City of Barcelona consolidates VDI with Windows Server 2012

The City of Barcelona is using Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V to consolidate its existing virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), based on VMware and Citrix Server, and give employees a better user experience.

According to Edwin Yuen, director for virtualisation and cloud strategy at Microsoft, the City of Barcelona first decided to adopt Windows Server in order to accelerate its upgrade to Windows 7. In the end, however, the organisation decided to skip Windows 7 and go straight to Windows 8.

Using Windows Server 2012, the City of Barcelona claims it will be able to save six months of deployment time as it initially upgrades 2,500 users to Windows 8, equating to roughly €100,000 (£80,325) in savings.

The organisation is beginning with a VDI pilot involving 200 users, and expects to expand this to 1,000 users in the next few months. Migrating the final 7,000 users to VDI and upgrading them to Windows 8 is expected to be completed over four years.

All the Windows Server 2012 productivity services (including Microsoft Lync, Sharepoint and Exchange) will be implemented using Hyper-V, and Windows Server 2012 will also enable employees to use graphic-intensive applications that were previously difficult to access.

“Even on local desktops, without the horsepower and the large graphics card, operations (involving) manipulation (of) graphics could take a long time,” said Yuen. “With the new RemoteFX and RDP technologies that are available within Windows Server 2012, they can actually get better application performance when using a VDI system.”

Yuen said that Windows Server 2012 also provides the City of Barcelona with a more secure environment within VDI than it had previously.

“They have the ability to segment out the data access and server shares, and they can also give contract programmers access to servers behind the firewall. So there are some flexibility options in terms of maintaining their environment and providing access to it,” he said.

The organisation is also looking into using some BitLocker enhancements on Windows Server 2012, to improve data protection, he said.

“Traditionally we've had Bitlocker on a client, but now we're looking at Bitlocker on the servers, because there's still issues with data theft and data loss, so protecting a lot of sensitive data that is being stored in the data centre is also something they can do within Windows Server 2012.”

Eduard Martin, chief of technology innovation in the City of Barcelona's IT department said that the migration will enable more employees to work from home and give them more flexibility.

“We are profiting because we can build more virtual desktops on the same hardware,” he said. “We calculate that we can save 15-20% on the cost of our platform.”

Commenting on the news, TechMarketView analyst Angela Eager said that the virtualisation focus of Windows Server 2012 has the potential to disrupt VMware’s march on the market.

“Its virtualisation capabilities allow workloads to shift between private data centres and those of service providers, creating a more flexible environment,” she said.

“Businesses will be able to build and manage their own private clouds and suppliers will have the scope to exploit opportunities such as peak demand fulfilment to open up new areas of business.”

Yuen added that Microsoft customers have reacted positively to virtualisation features in Windows Server 2012 because of the scale and the performance that it has demonstrated.

“The City of Barcelona work is one example of why people would use Windows Server 2012, but we're looking at this holistically – this is a new way of using operating systems as Cloud OS,” he said.

“Rather than focusing on specific features or subsets of configurations of the hardware, it's about how you deploy the applications that the end users will eventually see.”

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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