4-page Case Study
Posted: 11/20/2013
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NJVC IT Provider Creates Winning High-Performance Virtual Desktop Solution with Upgrade

NJVC manages IT systems for some of the most security-conscious and budget-conscious customers on the planet: the US defense and national intelligence community. To help these customers deliver desktop services more efficiently, cost-effectively, and securely, NJVC upgraded to the Windows Server 2012 R2 operating system and Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 data center solutions. With the latest Microsoft software, NJVC was able to create a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment that can run performance-intensive applications and do so more cost effectively and securely than was possible with previous versions of Windows Server. This helps NJVC be more competitive and its customers more successful. The cost per VDI desktop is lower with Windows Server 2012 R2 than with previous technologies, and security enhancements help keep classified data safe when accessed over a network.

Situation
NJVC is an IT service provider for the United States national intelligence community. It provides cloud services, cyber security, data center services, IT services, and print solutions to US military and intelligence organizations, federal agencies, and commercial organizations that have highly secure IT requirements. NJVC is one of the largest IT contractors working with the United States Department of Defense, providing support in the United States and globally where military or intelligence personnel are stationed. The NJVC global workforce includes more than 1,300 people, with the majority holding security clearances.

*
* By deploying a
VDI environment on Windows Server 2012 R2, we’ve improved our service portfolio, which allows us
to be stronger and more competitive. That’s a huge win for us.
*

David Hood
Senior Systems Engineer, Center for Technology Integration,
NJVC

*
NJVC has seen the need for government IT solutions skyrocket while the budgets for funding them have declined. “The need for IT solutions at all levels of government is larger than ever. But to succeed in this price-sensitive and very competitive environment, we have to stay out front with new technologies and help customers do more with less,” says David Hood, Senior Systems Engineer in the NJVC Center for Technology Integration.

The NJVC Center for Technology Integration (CTI) is tasked with identifying new technologies that NJVC and its customers can use to increase the effectiveness and lower the cost of IT. In 2012, as a result of a CTI recommendation, NJVC upgraded parts of its infrastructure to the Windows Server 2012 operating system to gain more efficient control over IP address management and save thousands of dollars on third-party IP management solutions. It also evaluated and began to deploy the Hyper-V virtualization technology in Windows Server 2012.

In early 2013, the organization again turned to CTI when a major customer asked for a cost-effective way to implement a high-performance virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment. In a VDI environment, user desktops are hosted on remote servers, which are accessed over a network. Users benefit from being able to access their desktops, applications, and data from any location and device. IT administrators benefit from having a centralized, more efficient client environment that is easier to maintain and change.

In addition to this particular customer’s request, other NJVC customers were also interested in using a VDI environment to accommodate employee demand to use personal computing devices for work. The “bring your own device” (BYOD) phenomenon is especially difficult to accommodate in secure government environments, and NJVC felt that VDI was a perfect solution because the computing model would move all desktop content and authentication processes to a central server where both could be better managed.

“This initial request sparked our interest in coming up with more robust VDI solutions,” Hood says. “It looked like a new trending interest for customers, and we want to stay current with technologies that let us address customer concerns and also help customers save money.”

Solution
NJVC participated in the Microsoft Rapid Deployment Program (RDP) for the Windows Server 2012 R2 operating system and Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 data center solutions to carefully review the latest Microsoft VDI offering. “Our environment is completely vendor-agnostic,” Hood says. “We had already looked at VDI solutions from VMware and Xen and wanted to see what Microsoft had in its latest release. The new RemoteFX feature set in Windows Server 2012 R2 was particularly attractive to us.”

*
* To succeed in this price-sensitive
and very competitive environment,
we have to
stay out front
with new technologies and help customers do more with less.
*

David Hood
Senior Systems Engineer, Center for Technology Integration,
NJVC

*
RemoteFX, part of Remote Desktop Services in Windows Server 2012 R2, is a set of end-user experience technologies that enable the delivery of a full-fidelity Windows user experience to a broad range of remote client devices. In Windows Server 2012 R2, RemoteFX has been enhanced to more easily enable a far richer experience on many types of networks and devices

Straightforward Setup
During the RDP, NJVC worked with Microsoft Services Consulting to install Windows Server 2012 R2 on two Dell PowerEdge blade servers and create 20 VDI images running under Hyper-V. The VDI images ran the Windows 8.1 operating system. “We got great support from Microsoft Services Consulting,” says Jonathan Moser, Operations Manager, NJVC CTI. “Our consultant was a wonderful resource; he had a government security clearance, so we could talk freely about our customers with him. He was able to talk directly with the Microsoft product teams to get fast answers to our questions. We were able to make a few modifications and get the new features to work quickly. Without the help of Microsoft Services Consulting, it would have taken us far longer to track down answers.”

