People 'n' Issues

Virtual desktops keep the movies coming

October 24th, 2017
When a company is operating at the cutting edge of entertainment, it also needs cutting edge technology to keep the business running. Ster-Kinekor showed us how it was able to update its infrastructure without breaking the bank.
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But Ster-Kinekor, South Africa’s main movie distributor, was labouring with an IT ecosystem comprising dated infrastructure, characterised by a poor end user experience, no workload mobility, and abysmal support times. How, then, to achieve digital transformation?

“The situation was bleak and when quotes began coming in to replace 150 high-end laptops, update infrastructure, backup and recovery, and expedite product update deployments and refresh cycles – it seemed insurmountable,” said Andre Potgieter, IT Executive at Ster-Kinekor Entertainment. “We couldn’t afford the solutions being proffered and were unwilling to sign-up for 15-years of technical debt.”

Yet the need remained pressing to transform this environment, in which it took IT on average two weeks to load Windows onto a machine, and the mere mention of IT evoked emotions ranging from anger to loathing among end-users. So the embattled IT department, with its partner VMXperts, turned to suppliers Dell and VMware to look at leveraging their desktop virtualisation strategies.

Key among the challenges facing Ster-Kinekor were: lengthy IT support times; a costly mobile environment; and no visibility and control. To surmount these, the team employed a staged approach to deploy a wall-to-wall VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) environment – rolling out Workspace on Dell thin clients – to address its EUC (end user computing) needs; upgraded the backend to vSphere 6 on Tintri; and deployed VMware Mirage with Commvault to assist with backups, product migrations and refreshes.

“Mobility was a problem – everyone had a laptop in the past and made extensive use of (costly) mobile data, there was also a problem with theft and loss of machines with corporate data on them,” said Potgieter. “With Workspace we can ensure users only access corporate data by logging in through their virtual machine.”

The secure access offered by the VMware VDI solution also meant that Ster-Kinekor could abandon its VPN. End users now connect to mail publicly and access business applications, including SAP, by connecting securely to the virtual machine – improving performance and security. In addition, using Mirage has enabled faster, cheaper backing up of endpoints; rapid reinjection of data onto new machines; and the ability to securely access information from multiple devices, dramatically improving the mobility of users.

As a media company, Ster-Kinekor also requires the ability to broadcast and process HD audio and video amid densities of between 30 and 70 virtual machines per host, without any impact on the desktop environment. Notably, with its new solution, the team is able to achieve precisely this.

Other achievements include the near elimination of downtime in the company’s warehouse, where four production lines work on specific SAP configurations and where the team had previously set up three to four desktops to mitigate the effects of downtime which could result in the loss of a million rand per day. According to Potgieter, since deploying VMware in the backend and on the desktops, if the warehouse has had one hour of downtime, it’s a lot.

All told, Ster-Kinekor has achieved a significant reduction in its IT support numbers; desktop deployments of just a few minutes; and has virtualised 50-percent of its applications.

IT support times have shrunk from weeks to minutes, productivity has increased across the organisation, and it now has a robust failover environment, and is positioned to react quickly to the digital changes occurring in the fast-paced media industry.

Perhaps the most significant result, however, has been the manner in which the sentiment around IT has completely changed within the company.

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