Thursday, August 23, 2012

Legal Services Leader Foley & Lardner Makes Strong Case for Virtual Desktops

Transcript of a BriefingsDirect podcast on how a major law firm has adopted desktop virtualization and BYOD to give employees more choices and flexibility.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Download the transcript. Sponsor: VMware.

Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you're listening to BriefingsDirect.

Today, we present a sponsored podcast discussion on how global legal services leader Foley & Lardner LLP has adopted virtual desktops and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) innovation to enhance end-user productivity across their far-flung operations.

We'll see how Foley has delivered applications, data, and services better and with improved control, even as employees have gained more choices and flexibility over the client devices, user experiences, and applications usage.

Stay with us now to learn more about adapting to the new realities of client computing and user expectations. We're joined by Linda Sanders, the CIO at Foley & Lardner LLP. Welcome to BriefingsDirect, Linda.

Linda Sanders: Thank you for having me.

Gardner: We're also here with Rick Varju, Director of Engineering & Operations at Foley. Welcome, Rick. [Disclosure: VMware is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Rick Varju: Thank you.

Gardner: My first question to you, Linda. When you look back on how you've come to this new and innovative perspective on client computing, what was the elephant in the room, when it came to the old way of doing client-side computing? Was there something major that you needed to overcome?

Sanders: Yes, we had to have a reduction in our technology staffing, and because of that, we just didn't have the same number of technicians in the local offices to deal with PCs, laptops, re-imaging, and lease returns, the standard things that we had done in the past. We needed to look at new ways of doing things, where we could reduce the tech touches, as we call it, and find a different way to provide a desktop to people in a fast, new way.

Gardner: Rick, same question. What was it from more of a technical perspective that you needed to overcome or that you wanted to at least do differently?

Varju: From a technical perspective, we were looking for ways to manage the desktop side of our business better, more efficiently, and more effectively. Being able to do that out of our centralized data center made a lot of sense for us.

Other benefits have come along with the centralized data center that weren't necessarily on our radar initially, and that has really helped to improve efficiencies and productivity in several ways.

Gardner: We'll certainly want to get into that in a few moments, but just for the context for our listeners and readers, tell us a bit about your organization at Foley. Linda, how big are you, where do you do business?

Virtualized desktops

Sanders: Foley has approximately 900 attorneys and another 1,200 support personnel. We're in 18 U.S. offices, where we support virtualized desktops. We have another three international offices. At this time, we're not doing virtualized desktops there, but it is in our future.

Gardner: So you obviously have a very large set of requirements across all those different users and types of users and you're dealing, of course, with very sensitive information, so control and compliance and security are all very top of mind for you.

Sanders: Absolutely.

Gardner: Okay. Let's move to what you've done. As I understand it, desktop virtualization has played an enabling role with the notion of BYOD or allowing your end users to pick and choose their own technology and even perhaps own that technology.

Going to you now, Rick, how has virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) been an enabler for this wider choice?

Varju: The real underlying benefit is being able to securely deliver the desktop as a service (DaaS). We are no longer tied to a physical desktop and that means you can now connect to that same desktop experience, wherever you are, anytime, from any device, not just to have that easy access, but to make it secure by delivering the desktop from within the secure confines of our data center.

That's what's behind deploying VDI and embracing BYOD at the same time. You get that additional security that wouldn't otherwise be there, if you had to have all your applications and all data reside on that endpoint device that you no longer have control over.

With VMware View and delivering the DaaS from the data center, very little information has to go back to the endpoint device now, and that's a great model for our BYOD initiatives.

Gardner: Just to be clear, of your 2,000 users, how many of them are taking advantage of the BYOD policy?

Varju: Well, there are two answers to that question. One is our more formal Technology Allowance Program, which I think Linda will cover in a little more detail, that really focuses on attorneys and getting out of the laptop and mobility device business.

