“We’re no longer tied to physical desktops — we have the ability to take an inexpensive laptop to someone else’s desk to collaborate. The fact that BOTH people can work in a full 3D modeling environment is awesome… now, with Citrix technology, we have an $800 laptop that gives us a $4,000 desktop experience.” — Jeremy Stroebel, IT Director at Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf (BDMD)
This March, Jeremy Stroebel, IT Director at Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf (BDMD), delivered a presentation at NVIDIA’s GPU Technology Conference (GTC) about how his company delivers graphic-accelerated desktops to employees using Citrix. I had the opportunity to chat with Jeremy leading up to GTC, and I am excited to share his story.
BDMD is an architecture, planning, and landscape firm. Architects and designers are demanding,and justifiably so. They are under pressure to produce plans and get them out the door to meet deadlines, so their digital workspaces need to be high-performing to enable the maximum level of productivity and collaboration.
Today, BDMD uses Citrix XenDesktop, XenServer, and the NVIDIA Quadro Virtual Data Center Workstation (Quadro vDWS) with NVIDIA P4 graphics cards to deliver graphic-accelerated virtual desktops to employees. Citrix and NVIDIA were the first to market with virtualized graphics capabilities; at the time, Jeremy began investigating the technology and realized it would be a good fit.
In the past, VDI simply was not an option due to the graphic-intensive applications used by BDMD — AutoCAD, Revit, Sketch up, InDesign, and Photoshop.
“We did a proof of concept to see if a Citrix and NVIDIA solution would solve performance issues, and realized that it would provide a lot of benefits in terms of being able to ensure the right kind of uniform experience to end-users,” says Jeremy.
Prior to the Citrix deployment, most users were working on six- or seven-year old workstations, thus, the user experience was less than optimal. These were not off-the-shelf workstations — they were high-powered, expensive workstations — to the tune of $4,000-$6,000 each. Installing all of the applications, configuring them, and designing the user environment to be perfect was a time-consuming endeavor. As a smaller firm, BDMD did not have all of the enterprise tools available that larger companies might have, so much of Jeremy’s time was consumed with workstation refreshes. Providing a consistent user experience was an ongoing challenge.
“Citrix has really enabled us to simplify desktop management. If we discover an application misconfiguration, we fix it once, and the fix is provisioned everywhere”, says Jeremy. “If a user has an issue, I can sit at my desk, pop up a brand-new session and easily recreate the issue. It’s much easier to manage virtual desktops than physical desktops.”
Expensive and time-consuming workstation refreshes were the drivers that triggered Jeremy to investigate graphic-accelerated virtual desktops. Once they were up and running, VDI delivered some unexpected benefits that enabled employees to collaborate in new ways.
“There is another giant plus that our Citrix deployment delivers — freedom. Architects and interior designers typically have giant workstations that cost $4,000 to $6,000 and historically, we’ve been chained to our desks. We couldn’t go into a meeting and make changes on the fly; we couldn’t go across the office and collaborate on a model and still have both people working,” Jeremy explains. “Now, you have an $800 laptop that gives you a $4000 desktop experience. You get that user experience in a conference room, at someone’s desk, at a customer site, at home, when your kids are sick, and even when there is a foot of snow on the ground and the city of Indianapolis is shut down.”
Jeremy admits that management was mostly concerned with workstation refresh costs and providing a consistent user experience. They did not anticipate this new benefit of in-office collaboration. Citrix technology enabled not only productivity gains, but also a better work/life balance.
It used to be common for the office lights to be on late into the night, but now, if people need to get after-hours work done, they do it from home. They have the same consistent experience they have in the office. Now, the lights in the office are off by 6:30pm every day.
“Over a one-year period, working a couple of extra hours every week from home adds up to a massive gain in productivity,” says Jeremy. “If those people were going to work extra time anyway, that adds up to an immeasurable improvement in quality of life. We get to spend more time with our significant others, our kids, and our families while still getting the required work done.”
Jeremy also notes that the simplicity of onboarding contractors or remote employees allows BDMD to remain competitive. Citrix and NVIDIA have empowered BDMD’s employees with new ways to work and collaborate. At the same time, many IT operations now are streamlined and the business is agile. BDMD has saved money, provided users with a consistent experience, delivered superior performance with graphic-intensive applications and simplified desktop management, improved productivity and collaboration, and provided a better work/life balance.
“I see Citrix VDI with GPUs as a Swiss army knife for us… the solution helps us solve problems for the business as quickly as they come up,” says Jeremy.
Citrix, with NVIDIA, recently released the industry’s first live migration solution for GPU-enabled VMs with vGPU XenMotion — a capability only available with XenServer. Jeremy used vGPU XenMotion to patch physical hosts during working hours, without experiencing any downtime.
“vGPU XenMotion made patching my hosts for Spectre/Meltdown a simple update during-working-hours. Normally I would have had to do it on my own time,” Jeremy explains.
Jeremey also notes how the cost savings of running XenServer Enterprise for BDMD’s XenApp and XenDesktop deployment helped enable their VDI project.
“The cost savings of running XenServer Enterprise in our environment over having to license vSphere is sizeable. In a project where the hardware needed is quite costly on its own, not having to purchase additional hypervisor licensing allowed the financial side of the project to be feasible,” says Jeremy.
Attending Citrix Synergy? Check out my breakout session (SYN134) with David Cottingham on how XenServer accelerates your secure digital workspaces — plus, we’ll be revealing some new features coming in the next release! Also, stop by NVIDIA’s booth (#301) in the Citrix Synergy expo hall.