Case study: Richard Branson's Virgin Management moves to IaaS platform

Virgin Management, a subsidiary of Virgin Group, has migrated its IT to a cloud-based IaaS platform for BYOD capabilities and savings

Virgin Management, a management services company and subsidiary of Virgin Group, has migrated its IT infrastructure to a cloud-based infrastructure as a service (IaaS) platform to reduce IT costs and provide users with bring your own device (BYOD) capabilities.

When the company relocated its head office from Brook Green to Paddington six months ago, the IT team had an opportunity to evaluate its technology infrastructure. 

The team concluded that its existing infrastructure was restrictive, distributive and non-scalable. It also found that its physical infrastructure was reaching the end of its warranty period and lacked a robust disaster recover strategy.

To maintain the current infrastructure, the IT department would have to increase its operating costs and management capabilities, as well as upgrade local users’ machines and make client updates.

Desktop virtualisation

So the team started researching cloud delivery options to assess whether a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) strategy would help it deliver a faster, consistent and more mobile-friendly desktop to users.

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Virgin Management users are extremely mobile and need to access the network from company and personal devices, thin clients and tablets in any location. It therefore needed a fully flexible solution that would allow it to scale IT resources with limited upfront costs and maximum agility while providing secure “anytime, anywhere access” to data for its users, according to the IT team.

The aim was to provide the company’s 200 users with a centralised, resilient and scalable platform with a disaster recovery (DR) plan and lower management costs.

Virgin Management picked infrastructure and SAP cloud application provider Codestone’s cloud-based IaaS platform, built on Dell servers, EMC SANs and VMware vSphere hypervisor technology.

The cloud platform gives the company high-performance computing and reserved compute power on a shared or dedicated basis, helping it save costs.

It also gained a 99.99% uptime, helping to sustain multiple points of simultaneous failure without causing system downtime to Virgin Management users.

The “full cloud” option has removed the need for any dedicated hardware in the company’s regional offices as all services are delivered from the Codestone IaaS platform.

The cloud platform provides Virgin Management’s users with a centralised, resilient and scalable platform via Citrix XenDesktop, with a full failover DR plan, deliverable to any device or user, expanding flexibility and reducing management costs.

Virgin Management’s BYOD strategy

To enable users of any supported device to use instant messaging, video-conferencing and IP telephony, Virgin Management’s IT team selected Codestone to implement new Microsoft Lync Server platform. Codestone helped the company migrate its Blackberry Enterprise Server to the new system for ongoing device management.

The cloud IaaS platform has centralised and stabilised application deployment, enabling Virgin Management users to access their entire desktop from any device, in any location and over any connection

“The transition has fully supported our strategy to move to a flexible working environment,” says Terrie Kennedy, IT director at Virgin Management. “There were no major disruptions to our systems during the migration of our mailboxes and enterprise vault, or during the implementation of new services such as MS Lync for our telephone systems, which was essential for the business to continue operating at the required level.”

As a result of the new mobile device strategy, Virgin Management’s data is now replicated to a resilient datacentre and key workloads are protected by VMware’s Site Recovery Manager (SRM).

Codestone has also replaced the existing Dropbox solution with Citrix ShareFile, allowing users to access their files from anywhere and work on or offline. It additionally provides file-sharing capabilities for group collaboration, enables offline caching of files, and helps with auditing and reporting, which is essential to the organisation.

As an additional security layer, the IT team has integrated two-factor authentication to ensure that any compromise of a user’s password does not compromise security.

The IT team also selected fully managed support services from Codestone, as security of its global users and IT management of its central systems in the UK were the company’s top priorities.

Stable and robust IT infrastructure

The cloud and BYOD project has helped the IT team develop a stable and robust IT infrastructure and enabled it to focus more on strategy and business rather than worrying about day-to-day IT operations.

The cloud IaaS platform has centralised and stabilised application deployment, enabling users to move between sites and access their entire desktop from any device, in any location and over any connection. This has increased flexibility, reduced downtime associated with device failures, reduced costs in configuration of devices and increased the amount of time users spend connected and working.

“Our approach was designed to mitigate risk with the office move, as the platform could be built in parallel to the office refurbishment and so minimise disruption to the business by keeping all legacy systems in service during the build phase,” says Jeremy Bucknell, managing director of Codestone. 

“We carried out a staged approach to the cloud migration project, making it achievable in manageable steps and using a single desktop image to deliver all user applications and services,” he says.

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