Then there are other administrative staff within the firm who may have personal devices that aren’t part of our Technology Allowance Program, but are still leveraging some of the benefits of using their personal equipment.

Mobile devices

In terms of raw numbers, every attorney in the firm has a mobile device. The firm provides a BlackBerry as part of our standard practice and then we have users who now are bringing in their own equipment. So at least 900 attorneys are taking advantage of mobility connectivity, and most of those attorneys have laptops, whether they are firm issued or BYOD.

So the short answer to the question is easily 1,500 personnel taking advantage of some sort of connectivity to the firm through their mobile devices.

Gardner: That's impressive, a vast majority of the attorneys and a significant portion, if not a majority, of the rest. This seems to be a win-win. As IT and management, you get a better control and a sense of security, and the users get choice and flexibility. You don't always get a win-win when it comes to IT, isn't that right, Linda?

Sanders: That's correct. Before, we were selecting the equipment, providing that equipment to people, and over and over again, we started to hear that that's not what they wanted. They wanted to select the machine, whether it be a PC, a Mac, an iPad, or smartphone. And even if we were providing standard equipment, we knew that people were bringing in their own. So formulating a formal BYOD program worked out well for us.

In our first year, we had 300 people take advantage of that formal program. This year, to date, we have another 200 who have joined, and we are expecting to add another 100 to that.

As Rick mentioned, we did also open this up to some of our senior level administrative management this year and we now have some of those individuals on the program. So that too is helping us, because we don't have to provision and lease that equipment and have our local technology folks get that out to people and be swapping machines.

Now, when we're taking away a laptop, for example, we can put a hosted desktop in and have people using VMware View. They're seeing that same desktop, whether they're sitting in the office or using their BYOD device.
They're seeing that same desktop, whether they're sitting in the office or using their BYOD device.


Gardner: Of course, with offices around the United States, this must be a significant saver in terms of supporting these devices. You're able to do it for the most part remotely, and with that single DaaS provision, control that much more centrally, is that correct?

Sanders: Yes.

Gardner: Do you have any metrics in terms of how much that saved you? Maybe just start at the support and operations level, which over time, is perhaps the largest cost for IT?

Sanders: Over three years, we'll probably be able to reduce our spend by about 22 percent.

Gardner: That’s significant. I'd love to hear more, Linda, about your policy. How did you craft a BYOD policy? Where do you start with that? What does it really amount to?


Realistic number

Sanders: Of course, there's math involved. We did have our business manager within technology calculate for us what we were spending year after year on equipment, factoring in how much tech time is involved in that, and coming up with a realistic number, where people could go out and purchase equipment over a three-year time frame.

That was the start of it, looking at that breakdown of the internal time, selecting a dollar amount, and then putting together a policy, so that individuals who decided to participate in it would know what the guidelines were.

Our regional technology managers met one on one or in small groups with attorneys who wanted to go on the program, went through the program with them, and answered any questions upfront, which I think really served us well. It wasn’t that we just put something out on paper, and people didn’t understand what they were signing up for.

Those meetings covered all the high points, let them know that this was personal equipment and that, in the end, they're responsible for it should something happen. That was how we put the program together and how we decided to communicate the information to our attorneys.

Gardner: You've been ranked very high for client services by outside organizations in the past few years. You have a strong focus on delivering exceptional client services. Has something about the DaaS allowed you to extend these benefits beyond just your employees? Is there some aspect of this that helps on that client services equation? I'll throw that to you, Rick.
That does provide some additional benefit for our attorneys, when it comes to delivering the best possible service we can to our clients.


Varju: The ease of mobility and some of the productivity gains make a big difference. The quicker we can get access to people and information for our attorneys, no matter where they are and no matter what the device they're using, is really important today. That does provide some additional benefit for our attorneys, when it comes to delivering the best possible service we can to our clients.

Gardner: I know this might be a little bit in the future, but is there any possibility, of being able to extend the desktop experience to your actual clients. That is, to deliver applications data, views of content and documents, and so forth through some sort of a device-neutral manner to their endpoint device?

