Whitney Bailey Cox & Magnani, LLC (WBCM) is a full-service, multidiscipline architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) firm with more than 200 employees serving the Mid-Atlantic region and beyond from five offices in three states. For over 39 years, WBCM has provided engineering design and construction administration services for a wide range of projects. WBCM has worked with companies and organizations including the National Institutes of Health, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Baltimore Ravens, Lockheed Martin, and the Ritz-Carlton Company. From interior and landscape design to marine, transportation, industrial, and structural engineering, WBCM has won numerous awards and received extensive repeat business from Fortune 500 companies and state and federal agencies as a result of its outstanding work.
Running an AEC firm for more than 40 years is no small feat. Over those years, WBCM has seen not only the size but also the complexity of their projects grow. With a growing reputation, the company also began to work on more remote projects across the US. With a small IT department of four, Chris Calaf, VP of Information Technology at WBCM, has had to keep up with the technology advances and new applications that its engineers, architects, and designers need in order to deliver such a diverse project portfolio. Today, the company relies heavily on applications like AutoCAD, Plant 3D, Civil 3D, Microstation, and Revit.
With 200 engineers simultaneously accessing the network, Calaf and his team struggled to manage latency and employees were experiencing a significant decline in quality and user experience the further they were from headquarters. Collaboration between offices also became bottlenecked as teams tried to copy, save, and exchange files. Even more, remote workers in the field were unable to access designs on the job site. All of these factors combined with a hiring spurt made provisioning new staff and managing IT costs a challenge for the team. Calaf knew they needed a better solution for their users. “We knew that we needed to provide better access, consolidate resources, and have higher availability and more agility when it came to provisioning resources,” Calaf explained. “We needed something that would align with the work we were doing. VDI was the solution.”
For Calaf and his team the goal was clear—he wanted no compromise in the technologies being delivered to his users. The team wanted to make sure that the technology aligned with their business, that all of their employees were billable, and applications were fully utilized. “Once we saw the NVIDIA GRID partnership with Citrix and Autodesk was gaining momentum we felt it was a technology stack that was more attainable for a company like us. So we started digging into virtual desktops a little deeper.”
To start, Calaf did a complete hardware refresh and introduced employees to VDI and what he called the WBCM Cloud. The team upgraded to Citrix XenServer, and a newer version of Citrix XenDesktop with Framehawk, added NVIDIA GRID, and leveraged Goliath Technologies Performance Monitor to proactively troubleshoot. Calaf explained his virtualization stack, “With Goliath we can monitor the impact on our end users, with Framehawk we increase the application experience, and with vGPU we can reallocate and throttle resources where they are most needed. With this visibility and flexibility, we can set thresholds and be alerted when we see latency of more than 300 milliseconds. Then we take action.”
Today WBCM is 70% virtualized with 2 offices completely on VDI. Calaf’s goal is to become 100% virtualized. For a firm of his size and project complexity, the benefits are real. Calaf clarified, “The fact that we have been able to set up these two offices with little extra capital or skill needed, was very beneficial. There is no infrastructure in those offices, just terminals, printers, and a firewall.” This combined with easier provisioning of new employees allows the IT team to become more agile.
Allowing remote access has ensured WBCM meets the demands of a new kind of remote workforce. “Remote access was something that we felt would be necessary to retain or recruit. Prior to vGPU we weren’t able to do that for a certain level of staff. Now any employee we hire has the ability to work remotely. Another benefit is being able to have our employees' apps and files “follow” them, especially when working at a client’s office. Without VDI, we had to worry about copying large files back and forth, which could pose version control challenges. Now we just say ‘Here’s Citrix XenDesktop’ and go from there. It helps out with centralization and loss of property.” And from a profitability standpoint, virtualization has helped the company keep projects on track. During a series of winter snowstorms, more than 60 employees were able to log into work remotely, at the same time, and experience no decline in user experience.
Another benefit has been the team’s ability to proactively deliver support to their users. With Goliath’s monitoring, Calaf’s team is able to keep track of any decline in user experience. This has brought time to resolution to almost real-time. “Because we can now monitor the full stack, we are now troubleshooting with confidence.” With a construction services team that is always remote on project sites, bandwidth can really slow them down. “Latency was pretty bad. Although these employees aren’t using CAD, they’re reviewing drawings, typically large PDF specs, inspection reports, etc. Goliath alerts us when they are experiencing issues and we can call them and say, ‘Hey we noticed your connection is pretty bad. How is your experience?’ and implement Framehawk for those guys. They always say the experience is much better than it was. Sometimes they are even surprised we called!”
For Calaf the move to virtualization has been a passion of his. The challenge of implementation and working with the users to meet their needs has been rewarding. “I feel that we’ve been successful. I attribute that to my staff because we are all hands-on and like the challenge. When we talk to colleagues at other firms, they are surprised at the performance we are able to achieve and can’t believe that 100% VDI is possible. We attribute a lot of our success to sitting down with our employees, learning the inner workings of the products they use and understanding that in order to be successful, we need to provide them the best user experience possible With NVIDIA, Citrix, and Goliath we can deliver on our promise.”
Acerca de Citrix
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