Virtual Desktop Infrastructure in the Architectural Workplace

If you've ever tried to open a Revit file from GoToMyPC, if you've often waited patiently for your CAD files to load when you're trying to work from home, if you've cursed silently (or loudly) at the functionality of your computer while you're on the road - then we need to talk about a new kind of virtual desktop system.  One that operates reliably, efficiently, quickly and uninterrupted.  In other words, it works just like you are at your desk at work.  No kind of like it, not almost like it ---- exactly the same as if you were in your office, no matter where you are.  No matter what kind of hardware you are using to get you there.  Let's take a walk around the NEW virtual desktop infrastructure and see how these new systems benefit architects and engineers, or anyone who uses a heavy-bandwidth software program like Revit, 3d Studio Max, or even InDesign.

Common Network Setup

The most common network environment in an A/E/C office is to have servers in each location. If the firm is using Revit, that is supported by individual Revit servers at each location as well.  Users have individual workstations with desktops and software installed on the physical desktop. You may also have one or more "super machines" that are capable of rendering large files over a long period of time.  This means lots of servers + lots of workstations + lots of software.

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Remote Desktop Protocol

In this typical setting, if you are going to work remotely, you'll usually log in through your network to a physical PC that is at the office - a substitute machine that allows you to access network files and programs. This set up works well on an internal LAN, if you need to render graphics on a machine that has more power than your workstation.  However, if you are accessing this desktop from an external network or the internet, you will experience lag time and delays in uploading/downloading.

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The GoToMyPC Solution

Another solution for remotely accessing your desktop/network is using GoToMyPC, a subscription middleman that works very well for low-bandwidth tasks like email or document writing. Though it's effective for either physical or virtual access, the maximum resolution is 24 bits, so using graphics-heavy programs like CAD, Revit, Photoshop or InDesign will have limited success.

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Remote Access/Office Problems

There are two areas of concern in dealing with remote access - file sharing and access speed.

  • The first - file sharing between team members - concerns mostly Autodesk products. Autodesk recommends that files be centralized, and consolidated on one or more core servers. This means that each location needs to have a Revit server.
  • The second - speed of accessibility for upload/downloads is dependent on the availability of adequate bandwidth, or the use of expensive fiber optics.

VDI is a better solution for A/E/C firms who have multiple offices and/or staff who work remotely. Here's why.

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  1. End users benefit from this type of platform because of four primary factors:
  • Mobility of Devices - you can access your desktop from any device, anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection.
  • 3D Graphics Capabilities - Graphics-heavy programs like Revit don't suffer quality or readability issues. Viewability is the same whether you are at your actual desk, or accessing it from a cheap tablet.
  • Efficiency and Performance
  • Creativity and Collaboration

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  1. IT Managers also benefit greatly from a VDI platform - in several areas:
  • Manageability and Maintenance - a VDI system is easy to maintain and to manage users. - Even someone with very little IT experience can maintain the virtual system easily through the control panel.
  • Better than Traditional Desktop/Tower - All maintenance done from the control panel of the VDI system.  Individual workstation downtime is almost 0%. User speed is faster than traditional desktop no matter what type of machine or its age.
  • Consolidation of Hardware and Resources = Lower Costs
  • Disaster Recovery and Security - VDI's first line of defense is the hypervisor, a virtual layer that protects the physical server from being hacked. Even if a virtual machine gets a virus, the fix is quite literally a minute. The user is restored to full capability, with no loss of files.
  • IT Goes Green - Because a virtual desktop allows any device to become a "frame" for accessing the user's desktop, users don't need to upgrade to new equipment. Existing laptop, desktop or tablet will all work just as effectively as a new machine. Machines are upcycled instead of recycled, saving the environment and saving money that would have otherwise been spent to get rid of old equipment.
  1. Energy usage is another sizable benefit for companies who make the switch from a traditional network environment to VDI. The energy consumption of a traditional network environment is cut almost in half with a virtual network. Each virtual machine is being powered by the server, so every station uses far less energy.  Also, each physical machine is running only one program (the virtual interface), and the virtual desktop is running on full capacity off the server. Each server can support 16 users at once, using no more energy than a traditional server.
  • Image-6Standard Energy Consumption
    - 350-450 watts per workstation
    - 850-1100 watts per server
  • Energy Usage With VDI
    - Tablet: 20 watts
    - Laptop: 65 watts
    - VDI Server: 850-1100 watts
    - Data Server: 850-1100 watts

Interested in learning more about Virtual Desktop Infrastructure for the A/E/C Industry?

Call us for a free review of your current system.  In addition to a full report, we'll set up a free one-week trial of a virtual desktop environment so that you, your staff, your principals - can see this environment in action.  If you're still interested, we will put together a full proposal for VDI services and maintenance contract options.