Weblogic Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Michael Meiner, Michael Bushong, Avi Rosenthal

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog, Microservices Expo, @CloudExpo

Containers Expo Blog: Case Study

Case Study: The Beneficial Synergy Between Virtualized Servers & Desktops

The City of Pittsburgh has embraced virtualization at the server level and now at the desktop level

Our next VMworld case study interview focuses on the City of Pittsburgh’s Information Systems organization and how they’ve deeply embraced virtualization at the server level and now increasingly at the desktop level. We’ll see how critical city services in Pittsburgh are being supported using VMware View 4.6 and the new View 5.0 version and how the beneficial synergy between virtualized servers and desktops is shaping up.

This story comes as part of a special BriefingsDirect podcast series from the VMworld 2011 Conference in Las Vegas the week of August 29. The series explores the latest in cloud computing and virtualization infrastructure developments.

Here to share his story on bringing VDI to his employees is Alex Musicante, the System Security Architect in the City Information Systems department in Pittsburgh. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. [Disclosure: VMware is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Your environment is almost 100 percent virtualized on the server side. First, why is there such a holistic embrace, and how has that provided the confidence for you to move now aggressively into the desktop virtualization space as well?

Musicante: The City of Pittsburgh decided to embrace virtualization five years or so ago, and we did this in a development environment with VMware. The confidence was not there for the server virtualization, and we decided it's a good place to offer development to our internal engineers.

From there, we kept building and building, and we decided to put our first production system on there. Without a problem, everything started going. What virtualization had to offer for us was higher availability, higher reliability.

When we were remote, we had full console access. We were able to offer higher reliability on our development than our production. That was what led us to go to production. It's very difficult in this day and age with budgets and all that. We're now doing more with less. In order to be able to accommodate that and be able to handle the increased workload with fewer people, it has been embracing server virtualization, and virtualization in general.

In server virtualization we currently have 16 hosts, 98 percent virtual. There are about 250 or so virtual machines (VMs) between two data centers; and we are using VMware Site Recovery Manager to replicate or to bring up the replicated site in the event of a disaster or any planned maintenance that we need to perform at one data center versus the other.

Gardner: I’d like to hear more about your desktop virtualization strategy, but let's learn a little bit more about the scope and scale of your mission-critical set of services.

Musicante: The City of Pittsburgh’s City Information Systems Department, which I work for, has about 3,000 users that they support. That ranges from all public safety -- Police, Fire, EMS, and Building Inspection -- to the branches of government -- the Mayor’s Office, the City Council, and Controller’s Office as well as other important departments like the Finance Department, Personnel, Human Resources, and Parks and Recreation. That's who we're supporting, and each and every one of them has their own little caveats of technology that they need.

Gardner: You’re also of course concerned about security, performance, disaster recovery, which you’ve already mentioned. How has virtualization helped you not just in cutting cost, but in making these more hardened, more resilient services?

Musicante: In terms of hardening and security, when we took our virtualization approach, we started out by saying that we were going to physical-to-virtual (P2V) and migrate a lot of these machines. As we proceeded and matured in that environment, we decided that we were going to build fresh and build new.

So when we did our server virtualization, we looked at virtualization in general. It became an opportunity for us to evaluate how we were going to harden things, how we were going to secure things, and since now we don’t have to support that many physical servers, we can expand on our current capacity, and hardware.

We’re able to separate things, where servers that were multi-functional servers, database server, file server, web server, all in one, now get to be three different servers, and only allow communications to the specific application and supports what they need.

Storage came about and offered a lot more flexibility and a lot of benefit to the City of Pittsburgh, but it was not without hassle.

Gardner: Any issues around storage? Has that been something that you’ve been able to wreak some efficiencies out as well?

Musicante: Storage was very interesting for the City of Pittsburgh. They were coming from an environment where everything was on direct-attached storage (DAS), and going to a storage area network (SAN) environment, which they had. They had an array with an HP 6000, but they were only using 500 gigabytes at the time. So storage transition was huge in terms of reliability, but as well as cost at the same time.

