Swift Move to Desktop as a Service Kept Maryland Lottery and Gaming Connected During COVID-19 Crisis

CIO Jeff Patchen explains how the government agency’s private cloud data center adapted quickly to stream virtual desktops to a remote workforce.

By Brian Carlson

By Brian Carlson April 17, 2020

For IT managers, the speed at which the coronavirus impacted the lives of people around the world was a shock. Already charged with keeping businesses running and employees connected to the digital world 24-7, IT pros were quickly forced to do everything from home, putting digital transformation efforts to the test.

For those equipped with modern, easily scalable technologies, the sudden shift to support remote workers was manageable. For others, IT departments were left scrambling to find quick solutions.

“We had been planning for some sort of emergency for several weeks,” said Jeff Patchen, CIO of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency. “We had a decent number of teleworkers already, but we knew there would be more as soon as people had to stay home due to the coronavirus. We don't know how long this situation is going to last.”

Maryland USA State Welcome to Highway Road Sign

An independent agency of the State of Maryland, Maryland Lottery and Gaming has contributed more than $16.7 billion in revenue to the state since its inception in 1973. As CIO, Patchen and his team have transformed the agency’s IT system into a modern private cloud built on the Nutanix hypervisor and enterprise cloud operating system, controlled by Prism Pro.

“You never truly understand the shortcomings of an IT solution until you replace it with something better,” Patchen said of the agency’s transition to Nutanix. “We were able to cut our server and storage management time in half, if not more.”

All of that made it quick and easy for him to set up new virtual desktop technology to support a remote workforce.

Patchen began looking at virtual desktop technology because he determined it was a better option than buying and supporting individual laptops for every employee. When COVID-19 forced nearly the entire agency to work from home, he turned to desktop as a service (DaaS), a virtual desktop technology that can run in a private data center or public cloud.

“Nutanix Xi Frame provides visibility, control and security,” Patchen said, listing requirements he needed to meet. Speed was another.

He was able to set up Frame in a few days while working from home. Now he’s streaming business applications from his data center to employees, who can work from anywhere using a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone browser.

“We are supporting about 100 accounts, but I can easily expand the solution to support our entire agency if needed.”

He needs that kind of agility during a time of increased uncertainty.

“We needed maximum flexibility from our work-from-home environment,” he said. “Nutanix Xi Frame provided the quickest path for us to get remote users connected back on to the network, so they can stay productive without requiring us to provision and image laptops.”

He said paying via subscription allows him to cover short timeframes and adjust as needs evolve.

“Instead of being locked into something from six to 12 months, Nutanix told me, ‘We can give you the ability to take a subscription for a month, two months, three months, whatever you may need," Patchen said.

DaaS and Enterprise Cloud Redefining IT

Patchen said he can use Frame as a kind of a gateway to employees’ PCs.

“If we had some sort of critical failure, or needed another type of use, we could then evolve that process to perform the work on the virtual machine versus connecting to everyone’s desktop,” he said.

The ability to spin up virtual desktop connections quickly has reduced the time and resources needed to secure, track and update company-issued hardware. It typically takes his team an hour to get a laptop set up, tested and profiled for a telecommuting employee.

“With Xi Frame, we eliminate having to purchase laptops and going through that process of issuing a laptop to the end-user. That entire process just went away with this," he said.

Patchen said he’s previously opposed using cloud technologies for the public sector, but after using hyperconverged infrastructure to create a private cloud system, he’s come to rely on the agility and flexibility to support changing needs.

“It's the best solution,” he said. “You’ve got to do what's right and what’s going to get things done.”

He credits private cloud technology for enabling his IT team to support every employee remotely during challenging, unpredictable times.

“We can be successful at what we do remotely,” he said. “We don't have to be in an office.”

This is changing the perception of IT and the value of powering a remote workforce.

“People are going to rethink IT,” he said, adding that IT managers will have to answer critical questions.

“How can IT be agile and move quickly when things like this happen?” Patchen said. “What tools do they have at their disposal to be able to support their users in times like this?”

Try Nutanix Frame Desktop-as-a-Service free for 30 days.

Brian Carlson is a contributing writer. He is the Founder of RoC Consulting and was Editor-in-Chief of CIO.com and EE Times. Follow him on Twitter @bcarlsonDM

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