VDI in The City: Foster City Selects Unidesk and VMware for Virtual Desktops

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Foster City is one of several local government organizations implementing Unidesk and VMware View, chosen here to provide desktop consistency, central gold image patching, rapid application delivery, and SAN storage savings.

“We wanted to make sure we could deliver a virtual desktop that was as good as or better than before VDI."

After an extensive evaluation of virtual desktop solutions, the City of Foster City, Calif., has selected Unidesk® virtual desktop management software together with VMware View™ virtual desktop brokering software as the foundation for its new Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) project targeting all city departments. KIS, a joint Unidesk and VMware solution partner based in Fremont, Calif., will design, implement and provide integration and support services for the new VDI solution.

Foster City is one of several local government organizations implementing Unidesk and VMware View, chosen here to provide desktop consistency, central gold image patching, rapid application delivery, and SAN storage savings. The City anticipates multiple benefits from its approach to VDI, including a reduction in staff time required to manage desktop software issues and hardware failures, as well as the ability to centrally control and deploy applications. Employees will benefit from a persistent desktop experience that preserves all user preferences and persona changes, even after IT administrators patch or update Microsoft Windows or key applications. Lower energy consumption compared to full-size PCs and an easier move to Microsoft Windows 7 will further benefit the City once the VDI rollout is complete.

According to Foster City Senior Systems Analyst Rob Lasky, The City will continue to use full desktops at designated locations, but the majority of its users will be migrated to the new virtual desktops provisioned and managed by Unidesk, delivered by VMware View, and accessed through Wyse P20 zero clients. The City’s IT division serves multiple departments ranging from public works, recreation, fire, police, finance and more, and manages more than 50 different applications across this diverse user community. Many users require high performance desktops that can quickly receive new applications, updates and patches, as well as be repaired instantly. Physical PCs have fans, power supplies, and hard drives that fail, and deploying a replacement PC is labor intensive. Also, keeping diverse software updated on physical PCs is difficult, at best. These challenges, the IT division concluded, steered the move to VDI.

Prior to selecting Unidesk and VMware View, Foster City ran a comprehensive VDI assessment over several weeks, on more than 20 desktops across different departments to assess everything from CPU and memory utilization to graphics capabilities, peak hours, disk IOPS, network utilization, and application usage. Foster City also ran a multiple-month proof of concept testing a variety of virtual desktop solutions. This was followed by a detailed request for proposal issued to a number of vendors and service providers. “We wanted to make sure we could deliver a virtual desktop that was as good as or better than before VDI, ensure our users were the right fit for what VDI could deliver, and learn as much as we could from others who had gone through VDI implementations before us,” said Lasky.

The result of this rigorous process was the selection of Unidesk and VMware View.

“We chose VMware View because of its flexible access options, proven brokering capabilities, and our familiarity and experience with the VMware vSphere™ tool set. We chose Unidesk because of its fresh approach to VDI management that we found especially appropriate for our environment,” said Lasky. “Any city looking to reduce the long term costs of PC refresh and management will find Unidesk unique in its ability to handle the challenges of operating system, application and user persona management, all in a single solution.”

“The City of Foster City performed a very careful VDI assessment and clearly understands the value virtual desktops can bring to the city,” said John Marciano, Chief Operating Officer and Director of Sales at KIS. “We’re very excited to be chosen to implement this leading edge project based on best-in-class solutions from VMware and Unidesk.”

Unidesk dynamically combines IT-packaged operating system and application layers with each user's unique personalization layer to create virtual desktops that are centrally managed according to IT standards, yet customized to the needs of each user. Lasky said this made Unidesk a good fit for Foster City, which wanted a simple way to deliver applications to virtual desktops without the scripting, recording, sequencing and programming often required by traditional PC configuration and application virtualization tools. City administrators simply install applications once to create Unidesk application layers, and then assign the layers to one or more desktops.

“Unidesk lets us virtualize all of our applications without complicated programming, and also lets us roll out updates to pools of users with greater speed and flexibility. It even lets users customize their desktops and applications, without negatively affecting our ability to manage the desktops,” said Lasky.

Easing the administration process for both the IT departments and users was also an important goal addressed by Unidesk.

“One of our biggest challenges was gold image maintenance windows. With some other VDI solutions, we could have been looking at system-wide downtimes of up to two hours per month just for patching gold images with Windows updates,” said Lasky. “Now we can apply patches centrally, deploy them from the Unidesk console, and users will get the updates when they reboot. I like that we don’t need to schedule monthly downtime just for Microsoft patches.”

“Another application in our Police Department is frequently patched, and traditionally our end users have been able to apply these without IT assistance,” said Lasky. “This would have been difficult to do with other ‘sandboxed’ application virtualization techniques, but we were able to deliver the virtual application with Unidesk while still allowing user initiated updates.”

Choosing Unidesk as a centralized desktop management solution also gives Foster City the ability to perform instant repair and rollback of desktops in the event of lost files, viruses or other problems. This higher level of service will help facilitate user acceptance of the new VDI environment, as will Unidesk’s unique support for “persistent” personal desktops. Unidesk captures all profile settings, documents, user-installed applications, and plug-ins in each user’s personalization layer, and preserves this layer through IT-driven updates and patches to the operating system and centrally assigned applications. As a result, users with the rights to install their own applications and perform their own updates can do so, without worrying about their changes being lost.

Foster City’s Lasky added, “It’s great that VDI will make desktop administration easier, but if it doesn’t meet our users’ needs, we might as well forget it. Unidesk’s ability to create persistent, user-customizable, and storage-efficient virtual desktops and VMware View’s support for a high performance user experience will ensure we get the user buy-in we need for the project to be successful,” said Lasky.

About KIS
Keep IT Simple (KIS) is a privately held Network Solutions and Consulting firm headquartered in Fremont, CA. With one of the largest multidisciplinary consulting staffs in Northern California, KIS has been serving our Clients (major corporations, education, and government organizations) since 1988. Unique at KIS is our Partnership Structure, which allows us to respond quickly to the ever changing needs of our Clients, and easily manage the fast pace of technology in the IT Industry. We work for our Client at all times, not the OEM.

About Unidesk
Unidesk® Corporation (http://www.unidesk.com) enables customers to centralize more desktops on data center servers and realize the full potential of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). Unidesk’s patent-pending desktop layering technology works with VDI access solutions such as VMware View™ and Citrix® XenDesktop® to sustain all desktop customizations for end users, while enabling IT to provision and patch all desktops from a single set of shared operating system and application images. By creating uniquely personal, storage-efficient, and easy-to-manage persistent desktops on VMware infrastructure that can satisfy almost any use case, Unidesk VDI management software reduces IT operations costs up to 80%, cuts data center storage costs up to 70%, and fosters a more productive, agile workforce. Unidesk Corp. is a privately-held company with headquarters in Marlborough, Mass, USA.

VMware, VMware View, and VMware vSphere are registered trademarks and/or trademarks of VMware, Inc. in the United States and/or other jurisdictions. Unidesk® is a registered trademark of Unidesk Corporation. All other trademarks and registered trademarks are property of their respective owners.


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