NJVC used the simple, intuitive VDI deployment wizard to walk through the steps required to set up a virtual machine or session-based VDI environment. Windows Server 2012 R2 Remote Desktop Services creates and deploys the virtual machines as part of the setup process, reducing the dependency on third-party tools. “The time required to build out the VDI infrastructure was a lot faster than with competitive offerings,” Hood says.

Enhancements to Performance, Storage, and Security
NJVC was quite pleased with the VDI improvements in Windows Server 2012 R2 and the ability to manage customer VDI environments more easily using System Center 2012 R2. “One of the biggest improvements we saw was the overall operating system performance,” Hood says. “More intensive workloads didn’t require as much memory or CPU resources, tasks completed faster, and there were fewer errors.” Better operating system performance translates into greater ability to run demanding workloads in a VDI environment without performance degradation.

Windows Server 2012 R2 also gives NJVC the ability to create large virtual machines to carry a very high resource load. “Although we did not need to create any of these ‘monster’ VMs, it’s nice to know that the capability is there and that we will not easily hit the per-VM resource limitation if a high-performance VM is needed for a special project,” says Ben Kalbfleisch, Systems Engineer, NJVC CTI.

Traditionally, graphics-intensive and other performance-intensive applications have not run well in VDI environments because of network latency delays. The enhancements in RemoteFX deliver performance improvements for these applications. “When we tested graphics- and video-intensive applications, such as Google Earth, we saw much faster renditions than with previous versions of Windows Server,” Hood says. “The performance difference between Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2012 was phenomenal, and the improvements we’ve seen with Windows Server 2012 R2 are equally significant.”

*
* When we tested graphics- and video-intensive applications,
such as
Google Earth,
we saw much faster renditions than with
previous versions of Windows Server.
*

David Hood
Senior Systems Engineer, Center for Technology Integration,
NJVC

*
Storage is a key part of any VDI environment because of the need to store desktops and data in the data center, and Windows Server 2012 R2 Remote Desktop Services supports lower cost storage options such as server message block (SMB)-based file shares. By using SMB storage, NJVC is able to more efficiently use storage, fitting more virtual machines on each storage disk drive than it was able to with Windows Server 2012. “Additionally, the ability to assign a storage QoS [Quality of Service] level to individual virtual machines to provide I/O performance when needed is also a very useful feature,” Kalbfleisch says.

Improvements to data access and information protection in Windows Server 2012 R2 help NJVC deliver a more secure VDI environment. The operating system enables users to easily register personal devices with an organization’s Active Directory Domain Services directory and enable those devices for single sign on access to corporate data. By using Dynamic Access Control in Windows Server 2012 R2, NJVC can classify data on file servers based on their contents, location, and other criteria. NJVC plans to combine Dynamic Access Control with Active Directory Rights Management Services to automatically protect sensitive information.

NJVC uses System Center 2012 R2 to manage its entire Windows estate, including its VDI environment. It uses Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V) to virtualize applications on data center servers and stream them to client devices. It then uses the Operations Manager component of System Center 2012 R2 to monitor the health of its physical and virtual servers and the Configuration Manager component to deploy software to desktops and servers. NJVC is beginning to use the Orchestrator component to automate IT workflows and is considering the Virtual Machine Manager component to automate virtual machine provisioning.

VDI Pool for Employee and Customer Use
Since the RDP, NJVC has scaled out its VDI environment to include about 100 VDI images, and it continues to test the environment’s scalability with respect to storage, CPU, and memory resources. “If the new Hyper-V VDI environment is well received with our internal user community and our customers, we’ll expand it,” Hood says.

Benefits
With its upgrade to the latest versions of Microsoft data center software, NJVC has been able to create a competitive VDI solution that customers can use to run demanding workloads while reducing costs. With a robust VDI solution, NJVC can help security-conscious customers give employees a way to access their desktops over a variety of devices in a more secure manner.

