Le Moyne College Accelerates IT Innovation with help from Local Solution Provider
Le Moyne College Accelerates IT Innovation with help fromLocal Solution ProviderTranscript of a sponsored podcast discussion on how a mid-sized college harnessedserver virtualization as a stepping stone to VDI.Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Sponsor: VMwareDana Gardner: Hi. This is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions,and youre listening to BriefingsDirect.Today, we present a sponsored podcast discussion on how higher education technology innovator, Le Moyne College in upstate New York, has embraced several levels of virtualization as a springboard to client-tier virtualization benefits. Well see how Le Moyne worked with technology solutions provider Systems Management Planning, Inc. to make the journey to deep server virtualization and then move to virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), and we will see how theyve done that in a structured,predictive fashion.Stay with us now to learn how a medium-sized, private college like Le Moyne teamedwith a seasoned technology partner to quickly gain IT productivity payoffs via VDI, amidthe demanding environment and high expectations of a college campus.Here to share their virtualization journey story are Shaun Black, IT Director at LeMoyne College in Syracuse, New York. Welcome, Shaun.Shaun Black: Good morning, and thanks for having me, Dana. Its wonderful talkingto you.Gardner: Were glad to have you. Were also here with Dean Miller, Account Managerat Systems Management Planning or SMP based in Rochester, New York. Hello, Dean.Dean Miller: Good morning, Dana.Gardner: Shaun, let me start with you. Im thinking that doing IT at a college comeswith its own unique challenges. You have a lot of very smart people. Theyre able tocommunicate well. Theyre impassioned with their goals and tasks. Is doing IT there likebeing in a crucible, and if its a tough environment, given the user expectation, why didyou choose to go to VDI quickly?Black: I think you characterized it very well, Dana. There is tremendous diversity in thecollege and university environment. Our ability to be responsive as an IT organization is
incredibly crucial, given the range of different clients, constituents, and stakeholders that we have. These include our students, faculty, administrators, fundraisers, and the like. Theres a wide variety of needs that they have, not to mention the higher education expectations in a very much open environment. Weve been leveraging virtual technology now for a number of years, going back to VMware Desktop, VMware Player, and the like. Then, in 2007 we embraced ESX Virtual Server Technology and, more recently, the VMware VDI to help us meet those flexibility needs and make surethat the staff that we have are well aligned with the expectations of the college.Gardner: Why dont you give us a sense of the size, how large of an organization youare? For people who aren’t familiar with Le Moyne, maybe you can tell us a little bitabout the type of college you are.Equal footingBlack: Le Moyne is a private Jesuit, a Catholic institution located in Syracuse, New York. We have about 500 employees and we educate roughly 4,000 students on an annual basis. Were the second youngest of 28 Jesuit college universities nationally. Some of our better- known peers are Boston College, Gonzaga, and Georgetown, but we like to think that were on an equal footing with ourolder and more esteemed colleagues.Gardner: And youre no newbie to virtualization, but youve moved aggressively, andnow youre in the process of moving to VDI. Maybe you can just give us a brief history ofhow virtualization has been an important part of your IT landscape.Black: It started for us back in the early 2000s, and was motivated by our managementinformation systems program, our computer science-related programs, and their needfor very specialized software.A lot of that was started by using movable hard drives in very specific computing labs.As we progressed with them, and their needs continue to evolve, we just continued tofind that the solutions that we had werent flexible enough. They needed more anddifferent servers in very specific needs.From an IT workforce perspective, we were having the same problem mostorganizations have. We were spending a tremendous amount of time keeping existingsystems working. We were finding that we werent able to be as responsive to theacademic environments, and to some degree, were potentially becoming an impedimentin moving forward the success of the organization.
