The Weather Channel + Citrix
The Weather Channel Companies (TWCC) delivers weather, news and information through The Weather Channel television network, which reaches more than 100 million U.S. households. The Weather Channel digital properties, including the weather.com website, The Weather Channel Desktop and The Weather Channel Mobile, reach more than 45 million unique users per month. And Weather Services International (WSI) provides business-to-business weather services, particularly for the media, aviation, marine and energy sectors.
Weather happens everywhere, often in unpredictable ways—so The Weather Channel has to be equally far-reaching and dynamic in its coverage. This poses significant challenges for IT. Beyond providing management and back-office personnel with business applications, the company must enable producers and reporters in every part of the country and on the road to access high-end video and editorial systems at a moment’s notice. While reporting on the weather, the company remains as vulnerable to the weather conditions as its viewers. “Our broadcasting and web operations are 24 x 7, so if there’s a severe weather crisis, people need to be able to work from home as if they were in the office,” says Andy Drooker, Senior Director of Emerging Platforms/Technologies at The Weather Channel.
Meeting the demands of users within its own newsroom was difficult. Freelancers and employees competed to use the newest computers. Workers often needed additional software or RAM to complete projects, stretching thin a small IT staff that at times could provide only one technician per 150 users. Desktop virtualization offered a way to standardize the company’s computing environment, centralize desktop management and increase IT efficiency – ultimately resulting in being able to deliver complete resources on-demand to workers in any location. A conversation Drooker had at a Microsoft TechEd Conference suggested a way forward: pairing the free Microsoft Hyper-V virtualization solution, which was included under the company’s Microsoft licenses, with Citrix XenDesktop desktop virtualization solution. “It hit the bull’s-eye—it was exactly what we were looking for,” says Drooker. “We can pool applications—including both internal and external resources—and deploy virtual desktops to users either on a one-to-one basis, or as a pool of virtual desktops for folks to log into and use.”
The longstanding partnership between Citrix and Microsoft ensured a seamless addition of Citrix XenDesktop to the Microsoft Hyper-V stack. With the leadership of Drooker, The Weather Channel completed a proof of concept (POC) with CentriNet, a Platinum Citrix and Gold Microsoft V-Alliance partner based in Atlanta, which delivered virtual desktops tailored to the needs of 65 workers in every part of the enterprise. Dario Ferreira, VP of Technology at CentriNet, worked with The Weather Channel through the POC process. “Once people see the POC taking shape, they see the savings, the ease of management and the ability to have their desktop on any device, anywhere. All that comes with the virtual desktop model,” said Ferreira. Administrative personnel were provided with access to Microsoft Office applications; producers and reporters accessed standardized news writing and video production tools on-demand. “The need for a homogeneous desktop in the newsroom is critical, so everybody is looking at the same content within the same applications,” explains Drooker.
The guiding principle of The Weather Channel’s IT department is to deploy a technology solution that provides the greatest benefit to both the company and its workers. By enabling the company to deliver a full virtual desktop on-demand to any user, in any location, even over limited bandwidth, Citrix helps The Weather Channel ensure uninterrupted operations while allowing ample flexibility for users. “We want to help employees get their job done more easily and efficiently, and also give them the freedom to work at home as if they were in the office. Citrix helps us provide a better work-life balance for our workers by allowing them access to all the resources they need to work at home, with the performance to edit video, produce stories and update our website as easily as if they were in the office.”
Citrix XenDesktop helps The Weather Channel deliver responsive support to hundreds of widely dispersed users through a small IT staff. New applications can be made available almost instantly. When additional memory or processing power is needed to complete a job, the IT team can deliver the needed resources in minutes—even across the country. In the past, a failed or malfunctioning laptop had to be shipped back to headquarters for repair, with a temporary replacement sent in return, exposing the company to the risk of loss, theft or damage in transit. Now, the machine can be upgraded dynamically, or any other available end-point device can be used in its place. “It can be an old, beat-up machine—as long as they have a connected browser and a thinPC OS on it, they can access the corporate resources they need. And we don’t have to worry about security issues,” says Drooker.
By enabling a high definition experience on any computer, even for graphics-intensive video and editing software, Citrix has eliminated the need for frequent hardware refreshes. Citrix HDX lets The Weather Channel leverage Microsoft RemoteFX technology to accelerate performance for multiple users on their VDI-based desktops on Microsoft Hyper-V Server. “Using HDX and Microsoft RemoteFX together, I don’t need to spend all that money on high-end graphics cards for every workstation; instead, I can put high-end NVIDIA graphics cards in my servers and deliver high definition video to any number of users, even on thin clients,” says Drooker.
With its proof of concept complete, The Weather Channel is now moving to deploy Citrix-powered virtual desktops across its entire workforce. “People are already calling me wanting to get on virtual desktops,” says Drooker. “We’re achieving high value for our users at a minimal ownership cost, and we’re excited to move forward.”
Citrix helps us provide a better work-life balance by letting workers access all the corporate resources they need to work at home, with the performance to edit video, produce stories and update our website as easily as if they were in the office.
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