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Best of VMworld 2019 Europe User Awards: The winners

Find out who won what, including the best of show prize, at the 2019 VMworld Europe User Awards in Barcelona

The winners of the Best of VMworld 2019 Europe User Awards have been announced at VMware’s annual European user conference in Barcelona, with the top prize going to UK-based legal expenses insurer, DAS UK Group.

The awards, organised by Computer Weekly and, in combination with and Le Mag IT, are held each year to highlight some of the continent’s most innovative cloud-, mobility- and virtualisation-related IT projects.

As is the case every year, the entries were judged by a panel of independent cloud and datacentre experts, who chose the winners based on the business benefits, levels of innovation and best practice their projects demonstrated, across three main categories – Best Cloud Project, Best Desktop Virtualisation or Mobility Project, and Best Data Security and Data Protection Project.

As well as scooping the Best in Show prize, DAS UK Group also came out top in the Best Desktop Virtualisation and Mobility Project category, after impressing the judges with its entry.

All the celebrated projects will receive a certificate, and will be offered the opportunity to have their projects profiled in depth by Computer Weekly, if they so wish, in the weeks that follow.

Best Desktop Virtualisation and Mobility Project, and Best of Show: DAS UK Group (nominated by Liquidware)

The emergence of performance issues within the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) estate at legal expenses insurance firm DAS UK Group revealed a need within the organisation for greater visibility into what might be the root cause of these problems.

The VDI estate was based on VMware technologies and was deployed in 2014. But as Darren Perry, the company’s end-user computing services manager, soon came to realise, the setup lacked the ability to carry out in-depth analysis of performance issues.

And while he might have had an inkling about possible causes, an inability to keep tabs on logon times, measure process hits and pinpoint problematic applications, for example, made it difficult for conclusive assessments to be made.

In response, the company embarked on a pilot project – in conjunction with IT partner ComputerWorld – that would involve trialling the use of Liquidware’s user experience and monitoring toolkit Stratusphere UX within its VDI estate.

The technology is billed by Liquidware as a platform-agnostic setup that helps organisations glean insights about the inner workings of their physical, virtual and cloud-hosted workspaces for monitoring, diagnostic and performance-enhancing purposes.

The pilot was hailed as a success, with the increased visibility offered by Stratusphere UX credited with bringing to light a number of performance bottlenecks that were blighting the productivity of the company’s workers.

This, in tur,n helped to build the business case for a full deployment of the technology, as well as an associated hardware upgrade.

“Stratusphere UX has afforded DAS UK a unique insight into our overall desktop infrastructure – both physical and virtual,” said Perry. “The benefits to both the business and our users are quite profound.

“My admin team can now pre-empt issues prior to them occurring with the diagnostics elements of Stratusphere UX. They can also continually monitor the environment and troubleshoot if required – which all leads to the ultimate goal of happy users.”

Best Cloud Project: TRC Companies (nominated by Druva)

US and UK-based engineering consultancy firm TRC Companies has spent the past few years pursuing a buy-and-build business growth strategy that has also seen it acquire legacy IT systems, as well as vast quantities of data, along the way.

This, in turn, created data management issues where its backup and archiving procedures are concerned, and led to various system compatibility issues arising.

The organisation had a portfolio of backup products and procedures in place, spanning everything from tape drives to NAS appliances to USB-based hard drives, but no central means of managing or monitoring any of them.

“Until recently, TRC had struggled to integrate the proliferation of offices, many of which did not have dedicated IT staff on-site to ensure that mission-critical server data was being backed up in a timely or effective fashion,” said the company.

“Geographically distributed sites used a variety of different, and often incompatible, tools. As a result, data was being lost.”

This realisation prompted the firm to embark on an overhaul of its backup and data archiving procedures, with an emphasis on finding a setup that would enable it to tap into the efficiencies and flexibility of the public cloud.

“What we were interested in was something that was truly born in the cloud and was optimised to handle the efficiencies of cloud as an infrastructure, per se, and give us a single state of affairs to look at,” said JP Saini, CIO at TRC Companies.

This set of criteria led the company to Druva and its cloud-based backup and disaster recovery offering, Phoenix.

“Druva experts have been committed to ensuring that TRC’s needs are paramount, asking questions such as, ‘What can we do for you outside of what we’re doing today?’ and ‘What can be done differently?’ We appreciate that,” added Saini.

Best Data Security and Data Protection Project: LKAB (nominated by Rubrik)

LKAB is a Swedish state-owned mining company with 6,000 employees dotted around the world, whose IT department is always looking for ways to reduce the organisation’s technology operating costs, while boosting its efficiency through automation.

“IT is a critical component of modern mining operations – even more so due to the type of mining we perform,” said Robert Pohjanen, IT architect at LKAB. “We employ a deep mine 1.3km underground. This type of mine is more costly to run than competitors’ open mines, forcing us to be efficient and agile. We utilise technology extensively in the mine, from fibre optics for monitoring to equipping the entire site with Wi-Fi.”

The organisation also relies on an in-house application to monitor and manage its entire mining production line and analyse all the data its activities generate.

If it were to fail, the company says its mining production line would need to shut down entirely within 24-48 hours, and restarting it again would incur huge costs.

It also has a people-tracking system in place for safety purposes that ensures its mines are clear of people before its nightly blasting activities begin. Any downtime affecting that could have fatal consequences.

Given the high stakes at which the company operates, the organisation embarked on a revamp of its disaster recovery setup, which led to it deploying several products from Rubrik’s cloud data management and backup portfolio.

“We used to spend eight hours a day managing backups, which has now been reduced to four hours a week on average,” the company said.

“As a result, we have gained 234 additional days of productivity back to the business, reallocating two staff members to more strategic projects. This has allowed our team to take a more proactive approach overall.”

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