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A VDI Success Story

I've always been a big believer in talking to IT people about their pain points and the benefits they are realizing from their technology implementations. Simply stated, users like to learn about what other users are up to, so in my opinion, one of the best ways of explaining the value of a new technology such as VDI is describing how it is actually being used in the real world -- warts and all.

Which brings us to the VDI implementation of Kane Edupuganti, director of IT Operations and Communications at St. Vincent's Catholic Medical Center in New York City. Edupuganti came to my attention via a conversation I was having with zero client maker Pano Logic, which prides itself on offering end point products that are utterly free of any extraneous computing capabilities.

And they mean it. According to Pano Logic, the Pano Device (the product's official name) "simply serves to connect peripheral devices -- a keyboard, mouse, VGA display and audio output -- along with other USB peripherals, to a virtualized Microsoft Windows desktop operating system running on a server in the data center." No CPU, no OS, no memory, no moving parts.

Edupuganti has deployed 500 of these diminutive (3" x 3" by 2"), zero client devices across St. Vincent's 42 sites in the five boroughs of NYC, and he is very happy with the results, which include currently spending 30 minutes to deploy a new Pano Device compared to four hours for a fat client PC, and slashing St. Vincent's previously profligate energy consumption -- St. Vincent's was one of New York state's top five power consumers -- from 160 watts per PC to five watts per Pano Device. More good news: The eight St. Vincent's desktop engineers serving 7,000 users can now spend their time on more productive tasks than constantly dealing with hard drive failures and swapping out data from crashed machines.

This VDI system was born of necessity. The hospital's shared-bandwidth MPLS network was slowing down to the point where medical personnel using fat client PCs in the emergency room on 12th Street in NYC were unable to maintain current patient care and billing information because the bedside system used to perform those functions -- which is located at the data center on 33rd Street -- couldn't keep up with the daily onslaught of processing demands at the ER.

Unwilling to jerk the MPLS system out of 42 locations and start over with something else, Edupuganti researched the market and came up with a VMware VDI solution that included the Pano Devices. As he puts it, "We started browsing the web and we ran across this little silver box called Pano Logic and we started digging into it and we found it fit perfectly into the model we were thinking about."

In that VDI model, rather than being bogged down on the MPLS network, applications and the desktop run in the data center, and screen scrapes are done to an endpoint device.

It didn't take long for things to improve. "The minute we deployed the Pano Logic solution based on VMware's VDI solution, the lags went away, and within a week, medical personnel were able to catch up on almost 300 backlogs being closed in the emergency department," Edupuganti declares. "They love the performance, and they kind of actually became our marketing tool within the hospital. The word spread from the emergency department to the radiology department to the cardiology department and so on."

The Pano Devices are good, but they can't fix a balky network, and a balky network can cause problems for Pano Devices. As he puts it, if you have blips in your network, you will see a blank screen on the user workstation. He goes on to note that Pano Logic introduced its own network access protocol, which he says is better than RDP, the company's previous protocol of choice. Still, the new protocol is not perfect, and Edupuganti says that for use with YouTube, when he renders video, a lack of bandwidth can lead to lags or non-synched video/audio feeds.

"They're working on it," he says of the protocol problems. "It is one of our pain points, and it is on our wish list to be corrected."

That's a small problem compared to the big benefits St. Vincent's is enjoying.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 10/27/2009 at 12:48 PM


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