Varju: One of the things that we're looking at now is unified communications, and trying to pull everything to the desktop, all the experiences together, and one of those important components is collaboration.

If we can deliver a tool that will allow attorneys and clients to collaborate on the same document, from within the same desktop view, that would provide tremendous value. There are certainly products out there that will allow you to federate with other organizations. That’s the line of thinking we're looking at now and we'll look to deploy something like that in the near future.

Gardner: Before we get into how you've been able to do this, I'd like to learn a little bit more about the client satisfaction, that being your internal clients, your employees. Have you done any surveying or conducted any research into how folks adapt to this? Is this something that they like, and why? How about to you, Linda?

The biggest plus

Sanders: The biggest plus is, as Rick mentioned, for people who are mobile, is that they have the same desktop, no matter where they are. As I talked about before, whether they're in the office or out of the office, they have the same experience.

If we have a building shut down, we are not trapped into not being able to deliver a desktop, because they can’t get into the building and they can’t work inside. They're working from outside and it’s just like they are sitting here. That’s one of the biggest pluses that we've seen and that we hear from people -- just that availability of the desktop

Gardner: So flexibility in terms of location. I suppose also flexibility in terms of choosing what form factor suits their particular needs at a particular time. Perhaps a smartphone access at one point, a tablet at another time, or another type of engagement, and of course the full PC or laptop, when that’s required.

Sanders: Correct.

Varju: Before deploying VDI and VMware View, we delivered a more generic desktop for remote access. So to Linda’s point, being able to have your actual desktop follow you around on whatever device you are using is big. Then it's the mobility, even from within the office.

When an attorney signs up for the Technology Allowance Program, we provide them a thin client on their desk, which they use when they're sitting in their office. Then, as part of the Technology Allowance Program and Freedom of Choice, they purchase whatever mobility technology suits them and they can use that technology when working out of conference rooms with clients, etc.
The ability to move and work within the office, whether in a conference room, in a lobby, you name it, those are powerful features for the attorneys.


So remote access and having their own personal desktop follow them around, the ability to move and work within the office, whether in a conference room, in a lobby, you name it, those are powerful features for the attorneys.

Gardner: I have to believe that this is the wave of the future, but I'm impressed that you've done this to the extent you have done it and across so much of your user base. It seems to me that you're really on the forefront of this. Do you have any inkling to whether you're unique, not only in legal circles, but perhaps even in business in general?

Varju: We're definitely ahead of the curve within the legal vertical. Other verticals have ventured into this. Two in particular have avoided it longer than most, the healthcare and financial industries. But without a doubt, we're ahead of the curve amongst our peers, and there are some real benefits that go along with being early adopters.

Gardner: That provides us an opportunity to get a little bit more information about how you've done this. My understanding is that you were largely virtualized at your server level already. Tell me if that helped, and when you decided to go about this, without getting into too much of the weeds on the technology, how did you architect or map out what your requirements were going to be from that back end?

A lot of times people find that VDI comes with some strings attached that they weren’t anticipating, that there were some issues around storage, network capacity, and so forth. Explain for me, Rick, how you went about architecting and perhaps a little bit about the journey, and both good and bad experiences there?

Process and strategy

Varju: Your comment was correct about how server virtualization played into our decision process and strategy. We've been virtualizing servers for quite some time now. Our server environment is just over 75 percent virtualized. Because of the success we have had there, and the great support from VMware, we felt that it was a natural fit for us to take a close look at VMware View as a virtual desktop solution.

We started our deployment in October of 2009. So we started pretty early, and as is often the case with being an early adopter, you're going to go through some pain being among the first to do what you are doing.

In working with our vendor partners, VMware, as well as our storage integrators, what we learned early on is that there wasn’t a lot of real-world experience for us to draw from when designing or laying out the design for the underlying infrastructure. So we did a lot of crawling before we walked, walking before we ran, and a lot of learning as we went.