It was an unexpected thing from the city’s perspective, as they were not in the market for an array where everything is central. It was all individual and unique to each host and physical server. So storage came about and offered a lot more flexibility and a lot of benefit to the City of Pittsburgh, but it was not without hassle.

Gardner: So you’ve gone through that process -- 98 percent is very impressive on your server, and your infrastructure. What prompted you to now take the additional step to use VMware View and move into desktop virtualization?

Musicante: The City of Pittsburgh moved into desktop virtualization with very similar characteristics as we looked at the server virtualization as how can we offer higher reliability and higher support, give us more management from a central standpoint back at our remote offices, and offer them to the clients and given them the same if not a better level service for additional benefits from administrative.

Security provisioning

There were a bunch of reasons, and those are like pushing out software updates without downtime for the users. They just log off and get a new one. It was security provisioning software, keeping all the storage and everything is back in our data center, so nothing leaves the facility.

Those were motivating factors as well as keeping administrative cost down. That was the push, and it actually took off. It took some time, but it's being embraced more than I ever would have thought it would have been.

Gardner: Let's learn a little bit more about the nature of your distribution requirements. Obviously, you have City Hall. You’ve got some centralization. You’ve got police headquarters and fire headquarters, but you’ve also got a lot of distributed sites around the city. So let us better understand your distribution requirements when you’re going to desktop virtualization?

Musicante: There are 175 remote facilities, and they range from connectivity of facilities that are on dark fiber, with 100, 200, 300, 500 users, to these individual remote offices that are located in the park facility, and they have one or two employees that are coming across the DSL line.

One of the major complaints was the problem with connectivity where people are on DSL. They would load the roaming profile or pull documents or upload files and they would see this huge lag where it took them upwards of 30 minutes to start their day off. They're now able to go into View, sign-in, and they're in. So we pretty much recovered 30 extra minutes for some of these employees on a daily basis.

Currently, we're in a mixed mode. We have two environments which we're trying to expedite to move off of.

Gardner: How are you leveraging the PCoIP bandwidth improvements for the WAN?

Musicante: Very well. With each version it's definitely gotten better. Still from a management side we do maintain an IPSec tunnel to all of our facilities.

So PC-over-IP has been what we’ve been using for our remote facilities, even back in the 3.0 days. When 4.1 PC-over-IP came out, 4.5, 4.6, it's been progressively getting better and has higher availability with more response. When 4.6, matured, they gave us the View Security Server, and even now with 5, it has increased and lowered the actual requirements necessary for traffic. So some of our facilities are not feeling the same same pain that they were prior to.

Gardner: As you’ve been making this transition, it would be good to understand better how you’ve adopted version 5. To what degree are you using version 5 for View on your desktop virtualization installations?

Musicante: Currently, we're in a mixed mode. We have two environments which we're trying to expedite to move off of, but we currently have a 4.6 environment and a 5.0 environment. Right now with our 5.0 environment we are embracing Persona Management for some of our EMS employees.

Gardner: That’s another one of those ancillary benefits that people don’t always appreciate but it’s pretty important.

Everything is identical

Musicante: Absolutely. It wasn’t something that we were expecting, but at the same time, when we go back with 20/20 hindsight, we reevaluated and said that that makes sense. Everything is now identical. We use non-persistent machine. So every time they log in, it's a brand-new machine and it’s configured identically the way we want it. The only factor that’s different for each user is their profile.

Gardner: You know how to resolve them, it’s not starting from scratch.

Musicante: Absolutely not starting from scratch. That’s also one of the beautiful benefits. As we move and as we mature with the product and as the product matures itself, we seem to be taking a very parallel progression between the two -- the City of Pittsburgh and VMware View. Persona Management right now has been doing wonders for that.

