How B&N Keeps Designs Fresh While Working Remotely

Engineering and architecture firm Burgess and Niple uses virtual workstations powered by NVIDIA vGPU technology to enable employees to work from home.
by Nicola Sessions

Whether designing buildings, complex highway interchanges or water purification systems, the architects and engineers at Burgess & Niple have a common goal: bringing data together to develop incredible visuals that will be the blueprint for their design.

B&N, an engineering and architecture firm headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, with approximately 400 employees, specializes in the designing and planning of roads, buildings, bridges and utility infrastructure, such as the award-winning Southwestern Parkway Combined Sewer Overflow Basin, located in the historic Shawnee Park in Louisville, Kentucky.

To provide infrastructure designs for federal, state and local government agencies and private corporations across 10 states, often in remote locations, B&N needs to have access to its applications and data anytime and anywhere.

To enable geographically dispersed architects, engineers and designers to collaborate on these projects, B&N transitioned 100 percent of its users to virtual desktop infrastructure. The company turned to NVIDIA virtual GPU technology to provide access to graphics-intensive applications, such as Autodesk AutoCAD, Revit and Civil 3D, Bentley Systems MicroStation, and Microsoft Office 365 along with other office productivity apps.

B&N chose Dell PowerEdge servers, each installed with two NVIDIA M10 GPUs with NVIDIA Quadro Virtual Data Center Workstation (Quadro vDWS) software and VMware ESXi 6.7 U3. The systems enable the company to maintain the same level of productivity and performance in virtual workstations as it would have running the applications natively on physical workstations.

Because it was already using VDI, the company was able to shift to conducting business at home during the COVID-19 outbreak almost immediately and has continued to collaborate seamlessly and efficiently in real time.

“It is very much business as usual for us, which is pretty remarkable given the circumstances,” said Rod Dickerson, chief technology officer at B&N.

VDI enables B&N to keep data centralized in the data center to protect intellectual property and enable quick access across different locations without version control issues and lengthy upload and download times.

“The files that we work with are very large, which makes sharing them between engineers using traditional means difficult, especially with the inconsistencies in residential broadband during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dickerson. “Using VDI with NVIDIA GPUs and Quadro vDWS allows us to maintain our productivity output regardless of our physical locations.”

NVIDIA Quadro vDWS: Work from Anywhere Without Sacrificing Performance

Keeping its employees productive while working from home has not only allowed B&N to continue work with existing clients without delays, but it also allowed them to win new projects. In Ohio, the firm interviewed for a new highway interchange design project and won in part thanks to the ability to seamlessly collaborate internally and present to the client virtually.

They were also able to accelerate construction on a project in Indiana when the opportunity arose due to stay-at-home orders. Without NVIDIA Quadro vDWS providing access to needed applications and infrastructure, it would’ve been difficult to meet the accelerated schedule without any glitches.

“Across the board, project delivery continues to be seamless as a result of VDI with NVIDIA vGPU,” said Dickerson. “We are continuing to work as if we were in the office with the same level of performance.”

B&N has added about 40 new employees since the pandemic started. Onboarding is simplified because they can begin working with high-performance virtual workstations on their very first day. With virtual machines centrally located in the data center, the B&N IT team can easily maintain and manage the client computing environment as well.

B&N has used NVIDIA vGPUs to provide employees with workstation performance with the mobility and security of virtualization, effectively eliminating physical boundaries.

“NVIDIA vGPU is central to our business continuity strategy and has proven not only viable, but vital,” said Dickerson. “We would have significant business continuity issues if it weren’t for our implementation of NVIDIA vGPU technology.”

Learn more about how NVIDIA vGPU helps employees to work remotely.