Helping Build the PC Estate of One of London’s Foremost Providers of Specialist Lines of Insurance Products
Marketform is a leading supplier of specialist insurance products, with many years experience in delivering flexible tailor-made solutions that address their clients’ specific areas of exposure.
Operating in the Lloyd’s market, the company is a market leader in many insurance classes, working with brokers and businesses in more than 35 countries.
Marketform wanted to reduce administration, management overhead and costs of their desktop PC estate. They had created a proof of concept for a centralised desktop platform, from where around a hundred applications – many of a bespoke nature -were to be delivered. The solution was based on Citrix XenDesktop and needed expert help from a specialist organisation to complete the project and perform tests to production standards.
Frontier Technology started by analysing the applications’ profiles and the existing infrastructure to be able to complete an appropriate solution design. It found that whilst the core server infrastructure was built on VMware vSphere, the XenDesktop host had been deployed on XenServer. The pros and cons of vSphere and XenServer were carefully considered and a conclusion was reached: due to Marketform’s depth of knowledge of vSphere, it would be easier to manage, and therefore prudent, to migrate the XenDesktop hosts to a vSphere platform. At the same time, the XenDesktop host performance was analysed; CPU and RAM utilisation were within the expected range but storage IO was found to be marginal. Again, different solutions were examined, including adding extra spindles to the shared storage array and fast local disc storage, before deciding to invest in very high performance FusionIO SSD storage local to each XenDesktop host. Whilst this delivered by far the highest storage performance of the choices available, the investment required was comparable.
A program of application testing was agreed as a joint exercise between Marketform’s IT staff and Frontier Technology’s consultants. The Marketform project team provided a work package programme with test and acceptance criteria. Frontier Technology’s and Marketform’s technical resources then worked together to meet those criteria. Industry standard applications, such as the Microsoft Office suite, were reasonably straightforward to deliver whilst some bespoke line of business applications took a little more effort. Within a few weeks, the tasks were successfully completed within the predicted time frame.
Users were divided into three groups and a standard image delivered for each group, with subsets to ensure only appropriate applications are delivered to individual users. To further enhance adherence to licensing rules, some applications were further controlled using AppLocker. Applications are delivered to users in four ways:
. – Locally installed in image
. – Streamed from XenAp
. – ‘ClickOnce’ apps installed in user local app data path
. – As Web applications, with browser delivery
Where feasible, applications were installed within the image. However, some applications have individual requirements which dictated the choice of other delivery mechanisms. XenDesktop lent itself well to multiple delivery model solutions.
. – Deliver applications via XenDesktop to thin clients (replacing desktop PCs)
. – Add Solid State Disc (SSD) to XenDesktop hosts to significantly improve backend performance
. – 3 production vSphere hosts dedicated to XenDesktop services
. – NetApp FAS 3240
. – Migration to IGEL UDC (Converts desktops to IGEL client management platform)
The challenges experienced in the proof of concept, mostly relating to backend performance and application compatibility and dependencies, were addressed using Frontier Technology’s considerable experience of both Citrix and VMware virtualisation technologies, plus network and storage infrastructure.
The sheer volume of applications requiring testing had presented a challenge that was resolved by Frontier Technology’s and Marketform’s resources being organised into appropriate teams.
Marketform had evaluated technologies that converted legacy PC’s to allow them to be centrally managed as Thin Clients. However, this had not worked well in practice and the advice of Frontier Technology consultants was sought. The recommendation was the IGEL Universal Desktop Converter which is now used on PC’s until they are replaced by IGEL thin clients.
Frontier Technology successfully assisted Marketform achieve their objectives of an easier to manage desktop environment, within the expected time scales and budget. Michael Sunderland, Infrastructure Manager at Marketform said “Although we had made good progress with our initial proof of concept, it was clear that we needed support from experienced consultants before we could complete the migration of all staff to virtual desktops. We had already worked with Frontier Technology in other areas, so we were confident that they could successfully assist us with XenDesktop. The work done by Frontier Technology consultants was key to making the transition from the proof of concept to a production system. We have continued to use Frontier consultants and would not hesitate to recommend them for projects of this nature. ”
Marketform is a leading supplier of specialist insurance products, with many years experience in delivering flexible tailor-made solutions that address their clients' specific areas of exposure.
Marketform wanted to reduce administration, management overhead and costs of their desktop PC estate. They were looking for specialist assistance in completing their centralised desktop platform project and in performing tests to production standards.
Frontier Consultancy – VMware, Citrix and FusionIO
- Creation of an easy-to-manage desktop environment
- Consistent end user experience
- Reduction in end user support time and costs
- Reduction in IT resource required for patching, updates etc
- Project completed to budget and time specifications