Go GRID: How Local Governments Are Using Virtual Computing to Better Serve Residents

by Mike DeNeffe

“Our tax dollars at work.” How many times have we heard this phrase used sarcastically to describe inefficient government spending?

Two U.S. cities are spending those precious dollars to serve their communities more efficiently and economically, using NVIDIA GRID virtualization technology.

Round Rock, Texas, and Waukesha, Wis., have implemented NVIDIA GRID to give their employees virtual access to their desktops, with increased performance. The setup has simultaneously lowered the overhead cost of IT management.

Located in central Texas 15 miles north of Austin, Round Rock’s initial virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) rollout with VMware Horizon specifically targeted offering its firefighters better training.

Round Rock Texas
Rock-solid advice: “If you’re thinking of adopting VDI without NVIDIA GRID, don’t.”

The training videos had to be streamed to shared workstations at various fire stations since the nature of work shifts made it difficult to assemble everyone at once. But problems mounted with the video playback, including jerky motion, degraded video quality and sound cutting in and out.

What the city needed was a way to optimize the graphics. So the IT department reached out to the nearby Dell Solutions Center to install an NVIDIA GRID card, which virtualizes enterprise graphics delivery. “We saw improved video performance almost immediately,” said Heath Douglas, IT director for Round Rock.

NVIDIA GRID brought other benefits, too. Wider deployment of VDI to the city’s workforce means the IT department isn’t spending as much time hauling broken and repaired PC all over town. Patches, updates and desktop images are managed centrally and remotely. And the risks associated with local data storage and inconsistent backups are reduced.

And talk about IT efficiency: A single IT staffer manages the Wyse P25 thin clients used by about 80 percent of city employees. Three others manage the remaining 20 percent of legacy workstations. The police and park departments use Apple iPads to file reports or fill out forms from the field.

“We did all kinds of side-by-side performance testing … and the feedback was unequivocal: We had to invest in NVIDIA GRID technology ASAP,” said Brooks Bennett, assistant city manager of Round Rock. “My advice is simple: If you’re thinking of adopting VDI without NVIDIA GRID, don’t.”

Taming BYOD with GRID

The 11-person IT department of Waukesha, just west of Milwaukee, maintains over 300 applications and thousands of devices. A primary challenge it faced was the “personalization” of IT.

Waukesha Wisconsin
With NVIDIA GRID, Waukesha’s IT team offers city workers access anytime, anywhere, with any device.

City workers would install work applications on their personal devices. And they’d tailor their work devices with apps and plug-ins. For the Waukesha IT team, managing 600 individual official workstations meant supporting 600 different environments.

Adopting NVIDIA GRID as part of its Citrix XenDesktop VDI deployment allowed the city to balance the productivity gains of the “bring your own device” (BYOD) trend with a standardized, stable, centrally overseen environment.

“NVIDIA GRID has now allowed us to start our ‘ANY’ initiative,” said Bret Mantey, IT director for Waukesha. “That is, ANY-time access, ANY-where, with ANY-thing the end user wants to use.”

With NVIDIA GRID-powered VDI, AutoCAD Civil 3D now runs 50 percent faster when accessed by all-in-one PCs that cost a quarter of the price of individual workstations.

Soon the fire and police departments will be able to compile incident histories with GPS-tagged photographs uploaded to a GIS system in the field. And the parks department will be able to perform tree inventories and asset management using GIS over tablets.

“Virtualization has simplified all of our lives. We’ve gone from 600 unique environments down to 12 well-managed ones,” said Mantey. “Best of all, our users love it. Their natural reluctance to change vanished once they saw what GRID could do for them.”

Learn more about NVIDIA GRID technology.