Virtualization was a technology that was out there. We started experimenting with itinitially within a few classrooms and then realized that this is a great technology. Howcould we apply this to our server infrastructure, where we were spending close to sixmonths a year having one of our people swapping out servers?We saw tremendous benefits from that, increased flexibility and an increased ability forour staff to support the academic mission. Then, as we start looking in the last coupleyears, we saw similar demands on the desktop side with requirements for new softwareand discussions of new academic programs. We recognized that VDI technology was outthere and was another opportunity for us to try to embrace the technology to help uspropel forward.Gardner: And so given that you had a fairly good backing in virtualization generallyand a very demanding and diverse set of requirements for your users, tell me about howSystems Management Planning, or SMP, came into play and what the relationshipbetween you two is?Black: Our relationship with SMP and the staff there has been critical from back in2006-2007, when we began adopting server virtualization. With a new technology, youtry to bring in a new environment. There are learning and assimilation curves. To getthe value out of that, to get the bang for the buck as quickly as possible, we wanted toidentify a partner to help us accelerate into leveraging that technology.They helped us in 2007 in getting our environment up, which was originally intended tobe an 18-month transition of server virtualization. After they helped us get the first fewservers converted within a couple weeks, we converted the rest of our environmentwithin about a two-month period, and we saw tremendous benefits in servervirtualization.Front of the listWhen we started looking at VDI, we had a discussion with a number of differentpartners. SMP was always at the front of our list. When we got to them, they justreinforced why they were the right organization to move forward with.They had a complete understanding of the impact of desktop virtualization and how ithas an impact on the entire infrastructure of an environment, not just the desktop itself,but the server infrastructure, storage infrastructure, network infrastructure.They were the only organization we talked to, from the start, that began with that kindof discussion of what the implications are from a technology perspective, but alsounderstanding what the implications are, and why you want to do this from a businessperspective, and particularly an education perspective.
They are already working with a number of different higher education institutions in theNew York region. So they understood education. Its just a perfect partnership, andagain, they brought very experienced people to help us through the process ofassimilating and getting this technology implemented as quickly as possible and puttingit to good use.Gardner: Dean Miller at SMP, how typical is Le Moynes experience, in terms of thepilot, moving towards server virtualization and then starting to branch out and takeadvantage of that more holistic approach that Shaun just described that will then lead tosome of these VDI benefits? Is this the usual path that you see in the market?Miller: It is, and we like to see that path, because you dont want to disappoint your users with the virtual desktop. They just want to do their job and they dont want to be hung up with something thats slow. You want to make sure that you roll out your virtual desktops well, and you need the infrastructure behind that to support that. So yes, they started with a proof of concept which was a limited installation, really just within the IT department, to get their own IT people up to speed, experimenting with ThinApp and ThinAppingapplications. That went well. The next step was to go to the pilot, which was a limitedroll out with some of the more savvy users. That seemed to go pretty well, and then, wewent for a complete implementation.Its fairly typical, and it was a pleasure working with this team. They recognized thevalue of VDI and they made it happen.Gardner: And is there anything unusual or specific to Le Moyne in this regard?Miller: No, I dont think there was anything unusual. It went pretty smoothly. Wevebeen doing quite a few rollouts, and it went well.Gardner: Tell us a bit about SMP. What type of organization are you? Are you regional,across the globe, or the country? We want to know a little more about your services andyour company?Focus on data centerMiller: Were Systems Management Planning. Were a women-owned company. Wereheadquartered in Rochester, New York, and were founded in 1997. Our focus is in thedata center, implementing virtualization, both server and desktop virtualization, storagevirtualization, and networking.
Our expertise in VMware and its complementing technologies allowed us to grow at arate of about 30 percent year over year. Were recognized in the "Rochester BusinessJournal Top 100." This past year, were ranked number six, based on growth.We have offices in Rochester, Albany, and Orlando, Florida, and we use virtual desktopsthroughout our organization. This gives us the ability to spin up desktops or remoteoffices quickly. You could say we practice what we preach.Its a technical organization. In fact, we have more engineers than salespeople on staff,which in my experience is pretty unusual. And we have more technical certification thanany partner in upstate or western New York that I know of. Im pretty sure of that.VMware has recognized SMP as a premier partner. Were also on the VMware technicaladvisory board and were really proud of that fact. We work closely with VMware, andthey bounce a lot of ideas and things off our engineering team. So, in a nutshell, that’sSMP.Gardner: Shaun, Dean has brought up an interesting point. If youre going to do VDI,you’ve got to do it right, having the word get out across the campus that the apps areslow or the storage isnt there sufficiently, its going to really sound the death knell forthe cause.What did you do to make sure that that initial rollout was successful, that theperformance was either at or better than the previous methods? Then, tell us a little bitabout what you came back with in terms of their impression.Black: Its what we continue to do, because we are still in the process of rolling this outand we will be for another 12 months. That’s probably the key component, as Deanmentioned.Weve been very methodical about going through an initial proof of concept, evaluatingthe technology, and working with SMP. They been great at informing us what some ofthe challenges might be, architecting an underlying infrastructure, the servers and thenetwork.Again, this is an area where SMP has informed us of the kinds of challenges that peoplehave in virtual desktop environments, and how to build an environment that’s going tominimize the risk of the challenges, not the least of which are bandwidth and storage.Methodical fashionThen, were being very deliberate about how we roll this out, and to whom, specificallyso that we can try to catch some of these issues in a very methodical fashion and adjustwhat were doing.
