Case study Architects, Engineering & Construction

Creating a master plan for future work

How utilising a Proof of Concept (PoC) helped explore the benefits and usability of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

JTP are an award winning innovative architecture, masterplanner and placemaker practice with locations in London, Edinburgh and Hangzhou as well as users based all over the world. Shortlisted for the second year running for one of the most prestigious awards in the architects calendar – the AJ100 Practice of the Year, JTP are always looking for ways to continually innovate their business practice, improve collaboration globally and ensure they retain and attract talented people.

The ability to offer their people flexible working is a key part of their future business strategy, and the ability to access high end graphical IT resources from any location is essential to a productive, efficient and creative design process.

The JTP challenge.

How do you provide collaborative working from multiple disparate locations without compromising on quality?

JTP are looking to provide their workforce with total flexibility, allowing colleagues to access IT resources from wherever they work, on whatever device they use.

JTP had heard much talk around the use of Graphical Processing Units (GPU) within a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) environment to allow high end users access to their architectural models but were unsure of which method or product would be a best fit for them. Historically utilising CAD and BIM applications over a VDI environment performed poorly as the applications required access to GPUs to perform complex calculations. These hardware GPUs were easy to install within a workstation but were not available for servers in a datacentre environment. Recently the technology has matured and is now capable of performing this function.

JTP did not want to invest in a particular product to find out it either did not work as expected or did not fulfil all of their requirements. They wanted to make sure that VDI would solve their business problems and have peace of mind that any investment made would be beneficial to the entire organisation. Implementation of any VDI platform must be planned, designed and installed correctly to achieve a maximum return on any investment made. JTP wondered if this technology would work for them.

Given our understanding of their sector JTP asked us to carry out a Proof of Concept (PoC). Waterstons have vast experience in this technology and its use in the AEC sector and so we recommended Citrix with Nvidia’s GRID vGPU technology.

VDI in the AEC sector has its limits and sometimes VDI is not a good fit for some organisations. With VDI people wonder if the technology will perform as well as a workstation under their desks. Will such a system be able to handle the models and applications they use? We’ve found it’s a concern lots of businesses share when it comes to employing new technologies. Enabling customers to test drive new technology using a Proof of Concept before any large investment is made can give confidence and allow them to weigh up the benefits and risks of any implementation. Users are able to try their familiar applications and see how it performs which is a key criteria for evaluating the success of any VDI PoC. Issues around software compatibility can also be ironed out and rectified to make sure no show stopping issues are found at a later date. Finally, end users and IT staff can get a feel of how the products work, and how they can take advantage of its features in a production environment.

Implementation

We’ve performed a number of Proof of Concepts for our customers. Utilising our own high end self-contained hardware platform with Nvidia GRID M60 GPUs we examined JTPs requirements for a VDI solution and determined Citrix XenDesktop would be the best solution. Analysing the types of users at JTP, we found that a mix of VDI and session based desktops would fit the need of JTP’s users.

A Citrix environment was installed and configured. Golden images were created containing all applications required for testing. These were then cloned utilising Citrix Machine Creations Services (MCS) and deployed to users, streamlining the deployment process. Training during the PoC to JTP’s internal IT team was also given, allowing them to deploy more machines as required. Users from around the globe were asked to connect and fully test the applications in use. JTP utilise a number of applications such as Autodesk’s Revit and Adobe’s Creative Suite which were all utilised heavily during the PoC.

We enjoy working with Waterstons, as they have a huge wealth of expertise, which is available whenever we need, delivered in a very friendly and helpful way.

The Results

JTP were extremely impressed with the results from the PoC. Users from around the globe including Switzerland and even further afield in Goa were able to connect to IT resources, presented via Citrix, and access applications and projects as if they were in the office. Users found the experience to be excellent and the benefit of being able to work remotely, from any device, was key to this decision.

JTP now have the confidence that if a VDI solution was implemented it would meet their current requirements but also have the ability to meet future ones too. True workforce flexibility provided!

We looked at VDI to help facilitate agile working, improve the remote experience, and also streamline the process of deploying PCs and software updates. The POC carried out with Waterstons proved that, the type of VDI which was recommended by Waterstons, would be a good fit for our office, leaving the trial users very upset when they had to return to their old desktop workstations.
Nick Cottle IT Manager