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How HDFC life improved productivity through a hosted shared desktop solution

Eric Ernest | Aug. 19, 2013
Field level employees are the lifeline of the insurance industry. When HDFC Life realized its already efficient sales force could bring in more success with a productivity enhancer, it turned towards hosted shared desktops (HSD). Presenting the behind-the-scenes story of one of the largest HSD implementations in the country.

Choosing the Right Scheme
"The right solution for us would have to ensure that if xGB of RAM was assigned to a user, he should be able to use all of that memory for running his apps/work," says Thomas.

One crucial capability HDFC Life expected in the solution was a simpler and more effective vendor management policy. The priority thus was to get an end-to-end solution--end-user device, servers, storage, and implementation--from a single vendor.

Thomas points out why some of the other options--DaaS, VDI and the likes--did not fit the bill. "When you take a service, there needs to be clear SLAs to ensure accountability, and in our evaluation, especially when the branches are spread out, the SLA on performance has a strong linkage with the network. Therefore, for the ideal DaaS setup, the service provider would need end-to-end ownership.

But the DaaS service providers were not necessarily the best network service providers. This ruled out DaaS as it did not offer us any advantage in service levels or cost."So, the decision to go with HSD was based on the company's analysis of user profiles. The user segment that needed the HSD implementation--in this case the sales team--consisted of users who only used applications via the browser.

Thomas elaborates, saying, "As such, there was no requirement for say local applications with heavy CPU utilization, capability to modify OS system variables, admin access, ability to install own application, etcetera." This, as a result, eliminated the need for a VDI solution.

All these factors, along with a satisfactory POC that showed an improvement over the earlier system and met current expectations, led to strengthening Thomas' conviction that HSD was the way to go.

Installation in Instalments
HDFC Life Insurance implemented the HSD system over two phases, each phase seeing the introduction of 1,000 new units. The project was successfully implemented by December 2012, something which, as Thomas puts it, was made possible with the valuable help provided by Amit Bhide, senior manager; Ajay Vernekar, VP-Enterprise Services; and Thomas' other team members.

With a sales force numbering around 11,000 members, the HSD implementation was focused on those members who did their work through desktops--a group called the 'frontline sales group', consisting of around 6,000 members.

However, there were a few important areas Thomas had to check in order to ensure the system's effectiveness. As he himself puts it, the network plays a vital role in meeting the maximum potential of HSD. When conducting the POC, Thomas tested the HSD setup not only on the LAN, but also on the WAN in order to get a clear picture of how the network performed under different circumstances. Based on the network loads, various optimizations were carried out to allow for the HSD system to run as intended. Nevertheless, Thomas reiterates that they really didn't have to alter any part of their existing infrastructure to accommodate the new HSD system.


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