HASSELL is an international network of design studios that provides architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, planning and urban design services to public, corporate and private clients. Staff use a wide variety of specialist and expensive design applications. Since these applications are used intermittently, HASSELL restricted the number of application licences it purchased and ICT staff installed the applications as required. However, the process of decommissioning and reinstalling the applications on desktops was disruptive and time-consuming. In addition, ICT had difficulty tracking actual usage, so they could not be sure that the licences were efficiently allocated. In October 2008, HASSELL virtualised its most complex design application suite using Microsoft® Application Virtualization. As a result, ICT could track usage and reassign access within minutes rather than hours. Application management became more transparent and licence allocation more efficient.
Founded in 1938, HASSELL is an international network of design studios. It is a multidisciplinary practice structured around architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, planning and urban design with special capabilities in integrated sustainability. Approximately 860 staff are located in 12 studios in Australia and Asia. Landmark projects include Sydney’s National Institute of Dramatic Art and the Olympic Park Station.
About 80 per cent of HASSELL staff are designers who use a wide range of specialist design applications. However, usage is fluid, with most staff needing access to specific packages intermittently, depending on the particular job they are working on. These are typically high-value/low-volume applications so HASSELL policy was to purchase a small number of licences and share usage between staff.
||We had licences for software just sitting on desktops doing nothing, because we couldn’t track and analyse usage.
||Bill Rue, Chief Information Officer, HASSELL
The HASSELL Information and Communication Technology (ICT) team was required to juggle deployment of the main design application suite, decommissioning and reinstalling it on different desktops. This needed to be done several times a week, and took a couple of hours on each occasion. Designers also paid a price as they did not have immediate access to the design package when the need arose.
“If we were unable to respond quickly, or if the designers needed urgent access, we often had to negotiate priority between staff, and sometimes ask them to swap desks,” says Bill Rue, Chief Information Officer, HASSELL. “This was not desirable in a high-pressure creative environment, and it meant that the business was not operating efficiently.
“In addition, we found it difficult to keep track of our licences,” he adds. “We had licences for software just sitting on desktops doing nothing, because we couldn’t track and analyse usage.”
In late 2008, ICT began to consider alternative ways of deploying the creative design application suite. There were two objectives: to provide a responsive method of distributing software for short- and long-term use, and to reduce expenditure on licensing to a legal minimum.
An ideal solution would enable staff to access the design application suite on demand. A logical way of doing this would be to virtualise the suite; although its complexity meant that this would not be straightforward.
However, HASSELL ICT engineers were confident that it could be done and in October 2008, they began working through all the configuration options, using Microsoft® Application Virtualization 4.5.
The virtualised application suite was linked to Active Directory®, so that it downloads automatically onto a desktop whenever an accredited user logs on. The ICT team manages access rights via user groups and ensures that the size of the user group matches the number of licences HASSELL has purchased. The virtualised applications suite was rolled out in November of 2008.
By enabling ICT to reassign licences quickly from one user to another, HASSELL has managed to contain application licence expenditure while increasing application availability. In addition, the ICT team spends less time installing and decommissioning the creative design suite and has started to virtualise other specialist applications.
Since access to the application suite is gained from logging on, the ICT team can deploy the suite on request.
||In the past, it took several hours to install, configure and update a desktop. Now, it can be done straight away, simply by adding an individual to the user group.
||Bill Rue, Chief Information Officer, HASSELL
“In the past, it took several hours to install, configure and update a desktop,” says Rue. “Now, it can be done straight away, simply by adding an individual to the user group. This means the designers are not inconvenienced by the logistics of application management and are therefore more productive.”
Efficient application management
Licence allocation is also more efficient because the ICT team can track usage through the virtualised application console. They can see where a suite is being underused and reallocate it.
“Knowing precisely who is using which applications makes the business much more flexible and resilient,” says Rue.
In addition, because the application suite isn’t physically installed on the desktops, it does not interfere with existing desktop applications.
“This means that the ICT team can be confident about the general health of their systems, and spend less time firefighting complex desktop malfunctions,” says Andrew McMurray, TSP – Management Solutions, Microsoft.
Efficient new investment
The managed virtualised environment has also reduced the cost of investing in new applications, both in terms of licensing and implementation.
“We recently decided to upgrade the suite,” says Rue. “This is a big investment decision, and we could do it because we can proactively manage usage. That means we don’t have to buy an excessive number of licences.”
The purchase decision was made easier because the ICT team could test and implement it faster in a virtualised environment.
“It took us about a year to deploy the original suite across all studios,” Rue adds. “This time, we tested the application upgrade on an internal build, and then deployed it within weeks. We had to repeat this at other studios because of idiosyncrasies in each studio set-up. However, our implementation and support costs are lower because if we find issues, such as patches, we can deal with them offline.”
Since virtualising the design application suite, HASSELL has virtualised a range of other applications, including Google Earth and Autodesk’s, AutoCAD – a design collaboration tool. To manage this array of virtual applications, HASSELL began testing Microsoft® System Centre Configuration Manager.
In February 2009, HASSELL built a proof of concept to determine how Configuration Manager could help the ICT team increase control over the software deployment environment.
“Configuration Manager is part of an integrated strategy for managing both installed and virtualised applications,” says Rue. “The administration console gives us transparent monitoring of all application usage, so we can conduct an audit of all our software assets.
“The proof of concept also showed how we could standardise security and maintain standard application settings for staff irrespective of the desktop they are using. Just as with the virtualised design application, this significantly increases the flexibility we can offer our staff.”
Microsoft virtualisation is an end-to-end strategy that can profoundly affect nearly every aspect of the IT infrastructure management lifecycle. It can drive greater efficiencies, flexibility, and cost effectiveness throughout your organisation. From accelerating application deployments; to ensuring systems, applications, and data are always available; to taking the hassle out of rebuilding and shutting down servers and desktops for testing and development; to reducing risk, slashing costs, and improving the agility of your entire environment – virtualisation has the power to transform your infrastructure, from the data center to the desktop.
For more information about Microsoft virtualisation solutions, go to: www.microsoft.com/virtualization
For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, please call 13 20 58 or go to: www.microsoft.com/systemcenter/appv/default.mspx
For more information about HASSELL services, please call (+61) 3 8102 3000 or visit the website at: www.hassell.com.au