Those departments that have migrated over and wanted to take this “experiment” of Persona Management have been pleasantly surprised. Definitely, that’s also a point to bring up. When you hear problems from people, when end-users complain, there’s always something that they target. It was networking at one point. Then it moved on to virtualization and everyone said it was the promised virtualization, whether it was or wasn’t.

With View, it actually stands alone. It an outlier. Our users call and they say, "I would like to be on View. I would like to be on that system." For an end-user come back to us and request that blows our mind. We appreciate it. It means we’ve done something right. And it also has to be attributed back to VMware. They’ve done something right.

Gardner: Now that you’ve gotten your feet wet, and then some, with 5.0, what are some of the other salient benefits?

So every time they log in, it's a brand-new machine and it’s configured identically the way we want it.

Musicante: That’s going to give us extra 5 percent. There is always that server virtualization where you’d only get that 95 percent, although we got past that. There’s that 5 percent that you couldn’t for or you wouldn’t for whatever reason. That’s the same market for the desktop virtualization and 5 percent was for high graphic intensive people. We're able to now start to achieve that and we're looking to try to achieve that.

We've not gone through some of the advanced 3D accelerated graphic things that are now out with 5. We are in the process of testing, but it’s currently in our test labs within our department. It’s also in terms of deriving the benefit. We have all of our infrastructure. We're going to with a more green approach. So we're going with zero client. They're currently Dell FX 100s. So they may take one tenth of the power, but there is very little there.

I know that VMware View 5.0 3D acceleration is going to be there and is going to help out, but those people are going to be using the repurposed machines, taking their machine, putting a stripped down version of 7 and use it from there. So we're trying to achieve that, but it’s multiple facets.

Gardner: When we think about your adoption pattern around virtualization, you took your time, learned through your development environment, walked in, made some progress and then really ramped up on adoption for your server side. You’ve followed a similar pattern now with desktops.

What’s next? Is there an additional synergy between a private cloud implementation, where you can get even better synergy efficiency? Tell me what you think about this fear and moving towards even higher plane of efficiency and productivity on that overall delivery from a central data center environment?

Going toward the cloud

Musicante: It’s really unclear where we're going to go. As far as cloud and where the cloud is taking the City of Pittsburgh and where the City of Pittsburgh is going with cloud, City of Pittsburgh currently is in the process of taking that last two percent of our system that isn’t virtualized, which is Exchange, and we are currently in the process of going towards the cloud. So it’s actually going to be going to Google Apps for government for mail.

As far as cloud within ourselves, the City of Pittsburgh is using its resources that we’ve regained or recouped from all of our consolidation purposes, especially with the government processes and mentality of doing more with less. There is a lot of fellow government agencies that we're now going to be partnering with to provide them infrastructure as a service.

That’s where some of the other product lines come in like vCloud Director, to be able to allow them to still manage their infrastructure to use our resources, and we can now ourselves be a cloud provider, which I have been marketing as Cloud9 because there are nine entities including the City of Pittsburgh -- nine entities that we are going to consolidate.

Gardner: I'm impressed with the fact that you’ve been able to move through this progression, recoup those savings, and then apply it to the innovation that get you yet more productivity and savings that you can further apply. That’s commendable. Any words of advice for folks that are perhaps not as far along as you’ve been on this progression? What 20/20 hindsight and words of wisdom might you supply them?

Musicante: With server virtualization, everyone is involved in it, and that is the easy part. Desktop virtualization, is where we got hit hard and the lessons that will be learned is that end-user’s matter. Every step of the way, you need their input. It’s not just an administrative decision saying this is the right thing. You need to be good at psychology to convince your users that this is what they want, and getting them to the point of seeing that this is the best approach or getting their input.

The only thing that I could say is to involve your users. Get them in the proof of concept from the beginning.

That really makes all the difference in the world. You’ll have the same end result and you’ll get to the same target, to the same place, but you need their input. It was not the same with server virtualization. That was for the administrators. They owned it. It was their territory. These desktops that you're taking from the users, yes, they’ll have a better reliability, better up-time, better everything, and better end-user experience, but they feel that that’s theirs, and rightly so.

