Charter Hall to migrate to virtual Windows 7 desktops

220 users across Australia to upgrade from XP, but will keep their thick clients

Property funds management and development company Charter Hall Group will join the growing number of Australian enterprises taking the plunge to deploy desktop virtualisation across the organisation.

According to the company’s IT manager, Wai-Lum Tang, some 220 staff across the company’s Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, and Perth offices will receive the technology, in conjunction with an upgrade from Windows XP to 7, in the next 12 months.

“We’ve already virtualised our servers so the next step is to look at desktop virtualisation —for tablets, desktops, phones and laptops,” Tang said. “The idea is that wherever staff go, their workspace will follow them.”

About 80 per cent of Charter Hall’s workforce will migrate to virtual machines, with the remaining 20 per cent staying with client-based OSes, he added.

“The marketing team have a high-utilisation of graphic design software and some use Macs so they have different needs,” he said.

“We have discovered that virtualisation of the desktop isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution — some users are just going to be very different.”

While many companies carry out a hardware refresh adopting thin client PCs as part of the move to virtual desktops, Charter Hall will retain its current thick clients, Tang said.

“Rather than bulk up everyone’s desktop, our aim is to bulk up the back-end, the servers,” he said. “That way you have a portable image.”

Virtual desktop offerings from both VMware and Citrix are currently under consideration, Tang said, and both had strong arguments in their favour.

“We already use Citrix here for apps deployment, so it is a natural progression for us to go with them for virtual desktops,” he said.

“Then again, we use VMware for our server virtualisation… It is really going to come down to which one does the job better and cost.”

Tang said he was attracted to VMware’s offering because of its ability to help address software licensing issues, which can emerge with the move to desktop virtualisation.

“VMware has concurrent licensing,” he said. “So, if someone is not using [their licence of] Adobe, they can check that out and therefore, that is one less licence in use.

“Instead of having 50 users with 50 licences, you just pay for the licences that are in use at that point in time.”

While many organisations to date have had reservations with moving to desktop virtualisation, the current maturity of the mobile device market meant IT managers would have to step out of their comfort zones and seriously consider the technology, Tang said.

Despite this, he acknowledged some downsides to desktop virtualisation.

“Desktop virtualisation is very hungry – both [in] disk space and bandwidth,” he said. “It puts pressure on your storage and we will probably have to get a new SAN.”

In line with current trends, Charter Hall is also looking into facilitating the greater use of tablet PCs, especially iPads by the executive team, in day-to-day operations.

This included everything from paperless board meetings, through having all relevant documents available to executives on their iPads, through to high speed in-office wireless in meeting rooms, and software capable of recognising speech and transcribing it into meeting minutes, Tang said.

Follow Tim Lohman on Twitter: @tlohman

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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