Louisville Gas & Electric is moving to a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) from stand-alone laptops, in part to support a more mobile workforce and computing environment. And it has chosen Vblock and VMware as its infrastructure, replacing a Citrix infrastructure in the process.
“We looked at HP as well but chose Vblock because of the all-in-one support model,” said Laura Mattingly, manager of client support services in an interview on the SiliconAngle Cube at EMCworld 2012. This is LGE’s first Vblock experience, and overall it has been good.
The Vblock decision came after a year-long proof-of-concept pilot with 100 users divided between internal IT and the business and purposely including the financial decision-makers for the eventual go-ahead. That was on existing infrastructure with Citrix, she said.
One piece of advice she gives for others planning VDI trials – include the decision-makers in the pilot user group. It makes approval for moving ahead much easier to win.
The move to Vblock has a few rough moments, she says, when some shipments were not correct. “But all the players stayed involved with us to make sure everything was fixed.” At the time, she said, VCE was growing very fast, and at times their contacts seemed distracted. However, that has settled down as the VCE organization has matured, and LGE has been happy with the service it gets overall. Happy enough that it has subsequently stared replacing its Tier 3 NetApp cluster with EMC Isolon. “NetApp wasn’t partnering with us,” Mattingly said. “EMC is. It understands our business, and we see them regularly. That didn’t happen on NetApp.”
Another happy experience came when the Vblock system went live and performance jumped. That convinced Mattingly that they had made the right decision.
One reason for going to VDI is to support mobile users, particularly exterior service personnel who were being equipped with iPads to replace their laptops. VDI lets IT put the company desktop image and the applications supporting those service workers on the iPad. This has lead to one internal political problem, she says. “People think that if they get VDI they will get an iPad, or vice versa if they buy an iPad they will automatically get a VDI image for it. We have to make them understand that that isn’t true.”
One of the early groups to get VDI were the service dispatchers. They can run their VDI from home on their personal laptops or even mobile phones. “One many completed a trouble ticket during dinner from his home on his iPhone,” she said.
One reason for this program is that in a disaster staff may not be able to get to the office, but they can run the service operation from home. That experience confirms that expectation.
Today LGE has 100 users in the production VDI environment. Overall it has 1,500 employees, and it plans to have about 1,000 of those on VDI eventually, split evenly between two Vblocks, each in a different location. This will give it backup in the case of a large disaster such as a major storm.