An interview with Ricardo Alberto, Chief Technology Officer, Commonwealth Treasury
Background: As the central economic agency within the Australian Federal Government, Treasury analyses and anticipates policy issues with a whole-of-economy perspective. As CTO, Ricardo Alberto is responsible to managing and executing all elements Treasury’s ICT strategy. We recently spoke with Ricardo to discuss Treasury’s implementation of Nutanix to support its virtual desktop infrastructure and ensure critical applications run seamlessly. Here is a summary:
Q: What issues did Treasury face with its former IT infrastructure?
Treasury’s last desktop refresh occurred in early 2010, meaning that this year we would start to have increasing maintenance costs if they were not replaced. Our Budget Management System (BMS) and other economic and tax modelling systems were installed on individual desktops on an ‘as needed’ basis, with data fed through from the virtual server environment. If someone was missing software, we’d need to install it on their computer. When someone needed to physically move to another space in the office, we’d have to either carry their desktop over to that location or waste time re-installing it all on a formatted desktop. We were also limited in the applications we could provide to staff outside the office – it was difficult to enable complete access to all resources with the older remote access environment. These factors came together and so we decided to plan a desktop upgrade using the latest technologies to address both issues.
Q: Why did you select Nutanix?
We ran a procurement process to virtualise our desktop environment and create a new remote access system. We selected the virtual desktop technology and the integration partner, Qirx, and chose Nutanix as the hardware to provide the storage, compute and memory for running the virtual desktops. Zero clients are used at the desk to provide connectivity to the network and to the screens for staff to access their virtual desktops.
Nutanix manages the integration of storage, compute and memory for the virtual desktops in a very simple and scalable way which means IT staff and integrators do not need to spend time designing and building the back-end environment. We were able to easily set up a proof of concept with Nutanix, then expand the resources very quickly, simply and without interruption. Less time maintaining and managing IT means more time enhancing our critical applications. The same back-end environment delivers the desktop to staff outside our IT department so that there’s no hindrance to their ability to work in the same way they work in the office.
Q: How has Nutanix improved access to Treasury’s critical applications?
With Nutanix driving our VDI, staff have uninterrupted access to all the tools they need to do their jobs. The Nutanix platform behaves invisibly – it runs the virtual desktops across a cluster and should a node fail, the desktop simply moves seamlessly to another node.
By virtualising our applications and delivering them through a virtual desktop, employees have secure access to all software on any device in or outside the office. It has unshackled them from their desks, and allowed them to get more done when travelling or working remotely. Project deadlines, particularly for the Budget, are very strict, so by enabling this, cut off dates aren’t missed.
Q: Can you provide an example of this?
Previously, niche applications, licensed for only a small number of staff, had to be installed on specific desktops, and were not configured to run in the previous remote access environment. That meant when staff moved around the building, applications had to be uninstalled and re-installed on separate desktops, or desktops would need to be physically relocated. It also meant that staff working remotely could not access the specific applications they needed. This is no longer required. Now staff can simply log in to any zero client terminal in the office or Internet-connected endpoint and use the applications the need.
We’re also using the Nutanix Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) to push graphics intensive applications such as Adobe Creative Cloud suite.
Q: What role did Nutanix partner, Qirx, play in your transition?
Qirx won a competitive tender to build our VDI environment; their recommendation to leverage Nutanix to virtualise our applications so that we can enable work anytime, anywhere, was a big factor in our decision. Qirx made the transition a very simple one by providing integration services and additional support during the process. When there were moments we thought we’d hit pain points, they worked with software and hardware vendors to ensure we were able to maintain momentum on the project.