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Better end-user experience with virtualisation

Caroline Ng | April 29, 2013
ABN AMRO regional IT team’s new end-user environment project has gained much recognition from its global counterparts. And the initiative was selected as one of CIO Asia’s CIO 100 2013 top projects.


Dirk Sibiet, country technology officer Singapore & UAE for ABN AMRO.


For private banker Lee Chang Tze, starting up his office desktop platform was a slow process that could take up to eight minutes to complete.

But thanks to a new end-user environment project, the startup time has plunged to less than a minute." The new infrastructure has more functions and capabilities to enhance the user experience and output," says Lee, who is head of Private Banking at ABN AMRO S.E. Asia.

The improved desktop performance was made possible by an initiative called Project Launcher introduced by Dirk Sibiet, country technology officer Singapore & UAE for ABN AMRO.

The new project was an extensive upgrade of the bank's end-user computing (EUC) environment that featured implementations of VMware's Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and application virtualisation tools, as well as a Windows 2008 architecture and Windows 7 client system.

One of the main driving forces behind Project Launcher was the impending termination of support by ABN AMRO's global outsourcings partner in mid-2012. To continue the support, the ABN AMRO IT arm would have had to pour in US$1.2 million, an action deemed too costly. 

In an alternative measure, the technology team in Singapore designed an active directory and new client based on Windows 2008 and Windows 7 respectively.

The design and build of the backend and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure were completed by four in-house engineers in Singapore in less than six months, which was deployed by 14 regional EUC engineers for over 800 clients in three cities (Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai) within 10 weeks.

All application servers were migrated from Windows 2003 to Windows 2008 and all regional clients from Windows XP to Windows 7. The engineers also implemented back-end infrastructure based on Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager and App-V platforms.


Firm Foundation

Sibiet says it would have taken at least twice as much time to deploy the project was it not for a previous virtualisation project. It was Project SIVIA, one of 2012 CIO 100 award winners, that laid the foundation for Project Launcher.

Project SIVIA saw the virtualisation of all regionally hosted applications and their associated databases, and the implementation of a fully-automated strategic disaster recovery set-up.

"So virtualisation was the foundation that enabled us to do a quick deployment but you could have also done the Launcher programme in a full physical route," says Sibiet. He estimates that it would have taken some eight months for the project to be implemented, instead of the four months that the IT team took.

"If we had gone through the full physical route, we would have added two racks of servers to it. Now we just added 25 virtual instances in the region," says Sibiet.


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