Bentleys Brisbane has begun a pilot of virtual desktops, with the independent Queensland accountancy using appliances that bring together both storage and compute in a single package as an alternative to traditional SAN infrastructure.
Bentleys currently has some 150 desktops running Microsoft Windows XP Pro. The shift to VDI at the accountancy came about as the business sought to to upgrade to the 64-bit edition of Windows 7, network administrator Garry Patmore said.
"The VDI model obviously gives us flexibility with administration from an IT point of view," Patmore said.
"Whereas at present we have to update client-end compute applications on all desktops, going to a VDI solution takes some of the overhead of that away that was a fairly compelling reason."
The accountancy virtualized its server infrastructure in late 2010 using VMware's vSphere, so the business was open to desktop virtualization, Patmore said.
"Although Bentleys don't like to live on the bleeding edge, the directors are quite amenable to embracing new technology," he said.
"We reduced our requirement for server infrastructure quite dramatically with that, because obviously we can stand up 90 per cent of our servers virtually now."
Mobility is also a significant driver for VDI deployment. The business has a flexible approach to working from home, Patmore said. "We had a quite clunky implementation of a remote desktop environment [so] improving that was certainly a serious factor."
Management has also embraced "the iPad world" he added. "The ability to get a desktop on an iPad was of significant interest at the director level." The business is also interested in making it easy for accountants to visit customers in their workplaces.
Initially, the company looked at leveraging or expanding its existing EMC SAN. "We were fairly well down that path when Nutanix was raised as a possible alternative by one of our preferred suppliers," Patmore said. The company will use VMware View to provide virtual desktops, but will use Nutanix appliances to drive them.
Nutanix appliances combine compute with flash and disk storage in a single 2U chassis and can be used to deploy VDI in a modular fashion, adding more appliances as user numbers grow. The company opened an Australian office in June this year.
"It takes up a lot less space in the rack, it gives you the same grunt that we were looking at from a SAN point of view without the huge impact on our data room for cooling and power," Patmore said.
Patmore is hoping to begin a full rollout of virtual desktops in the middle of December and be in full production by the second week of January. Initially, virtual desktops will be delivered using the existing fat desktops, but as they "fall off the edge of the desk" Bentleys will replace them with thin clients, Patmore said.