offers compelling arguments.”

As the IDC analysts see it, desktop virtualization client users “require less than a third of the labor that users armed with traditional PCs require. Our studies showed that users enabled via [desktop virtualization] required 67% less support and administration labor than traditional PC-enabled users — $425 per user per year in IT labor versus $1,298.”

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