Cushman & Wakefield delivers virtual desktops with Citrix VDI-in-a-Box
Cushman & Wakefield is a global real estate services firm with more than 13,000 employees in 231 offices located in 58 countries. The company assists clients in buying, selling, financing, leasing, managing and valuing assets, and provides strategic planning and research, portfolio analysis, site selection and space location and other advisory services. Cushman & Wakefield seeks to provide its professionals with the technological resources they need to add value at every step of the real estate process.
The challenge: secure, reliable desktop access for contractors and branches
Cushman & Wakefield recognized the value of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and wanted an efficient way to try out virtual desktops on a small scale. “We weren’t sure whether this would work for us, so we were not ready to invest a lot of money in the VDI infrastructure,” said Vinit Khandelwal, IT systems architect for Cushman & Wakefield’s Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region.
When the EMEA office needed a way to allow employees of a third-party Systems management contractor to access proprietary applications without exposing the firm to security risks, the perfect VDI proof of concept opportunity presented itself. “We were not sure about their security policies, so we wanted two separate environments,” Vinit said. “We wanted something really small and consolidated. We wanted it quick, not very expensive yet resilient.”
Implementing VDI-in-a-Box for secure virtual desktop access
To achieve this goal, Cushman & Wakefield deployed Citrix® VDI-in-a-Box™, an easy, affordable, all-in-one desktop virtualization solution, to provide virtual desktops to the contractor. With VDI, contractors can access not only Microsoft® Office applications, but also the firm’s non-web-based, homegrown SQL Server® database applications. “Within literally a matter of days, we went from no desktop virtualization to full fledged VDI. And it was so easy to do,” recalled Vinit.
“The Citrix product literally took only two days to do the proof of concept. The only reason why it took us that long was because we did not have a DHCP infrastructure in the beginning in the Data center. It was not much effort, but it delivered a lot of value quickly.”
A quick, easy VDI solution for multiple business needs
Just as the IT team completed the virtual desktop implementation for the support contractor, Cushman & Wakefield undertook a project in Dubai that required a finance system to be accessible in a local office. However, corporate security protocols required finance systems to be deployed in the datacenter, not the local office. “So, VDI was an ideal solution for them,” Vinit explained. “We created a VDI template for them, deployed it for these users and made it available via SSL VPN connection, so that when they logged into the web browser they accessed the desktop using Citrix HDX technology, which provided the same experience as working with a local application. Then, they could just work normally, as if they were in the office.”
The virtual desktop “experiment” proved to be the solution to other branch office problems, as well. A client-server session in a Spanish office was continually crashing due to bandwidth constraints as multiple users tried to access the same finance system. “We gave them the same VDI-in-a-Box solution, and they were very happy with the performance.” Belgium had a similar problem accessing this finance application because the client-server session “just didn’t work. It was too slow.” Now, Cushman & Wakefield’s offices in Dubai, Spain and Belgium are accessing the finance system virtually with VDI.
“Now that we know the solution so well, if a new requirement comes up, we can literally deploy virtual desktops within two hours,” added Vinit. “We have configured a Cushman & Wakefield appliance that supports 50 users. So, if the requirement is 51 users, we deploy two servers. We just literally add licenses as needed. It’s very easy to add a server to the grid. The biggest advantage is that there is no SAN required. We just deploy server after server with direct attached disks into a VDI-in-a-Box grid. The configuration is wizard driven which is very intuitive.”
The sky is the limit for future VDI deployments for Cushman & Wakefield. Vinit explained, “At some point this year we will design a cloud office for any office with fewer than 10 users. We can protect our data because it doesn’t really matter what PC users connect from; data is completely de-linked from the PC.” By providing a secure window to a virtual desktop, the company can restrict users from saving or copying data from their virtual desktops to the local device. This strengthens security without interfering with the use of the virtual desktop.