We specifically built the environment to try to build in an excess capacity of roughly athird to support business growth, as well as to support some variations in utilization andunexpected needs. You do everything you can in IT to anticipate what your customersare going to be doing, but we all know that on a day-to-day basis, things change, andthose can have pretty dramatic consequences.So we try to factor in enough head room to make sure that those kinds of situationswouldn’t negatively impact us. But the biggest thing is really just being very methodicaland measured in throwing these technologies out.With regard to the members of the pilot team, I’ll give a lot of kudos and hats-off tothem, because they suffered through a lot of the learning curve with us in figuring outwhat some of these challenges are. But that really helped us, as we got to what weconsider the second phase of the pilot this past fall. We were actually using a productionenvironment with a couple of our academic programs in a couple of classrooms. Thenwe began to go into full production in the spring with our first 150 production users.Gardner: And just to be clear, Shaun, what VMware products are you using? Are youup to vSphere 5, is this View 5, or youre using the latest products on that?Black: I understand that View 5.1 has recently been released. But at the time we rolledit out, vSphere, ThinApp, and View 5, were the latest and greatest with the latest servicepatches and all, when we initially implemented our infrastructure in December.Its one of the areas where were going to be leveraging SMP on a regular basis, giventhat theyre dealing with the upgrades more frequently. My staff is helping us maintainthe current and make sure we are taking maximal advantages of the incrementalfeatures and major innovations that VMware adds.Gardner: Now, as youre rolling this out, its probably a bit early to come up withreturn on investment (ROI) or productivity improvement metrics for the VDI, but howabout the server virtualization, in general, and the modernization that youre goingabout for your infrastructure? Do you have a sense of whether this is a ROI type ofbenefit? What other metrics do you use to decide that this is a successful effort?Black: Certainly, theres an ROI. There are a couple different ways that we like tomeasure. I’d like to think of it as both dollars and delight. From a server virtualizationperspective, theres a dollar amount. We extended the lifecycle of our servers from athree-year cycle to five years. So we get some operational as well, as some capital costsavings, out of that extension.Most significantly, going to the virtual technology on the servers, one motivator for uson the desktop was what our people are doing. So its an opportunity-cost question andthat probably, first and foremost, is the fundamental measure Im using. Internally,were constantly looking at how much of our time are we spending on what we call "keep
the lights on" activity, just the operations of keeping things running, versus how muchtime were investing on strategic projects.Free up resourcesSecond to that, are we not investing enough time such that strategic projects are beingslowed down, because IT hasn’t been able to resource that properly. From theperspective of virtualization, it certainly allowed us to free resources and reallocatethose to things that the colleges deem more appropriate, rather than the standard kindof operational activities.Then, just in regard to the overall stability and functionality in an environment is what Ithink of as a delight factor, the number of issues and the types of outages that weve hadas a result of virtualization technology, particularly on the server front. Its dramaticallyreduced the pain points, even from hardware failures, which are bound to happen. Sogenerally, it increased overall satisfaction of our community with the technology.On the desktop front, we were much more explicit in building a pro forma financialmodel. Were going forward with that, and the expectation is that we are going to be ableto reallocate, once we complete the rollout, a full-time equivalent employee. Were notgoing to have someone having to spend basically a year’s worth of time every year justshuffling new PCs onto desktops.Were also expecting, as a result of that, that were going to be able to be much moreresponsive to the new requests that we have, the various new software upgrades,whether it would be Windows, Office, or any of the various packages that are used in theacademic environment here.So were expecting that’s going to contribute to overall satisfaction on the part of bothour students, as well as our faculty and our administrators, having the tools that theyneed to do their job in the databases and be able to take advantage of them.Gardner: Just quickly on the cost equation for your client hardware, are you going tocontinue to use the PCs as these VDI terminals or are you going to be moving at somepoint to thin or zero clients? What are the implications for that in terms of cost?Black: We do intend to extend the existing systems. We had been on a four-yearlifecycle. Were expecting to extend our existing systems out to about seven years, butthen, replacing any of that equipment with thin or zero clients, as those systems age out.Certainly, one of the benefits we did see of going to virtual is the ability to continue touse that hardware for a longer period of time.Gardner: Okay. Dean Miller, is this experience that we are hearing from Le Moyne andShaun, indicative of the ROI and economics of virtualization generally? That is to say areally good return on the server and infrastructure, but then perhaps higher financial
