Knight Frank selects Virgin Media Business network for switch to fat clients

Property consultant deploys faster WAN to avoid Citrix server farm upgrade and improve unified communications

Independent property consultant Knight Frank has replaced its ADSL network with a high-speed network from Virgin Media Business to improve application performance and unified communications.

Knight Frank’s IT network delivers vast amounts of digital content, such as video tours of properties and graphic-intensive multimedia files for staff to use when helping customers. The existing ADSL network was unable to support the large number of multimedia applications it required. 

The new network, which uses a secure IPVPN from Virgin Media Business, will not only provide the bandwidth to enable these applications, but will also increase resiliency due to it being diversely routed to Knight Frank’s two datacentres.

The network will be delivered as part of a five-year contract to support staff in Knight Frank’s 60 regional UK offices.

Running applications locally

Unlike many organisations that are centralising desktops by virtualising PCs, Knight Frank is going the other way – deploying fat PC clients to replace a Citrix-based thin client set-up. 

”Prior to the implementation of the Virgin Media Business network, we ran Citrix over ADSL because there was insufficient bandwidth to run our applications across the WAN [wide area network],” said Hardesh Degun, infrastructure manager at Knight Frank.

Improving performance of the Citrix infrastructure would have required an upgrade to the Citrix server farm and better desktop PCs. 

“You need quite a fast processor on the local PC to enhance the Citrix desktop [experience],” said Degun. 

Since the company was planning to refresh the desktops anyway, he said it made sense to run the applications locally on the new, more powerful PC hardware, rather than incur additional costs upgrading Citrix to boost the virtual PC performance. 

Citrix is still used for remote access for home users and business continuity, although Knight Frank has halved the number of Citrix licences it now uses.

High-speed network connections

The new network infrastructure has allowed the company to use new types of unified communications platforms, such as Microsoft Lync. Unified comms run across the WAN. 

“We allow personal videoconferencing using MS Link, and we hope to consolidate telephony into our two datacentres using a central telephony system to remove the need for local telephony services,” said Degun. 

We hope to consolidate telephony into our two datacentres using a central telephony system to remove the need for local telephony services

Hardesh Degun, infrastructure manager, Knight Frank

The company has started migrating the telephony of 15 regional offices into its datacentres, using Alcatel for IP telephony.

The Virgin Media Business fibre-based network connects the regional offices via two 10Mbps links to two datacentres at Baker Street and Aldgate in London. It is being used to support all the company’s datacentre-hosted applications, including Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, file services, a property match system and a property database.

The network provides a 100Mbps “access bearer” network service, which connects into each office, supporting up to 40 users. The two datacentres are connected to each other via a 20Gbps link, and also connected via a 1Gbps link into Virgin Media Business’s Layer 2 Ethernet.

Degun hopes to pilot a Link PABX, which he said promises good integration with Outlook. If the pilot is successful, its strategy would be to decommission the Alcatel system and move over to Lync, he said.

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