The only thing that I could say is to involve your users. Get them in the proof of concept from the beginning. Get their input, what they need, what they want, how they want to access it, and with that it’ll no doubt be a sure success.

You may also be interested in:

More Stories By Dana Gardner

At Interarbor Solutions, we create the analysis and in-depth podcasts on enterprise software and cloud trends that help fuel the social media revolution. As a veteran IT analyst, Dana Gardner moderates discussions and interviews get to the meat of the hottest technology topics. We define and forecast the business productivity effects of enterprise infrastructure, SOA and cloud advances. Our social media vehicles become conversational platforms, powerfully distributed via the BriefingsDirect Network of online media partners like ZDNet and IT-Director.com. As founder and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, Dana Gardner created BriefingsDirect to give online readers and listeners in-depth and direct access to the brightest thought leaders on IT. Our twice-monthly BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights Edition podcasts examine the latest IT news with a panel of analysts and guests. Our sponsored discussions provide a unique, deep-dive focus on specific industry problems and the latest solutions. This podcast equivalent of an analyst briefing session -- made available as a podcast/transcript/blog to any interested viewer and search engine seeker -- breaks the mold on closed knowledge. These informational podcasts jump-start conversational evangelism, drive traffic to lead generation campaigns, and produce strong SEO returns. Interarbor Solutions provides fresh and creative thinking on IT, SOA, cloud and social media strategies based on the power of thoughtful content, made freely and easily available to proactive seekers of insights and information. As a result, marketers and branding professionals can communicate inexpensively with self-qualifiying readers/listeners in discreet market segments. BriefingsDirect podcasts hosted by Dana Gardner: Full turnkey planning, moderatiing, producing, hosting, and distribution via blogs and IT media partners of essential IT knowledge and understanding.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Predicting the future has never been more challenging - not because of the lack of data but because of the flood of ungoverned and risk laden information. Microsoft states that 2.5 exabytes of data are created every day. Expectations and reliance on data are being pushed to the limits, as demands around hybrid options continue to grow.
Poor data quality and analytics drive down business value. In fact, Gartner estimated that the average financial impact of poor data quality on organizations is $9.7 million per year. But bad data is much more than a cost center. By eroding trust in information, analytics and the business decisions based on these, it is a serious impediment to digital transformation.
Business professionals no longer wonder if they'll migrate to the cloud; it's now a matter of when. The cloud environment has proved to be a major force in transitioning to an agile business model that enables quick decisions and fast implementation that solidify customer relationships. And when the cloud is combined with the power of cognitive computing, it drives innovation and transformation that achieves astounding competitive advantage.
Digital Transformation: Preparing Cloud & IoT Security for the Age of Artificial Intelligence. As automation and artificial intelligence (AI) power solution development and delivery, many businesses need to build backend cloud capabilities. Well-poised organizations, marketing smart devices with AI and BlockChain capabilities prepare to refine compliance and regulatory capabilities in 2018. Volumes of health, financial, technical and privacy data, along with tightening compliance requirements by...
As IoT continues to increase momentum, so does the associated risk. Secure Device Lifecycle Management (DLM) is ranked as one of the most important technology areas of IoT. Driving this trend is the realization that secure support for IoT devices provides companies the ability to deliver high-quality, reliable, secure offerings faster, create new revenue streams, and reduce support costs, all while building a competitive advantage in their markets. In this session, we will use customer use cases...
Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settlement products to hedge funds and investment banks. After, he co-founded a revenue cycle management company where he learned about Bitcoin and eventually Ethereal. Andrew's role at ConsenSys Enterprise is a mul...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that "Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO" has announced that its Call for Papers is now open. The two-day event will present 20 top Blockchain experts. All speaking inquiries which covers the following information can be submitted by email to [email protected] Financial enterprises in New York City, London, Singapore, and other world financial capitals are embracing a new generation of smart, automated FinTech that eliminates many cumbersome, slow, and expe...
DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO are the world's most influential, independent events where Cloud Computing was coined and where technology buyers and vendors meet to experience and discuss the big picture of Digital Transformation and all of the strategies, tactics, and tools they need to realize their goals. Sponsors of DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities.