benefits when you go to the full VDI, when you can start to really realize the efficienciesand cost-reduction of administration?Miller: Absolutely. Le Moyne College, specifically Shaun Black and his team, saw thevalue in virtualizing their desktops. They understood the savings in hardware cost, theenergy cost, the administrative time, and benefits from their remote users. I think theygot some very positive feedback from some of the remote users about View. They had avision for the future of desktop computers, and they made it happen.Gardner: In looking to the future, Shaun. Is this setting you up for perhaps more easein moving towards a variety of client endpoints. Im thinking mobile devices. Imthinking bring your own device (BYOD) with students working from campus, but thenremotely on the weekends from home, that sort of thing. How does this set you up interms of some of these future trends around mobile, BYOD, and consumerization?Laying the foundationBlack: It lays the foundation for our ability to do that. That was certainly in ourthinking in moving to virtual desktop. It wasn’t what we regard as a primary motivator.The primary motivator was how to do better what we’ve previously done, and that’swhat we built the financial model on. We see that just as kind of an incremental benefit,and there may be some additional costs that come with that that have to be factored in.But from the perspective of recognizing that our students, faculty, and everyone want tobe able to use their own technology, and rather than having us issue them, be able toaccess the various software and tools more effectively and more efficiently.It even opens up opportunities for new ways of offering our academic courses and thelike. Whether it would be distance or the students working from home, those are thingsthat are on our shortlist and our radar for opportunities that we can take advantage ofbecause of the technology.Gardner: Then, also looking at value from a different angle, is there anything about theVDI approach, the larger virtualization efforts that brings more control to your data,thinking about security, compliance, protecting intellectual property, storage, recovery,backup, even disaster recovery (DR). So how about going down that lane, if you will, ofdata lifecycle implications?Black: That’s another great point, and again another one of the areas that was in ourthinking in regard to the strategy. The idea, particularly for our mobile workers whohave laptops, instead of them taking the data with them, to keep that data here oncampus. Well still provide them with the ability to readily access that and be just aseffective and efficient as they currently are, but keeping the data within the confines ofthe campus community, and being able to make sure that’s backed up on a routine basis.
The security controls, better integration of View with our Windows server environment,and our authentication systems are all benefits that we certainly perceive as part of thisinitiative. Its not just a control perspective, but its also being able to offer moreflexibility to people, striking that balance better.Gardner: Dean Miller, back to you. I should think that given that you have a largecross-section of customers, global concerns, and large US companies as well as smalland medium-sized organizations like Le Moyne, that these data lifecycle managementcontrol security issues must be a big driver. Is that what you’re finding?Miller: We’re seeing that in higher education as well as in Fortune 500s, even smalland medium businesses (SMBs), the security factor of keeping all the data behind thefirewall and in the data center, rather than on the notebooks out in the field, is a hugeselling point for VDI and View specifically.Gardner: Lets talk about lessons learned and sharing some of that. Shaun, if you wereto do this over again, or you wanted to provide some insights to somebody justbeginning their virtualization journey, are there any thoughts, any 20/20 hindsightconclusions, that you would share with them?Black: For an organization that’s our size, a medium business, Id say to anybody to belooking very hard at this, and be looking at doing it sooner, rather than later. Obviously,every institution has its own specific situation, and there are upfront capital costs thathave to be considered in moving forward this. But if you want to do it right and if you’regoing to do that, you have to make some of the capital investment to make that happen.Sooner rather than laterBut, for anybody, sooner rather than later. Based on the data weve seen from VMware,we were in the front five percent of adopters. With VDI, I think we’re somewhere inmaybe the front 15 or something like that.So, were a little behind where I’d like to be, but I think we’re really at the point wheremainstream adoption is really picking up. Anyone who isn’t looking at this technology atthis point is likely to find themselves at a competitive disadvantage by not realizing theefficiency that this technology can bring.Gardner: Let me just explore that a bit more. What are the competitive advantages fordoing this now?Black: For us, it really gets down to, as I said earlier, opportunity cost in strategicalignment. If your staff are not focused, from an IT perspective, on helping yourorganization move forward, but just on keeping the existing equipment running, you’renot really contributing maximally, or as I would say, contributing maximally to moveyour organization forward.
