Autodesk is a world leader in 3D design, engineering and entertainment software and services. While the company’s corporate IT department provides services and support for business teams such as finance, sales, training and human resources, the development and engineering teams for each of its more than 130 products have traditionally taken responsibility for their own hardware and systems. This includes both lab equipment and personal laptops/workstations used by developers and engineers for their individual work.
While engineers and developers needed direct control over their own systems, this often diverted attention from their core focus. “These teams would rather spend their day writing code for our products than installing Windows on a machine or reformatting a hard drive,” says Jason Smathers, manager of the Autodesk Enterprise Cloud Engineering team. The distributed nature of the environment also made it difficult for Autodesk’s corporate IT staff to enforce standards and security and led to high-facilities costs. “Autodesk spent half a million dollars annually on space, cooling and power for these labs. We needed to reduce that footprint.”
Autodesk chose Citrix CloudPlatform, a cost-effective, agile and open cloud orchestration platform that enables IT personnel to rapidly provision the infrastructure needed to develop new products more efficiently. Autodesk used CloudPlatform to build a private cloud offering under their Enterprise Cloud Services (ECS) program. ECS provides on-demand development and test resources for more than 130 product engineering groups around the world. With this platform, the Autodesk IT organization is answering the challenge of the company’s chief executive to embrace the cloud and is living up to the vision of cloud transformation that the company presents to customers. “With Autodesk engineers developing using the cloud, we are walking the talk, not just talking the talk,” says Rosemary Nahrvar, senior manager of the Autodesk Infrastructure and Cloud Engineering team.
Citrix CloudPlatform empowers Autodesk engineers to build dynamic machines on the fly, automate and streamline their activities, and get out of the infrastructure business. Each month, more than 10,000 virtual machines are deployed through ECS. “The first team on our Citrix-powered cloud reduced its build process from six days to only four hours,” says Smathers. The group responsible for AutoCAD, one of the company’s flagship products, increased its weekly productivity by 200 percent. No longer confined to a limited number of machines, engineers can also work on more than one product in parallel to further increase productivity.
With on-demand development resources and self-service virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) available around the clock, engineers, without the need to access physical hardware, can work wherever and whenever they need to—often late at night, at home. Developers can easily hand off the same project among different teams in different locations, making it simpler for individual engineers to focus on the kind of work they like best. Employees appreciate Autodesk’s support for remote work. The company recently evaluated a bring-your-own device (BYOD) program and is currently building out the backend infrastructure needed to support VDI.
Autodesk product teams can now manage their lab infrastructure far more efficiently. “One product team went from having four people managing their lab to half an employee’s time,” says Nahrvar. The corporate IT department has gained as well. “Our global private cloud infrastructure is comparable to our corporate datacenter, but managed with far fewer people.” As the company continues to expand ECS to support traditional back office and business productivity use cases, the IT organization will be able to reduce costs and greatly simplify work for system administrators.
Having delivered ECS for its primary use case—product engineering—Autodesk IT personnel are now in discussion with additional groups in the company, such as finance, sales, training and HR teams, and the field engineers who demo Autodesk products for customers. By moving tier-one apps such as SAP from a traditional hosting environment to ECS, Autodesk can foster a culture of employee self-service while increasing IT transparency at all levels—from individual users to the C level—to help people understand what resources are being used and how. “ECS helps us deliver on our goal of providing IT services faster, better and cheaper,” says Nahrvar.
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