The best way to leverage your Cloud Expo presence as a sponsor and exhibitor is to plan your news announcements around our events. The press covering Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo will have access to these releases and will amplify your news announcements. More than two dozen Cloud companies either set deals at our shows or have announced their mergers and acquisitions at Cloud Expo. Product announcements during our show provide your company with the most reach through our targeted audiences.
DevOpsSummit New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City. Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with the introduction of DXWorldEXPO within the program. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive over the long term. A total of 88% of Fortune 500 companies from a generation ago are now out of bus...
With 10 simultaneous tracks, keynotes, general sessions and targeted breakout classes, @CloudEXPO and DXWorldEXPO are two of the most important technology events of the year. Since its launch over eight years ago, @CloudEXPO and DXWorldEXPO have presented a rock star faculty as well as showcased hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors! In this blog post, we provide 7 tips on how, as part of our world-class faculty, you can deliver one of the most popular sessions at our events. But before reading...
Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo have announced the conference tracks for Cloud Expo 2018. Cloud Expo will be held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, and November 6-8, 2018, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with the introduction of DX Expo within the program. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive ov...
DXWordEXPO New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City and will bring together Cloud Computing, FinTech and Blockchain, Digital Transformation, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, AI, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location.
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that ICOHOLDER named "Media Sponsor" of Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO. ICOHOLDER give you detailed information and help the community to invest in the trusty projects. Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO has opened its Call for Papers. The two-day event will present 20 top Blockchain experts. All speaking inquiries which covers the following information can be submitted by email to [email protected] Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO also offers s...
Dion Hinchcliffe is an internationally recognized digital expert, bestselling book author, frequent keynote speaker, analyst, futurist, and transformation expert based in Washington, DC. He is currently Chief Strategy Officer at the industry-leading digital strategy and online community solutions firm, 7Summits.
Digital Transformation and Disruption, Amazon Style - What You Can Learn. Chris Kocher is a co-founder of Grey Heron, a management and strategic marketing consulting firm. He has 25+ years in both strategic and hands-on operating experience helping executives and investors build revenues and shareholder value. He has consulted with over 130 companies on innovating with new business models, product strategies and monetization. Chris has held management positions at HP and Symantec in addition to ...
Cloud-enabled transformation has evolved from cost saving measure to business innovation strategy -- one that combines the cloud with cognitive capabilities to drive market disruption. Learn how you can achieve the insight and agility you need to gain a competitive advantage. Industry-acclaimed CTO and cloud expert, Shankar Kalyana presents. Only the most exceptional IBMers are appointed with the rare distinction of IBM Fellow, the highest technical honor in the company. Shankar has also receive...
Enterprises have taken advantage of IoT to achieve important revenue and cost advantages. What is less apparent is how incumbent enterprises operating at scale have, following success with IoT, built analytic, operations management and software development capabilities - ranging from autonomous vehicles to manageable robotics installations. They have embraced these capabilities as if they were Silicon Valley startups.
The standardization of container runtimes and images has sparked the creation of an almost overwhelming number of new open source projects that build on and otherwise work with these specifications. Of course, there's Kubernetes, which orchestrates and manages collections of containers. It was one of the first and best-known examples of projects that make containers truly useful for production use. However, more recently, the container ecosystem has truly exploded. A service mesh like Istio addr...
With tough new regulations coming to Europe on data privacy in May 2018, Calligo will explain why in reality the effect is global and transforms how you consider critical data. EU GDPR fundamentally rewrites the rules for cloud, Big Data and IoT. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Adam Ryan, Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Calligo, examined the regulations and provided insight on how it affects technology, challenges the established rules and will usher in new levels of diligence arou...