Granite Construction wanted to update its 2,500 desktops to the Windows 7 operating system while reducing the hardware, software, and operating costs of a traditional operating system upgrade. It got just that by adopting Microsoft and Citrix®
virtualization technology. The solution will save the company US$1.5 million in hardware replacement, hundreds of thousands of dollars in other costs, plus serve as a robust business continuity solution.
Granite Construction isn’t so special. Not so special, at least, in having trimmed its IT budget during the recession as part of a broader effort to pare expenses—many companies in similar straits took similar actions. Nor was the company special after
the recession, when it found itself in need of major IT investments to compensate for upgrades not made during the lean years.
But this was catch-up with a difference: While the recession was over, money remained tight. Granite Construction would have to implement an effective technology upgrade without the level of funds that would have been available for this purpose a few years
A key target for an upgrade was the company’s desktop and other client devices. Most ran on the Windows XP operating system—while more and more of the applications that Granite Construction wanted to use, such as a new environmental resource planning system,
required Windows 7. An upgrade to its approximately 2,500 desktops and other endpoints would also give outside workers, such as estimators and site managers, state-of-the-art productivity tools.
Replacing much of its aging client-side hardware would come at tremendous capital cost to Granite Construction. Deploying and maintaining new hardware and software would add to operating cost.
||With Hyper-V, Citrix, and System Center, we’re able to deploy Windows 7 far faster than we could otherwise, saving us months of deployment time.
| Patrick Jean
Manager of Enterprise Technology, Granite Construction
And there was another challenge for Granite Construction: The company saw a large-scale upgrade as an opportunity to address its contingencies for business continuity. A business disruption for even just a few hours could mean the loss of millions of dollars
in revenue if the company missed a proposal or contract deadline.
The company saw virtualization as a way to rapidly deploy Windows 7, with the added potential to reduce hardware, software, and operating costs, and to serve as the basis for a business continuity solution.
The company already used VMware, which made it the likely choice to support a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). But Granite Construction didn’t choose VMware. Instead, it chose the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system with Hyper-V (an upgrade to Windows
Server 2012 is planned).
“The licensing costs for VMware were significantly higher than for Hyper-V,” says Patrick Jean, Manager of Enterprise Technology at Granite Construction. “We saw no significant benefit to paying more for VMware.”
A cost-effective hypervisor was only one reason for choosing Microsoft technology. Another was the Microsoft System Center 2012 management suite. Granite Construction was familiar with previous Microsoft System Center products, even using System Center to
help manage non-Windows software, such as Oracle Enterprise Linux. Now, it is using System Center 2012 for virtual machine management, software and update deployment, monitoring, backup, and workflow management, and to manage the HP DL385 G7 hardware at the
base of the new infrastructure.
For the VDI itself, Granite Construction already had a solution: Citrix XenDesktop® and Citrix XenApp®. The company uses these Citrix® products, together with Hyper-V, to deliver desktops and applications to any employee with network access. The company
manages the Citrix® virtual desktops and application sessions by using Microsoft System Center from a central location in the data center. The VDI runs on the company’s current PCs; over time, Granite Construction will replace them with lower cost, thin-client
Granite Construction is using Microsoft and Citrix® technology to boost job-site productivity; reduce hardware, software, and operating costs; and deliver a robust solution for business continuity.
Reduced Latency Boosts Job-Site Productivity
Granite Construction has succeeded in giving employees access to Windows 7 desktops and applications—wherever they are. “Access to documents is crucial at job sites,” says Jean. “It can be difficult for site managers to work with slow connections between
local PCs and the data center. With Microsoft and Citrix®, that problem is solved. Latency is reduced, and site workers can be more productive.”
Saves $1.5 Million over Course of Hardware Replacement Cycle
The company succeeded in deploying Windows 7 while avoiding the traditional expenses associated with doing so. For example, Granite Construction is replacing far fewer desktops than it would have replaced for local deployments of Windows 7—and it’s
replacing them with low-cost thin clients, rather than PCs. It estimates that it will avoid a capital cost of US$180,000 on desktop replacements (300 PCs at $600 each), with that number rising to about $1.5 million for 2,500 PCs over the hardware replacement
Jean says that using Hyper-V saves the company about $320,000 in VMware licensing—and that it plans to completely replace VMware with Hyper-V over time. By replacing branch office backup servers with centralized backup using System Center, Granite Construction
will reduce hardware and licensing costs by $175,000.
Operating costs will be lower, too. Using Hyper-V to support both Windows and Linux eliminates the cost of maintaining two hypervisors. Similarly, using a single management tool set, System Center, eliminates the cost of maintaining multiple tool sets. Jean
sees other savings, too.
“With Hyper-V, Citrix®, and System Center, we’re able to deploy Windows 7 far faster than we could otherwise, saving us months of deployment time,” he says.
Achieves Robust Business Continuity
Because VDI desktops can be accessed from anywhere with a network connection, the system also meets Granite Construction’s need for a more robust business continuity solution.
“If someone’s desktop goes up in smoke, we can give him or her the same desktop, with the same icons and the same kids on the same wallpaper, immediately,” Jean says. “And if an office or site becomes inaccessible, we can do the same for all affected workers.”
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