Create Competitive VDI Solution
By participating in the RDP for Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2, NJVC quickly became familiar with the newest offerings from Microsoft, helping it present competitive offerings to customers. “It’s important to us to stay current on trending technologies, and Microsoft RDPs help us do that,” Hood says. “By deploying a VDI environment on Windows Server 2012 R2, we’ve improved our service portfolio, which allows us to be stronger and more competitive. That’s a huge win for us.”

*
* With RemoteFX
and the overall higher performance of Windows Server 2012 R2, we’ll be able to move workloads to a
VDI environment that previously could not be delivered virtually.
*

David Hood
Senior Systems Engineer, Center for Technology Integration, NJVC

*
Give Customers Greater VDI Performance and Efficiency
NJVC uses the performance improvements in Windows Server 2012 R2 to create robust VDI images that can run the most demanding, graphics-intensive workloads. “We could easily meet our original customer’s VDI request by using Hyper-V,” Hood says. “With RemoteFX and the overall higher performance of Windows Server 2012 R2, we’ll be able to move workloads to a VDI environment that previously could not be delivered virtually.”

NJVC can not only offer customers a more powerful VDI environment but a more cost-effective one. “With Windows Server 2012 R2, we can use our infrastructure more efficiently in terms of virtual machine density,” Hood says. “Thanks to the great compute efficiency and new storage options, we can put more virtual machines on a Windows Server 2012 R2 server than on a Windows Server 2008 R2 server. That means reduced cost per desktop.”

Because the Microsoft VDI solution is so comprehensive, NJVC also does not need supplemental third-party tools, which saves money, and System Center makes it easier to manage VDI environments, which helps to save time and costs. “We had already virtualized our applications by using App-V; now, we can easily present those applications virtually within a VDI solution,” Hood says.

NJVC can then centrally manage those VDI images by using the Configuration Manager component of System Center 2012 R2. Through System Center, NJVC and its customers can set and enforce standardized desktop policies, such as preventing employees from installing unauthorized software. “System Center quickly pays for itself, because without it, we’d have to manage individual desktops, which is extremely time-consuming,” Hood says.

Deliver Virtual Desktop to Any Device
The ability to centrally manage and control user desktops delivers a significant security benefit. “In the past, we had a difficult time enabling BYOD because of our customers’ security requirements,” Hood says. “VDI is tailor-made for BYOD, because employees can use any device they want to access their desktops, while we manage and control those desktops centrally. Microsoft has done a great job of providing network access protection and various methods of authentication and protection in Windows Server 2012 R2, so we can design a very secure VDI environment at a reduced cost. This helps us be more competitive and helps our customers satisfy both end-user and security requirements.”

Empower people-centric IT
Empower employees to work virtually anywhere on the PCs and devices they prefer, while providing IT with a single tool for easy, consistent, and more secure management. Solutions such as Microsoft System Center and Windows Intune simplify user and device management, reduce costs, and improve productivity while taking advantage of existing IT infrastructure.

For more information about empowering people-centric IT, go to:
www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/cloud-os/pcit.aspx

For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
www.microsoft.com

For more information about NJVC products and services, call or visit the website at:
www.njvc.com

Solution Overview



Organization Size: 1300 employees

Organization Profile

NJVC is an IT solutions provider for the US intelligence and defense communities and other customers. Based in Chantilly, Virginia, NJVC has more than 1,300 employees working around the world.


Business Situation

NJVC customers asked for high-performance virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions that they could use to give employees secure, anywhere access to their desktops from any device.


Solution

NJVC upgraded to Windows Server 2012 R2 and Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 to take advantage of improvements to VDI setup, performance, cost-efficiency, and management.


Benefits

  • Create competitive VDI solution
  • Give customers greater VDI performance and efficiency
  • Deliver virtual desktop to any device


Hardware
  • Dell PowerEdge blade servers

Software and Services
  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Active Directory Domain Services
  • Microsoft System Center 2012 R2
  • Windows 8
  • Microsoft Consulting Services
  • Datacenter
  • Microsoft Hyper-V
  • Microsoft RemoteFX
  • Windows Server Remote Desktop Services

Vertical Industries
IT Services

Country/Region
United States

Business Need
Cloud & Server Platform

Languages
English

Partner(s)
Microsoft Services

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