Plan-b virtualisation initiative awarded in Sydney

Press Release – Plan b

Plan-b’s creative use of business virtualization company VMware’s technology earned New Zealand’s leading business continuity provider the top award in its category at VMware’s Virtualization Forum in Sydney on 27 October. Plan-b worked …
Plan-b virtualisation initiative awarded in Sydney

Plan-b’s creative use of business virtualization company VMware’s technology earned New Zealand’s leading business continuity provider the top award in its category at VMware’s Virtualization Forum in Sydney on 27 October.

Plan-b worked closely with VMware to develop a way to deliver customer desktop environments to their new standby office suites in Hamilton and Wellington. These suites consist of fully appointed offices in a state of readiness for customers to move into should their regular office not be operational. This most often happens as a result of fire or water damage, but can be caused by a range of mishaps.

Plan-b is the only company in New Zealand providing emergency office facilities on a large scale. Typically, customers who have Plan-b OfficeNOW protection can move into the standby office at very short notice and continue to work with their familiar desktop environment, software and data.

Providing this capability could be very costly, so Plan-b approached VMware about ways to leverage their existing infrastructure and keep costs low, so they can continue to provide the service at affordable rates.

Without virtualization, Plan-b has to have many PCs available and ready – a considerable cost, bearing in mind that their four current standby facilities have more than 250 workstations in total, with 70 more to come in Christchurch by the end of the year. To keep abreast of the latest hardware meant that Plan-b had to replace these PCs every three years. By going with terminals running in a virtual environment rather than full PCs, Plan-b was able to push the replacement timeframe out to seven years.

Virtualization also provided a way to leverage Plan-b’s significant infrastructure investment at the company head office in Auckland.

Plan-b’s original standby offices in Mt Wellington and Albany in Auckland are run from servers on-site. However, for the newer facilities in Hamilton and Wellington, the company decided it would be best to take advantage of their existing hardware and run the standby facilities using the massive computing power Plan-b has in Auckland. However, running all the necessary applications in Hamilton and Wellington via data connections would have been unacceptably slow.

Once again, virtualization provided the answer. Instead of PCs, terminals with regular LCD monitors and keyboards were installed at Plan-b’s new standby facilities. All the actual computing happens at Plan-b in Auckland, with only images of the desktop transmitted to users in Hamilton and Wellington. This drastically reduces the volume of data to be transferred, without having any discernable impact on the user experience.

“As far as anyone sitting in front of the monitor is concerned, they’re working the same way they always have,” says Plan-b Technical Director Symon Thurlow. “They may as well have had their regular PC from work on their desk.”

In fact, rather than just matching past standards, Plan-b was able to speed up provisioning of customer environments by using VMware technology. Thurlow is confident that customers who use the company’s ServerNOW server replication service will have their familiar environment ready and waiting by the time staff get to the standby facility.

Plan-b is looking to extend their service so that recovered desktops can even be made available to customer staff via the Internet, allowing them to work from home if needed.

“In a crisis situation, we find that it is very good for people to work together in an office, as there tends to be an unusual amount of detail to coordinate and discuss,” says Thurlow. “However, it could be that there are overflow staff that need to work from home.”

Thurlow was in Sydney to receive the VMware award on behalf of Plan-b. While praising his own staff, Thurlow said Plan-b would not have been able to achieve the outstanding result without helpful and expert assistance. He singled out Phil Weiss, Systems Engineer from VMware, and Neil Cresswell, Technical Director from ViFX, for their sterling work in pulling it all together.

ENDS

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