So to the extent that you can reallocate those resources toward strategic type initiativesby getting them off of things that can be done differently and therefore done moreeffectively, any organization welcomes that.Gardner: I guess I am thinking too that getting all your ducks lined up on theinfrastructure, getting the planning in place and having these rollout milestones set andready to be implemented frees you up to start thinking more about applications, makingyour innovation move from support to that innovative level.Again, we talked about changing the types of applications, whether its in delivery,maybe its moving towards multitenancy, private cloud types of models. Before we signoff, any thoughts about what the implications long-term are for your ability to be leadingagile vis-à-vis your application set?Black: Theres a lot of debate on this, but Ive told many individuals on the campus,including my vice president, that I expect this to very likely be the last time that LeMoyne is required to make this kind of investment in capital infrastructure. The nexttime, in five years or whatever, the market will be matured enough that we could go to adesktop-as-a-service type environment and have the same level of flexibility and control.So we can really focus on the end services that we’re trying to provide, the applications.We can focus on the implications for those, the academics, as opposed to the underlyingtechnology and letting the organization have the time and the focus on the technology,maintaining that underlying infrastructure, take advantage of their competencies andallow us to focus on our core business.We’re hoping that theres an evolution. Right now, we are talking with variousorganizations with regard to burst capacity, DR-type capabilities and also talking aboutour longer term desires to outsource even if some of the equipment is posted here, butultimately, get most of the technology and underlying infrastructure in somebody else’shands.Insight questionGardner: Dean, I just want to run that same kind of insight question by you. Clearly,Shaun has a track record, but youve got quite a bit more across different types oforganizations. Is there a bit of advice that you would offer to companies as they’rebeginning to think about virtualization as a holistic strategy for IT? Whatre some goodconcepts to keep in mind as youre beginning?Miller: Well, that’s interesting. We were talking about virtual desktops, maybe two-and-a-half, three years ago. We started training on it, but it really hadnt taken off forthe last year-and-a-half. Now, we’re seeing tremendous interest in it.
Initially, people were looking at savings for a hardware cost and administrative cost. Abig driver today is BYOD. People are expecting to use their iPad, their tablet, or eventheir phone, and its up to the IT department to deliver these applications to all thesevarious devices. That’s been a huge driver for View and its going to drive the View andvirtual desktop market for quite a while.Gardner: I am afraid we’ll have to leave it there. We’ve been talking about how highereducation technology leader, Le Moyne College in upstate New York, has embracedserver-level virtualization as a springboard to client-tier virtualization benefits, and weheard how technology solutions provider, SMP, helped them make that journey in astructured predictive way.I’d like to thank our guests for joining us on this BriefingsDirect podcast. We’ve beenhere with Shaun Black, IT director at Le Moyne College. Thank you so much, Shaun.Black: Thank you.Gardner: And we’ve been here with Dean Miller, Account Manager at SMP. Thank you,Dean.Miller: Thanks, Dana. Thanks for the opportunity.Gardner: You’re welcome. This is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at InterarborSolutions. Thanks again for listening and come back next time.Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Sponsor: VMwareTranscript of a sponsored podcast discussion on how a mid-sized college harnessedserver virtualization as a stepping stone to VDI. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC,2005-2012. All rights reserved.You may also be interested in: • Case Study: Strategic Approach to Disaster Recovery and Data Lifecycle Management Pays Off for Australias SAI Global • Case Study: Strategic Approach to Disaster Recovery and Data Lifecycle Management Pays Off for Australias SAI Global • Virtualization Simplifies Disaster Recovery for Insurance Broker Myron Steves While Delivering Efficiency and Agility Gains Too • SAP Runs VMware to Provision Virtual Machines to Support Complex Training Courses • Case Study: How SEGA Europe Uses VMware to Standardize Cloud Environment for Globally Distributed Game Development • Germanys Largest Travel Agency Starts a Virtual Journey to Get Branch Office IT Under Control