But to VMware’s credit, they have been with us every step of the way and have really taken joint ownership and joint responsibility of this project with Foley. Whenever we have had issues, they have been very quick to address those issues and to work with us. I can't say enough about how important that business relationship is in a project of this magnitude.

While there was certainly some pain in the early stages of this project and trying to identify what infrastructure components and capacities needed to be there, VMware as a partner truly did help us get through those, and quite effectively.
To VMware’s credit, they have been with us every step of the way and have really taken joint ownership and joint responsibility of this project with Foley.


Gardner: Rick, as we discussed, you're extending these desktops across hundreds and even thousands of users and many of them at different locations -- homes, remote offices, and so forth. How have you been able to manage your performance across all of those different endpoints, and how critical has the PC-over-IP technology been in helping with that?

Varju: PC-over-IP Protocol is critical to the overall VDI solution and delivering the DaaS, whether it's inside the Foley organization and the WAN links that we have between our offices, or an attorney who is working from home, a Starbucks or you name it. PC-over-IP as a protocol is optimized to work over even the lowest of bandwidth connections.

The fact that you're just sending changes to screens really does optimize that communication. So the end result is that you get a better user experience with less bandwidth consumption.

Gardner: I'd like to hear more too, Rick, about what you mentioned earlier, in that there are some adjacencies in terms of benefits. When you get to that higher level of server virtualization, when you start to identify your requirements and meet them to bring a full DaaS experience out to your end users, what were some of those unintended consequences that seemed to be positive for you?

Varju: I don’t know if they were unintended, but certainly it was the centralized management of the desktop environment, and being able to deploy patches and software updates from the centralized data center to the VDI infrastructure.

Finding different ways

I
t's a different way of doing things. Going back to Linda’s comments earlier, given the economic situation back in 2009 and 2010, we had to find different ways to do things. VDI just really helped us get there.

So for the centralized management, the secure benefits of delivering a virtual desktop from the data center, being able to deliver desktops faster, the provisioning side of what we do, we just saw great efficiencies and improvements there.

We had a separate production facility at Foley, where physical desktops and laptops were all shipped, set up, burned in, configured, and then shipped out to the offices that needed them. With virtualizing the desktop, we're now able to ship zero client or thin client hardware directly to the office from the manufacturer and eliminate the need for a separate production facility.

That was a benefit that we didn’t think about early on, but certainly something we enjoyed once we really got into our deployment.

Gardner: And how about the applications themselves, on an application lifecycle management (ALM) level? Have you been able to get a better handle on your lifecycle of applications -- which ones to keep, which ones to update or upgrade, which ones to sunset? Have you been able to allow your users to request applications and then deliver them at least faster? What's been the baseline impact on the application process?
You don’t have to be in the office to still be productive and serve our clients. You can do that anywhere.


Varju: I don’t think we have seen a lot of impact on the application delivery side yet, but we will gain more benefit in that area as we move forward and virtualize more of our applications. We do have a number of our core apps virtualized today. That makes it easier for us to deliver application, but we haven’t done that in any large scale yet.

Gardner: Anything on business continuity or disaster recovery that's easier or better now that you have gone to a more of a DaaS approach?

Varju: Absolutely. All you need is an Internet connection and the View client. It's that simple. Like many organizations, we've have had our share of natural disasters impacting business. We had a flood in our D.C. office, wildfires in California, and a snowstorm in the Midwest, and in each of those instances it resulted in shutting down an office for a period of time.

Today, delivering DaaS, our attorneys can connect using whatever device they have via the Internet to their personal Foley desktop, and that's powerful. You don’t have to be in the office to still be productive and serve our clients. You can do that anywhere.

Gardner: Linda, how would you characterize the overall success of this program, and then where do you take it next? Are there some other areas that you can apply this to? You mentioned unified communication and collaboration. What might be in the pipeline for leveraging this approach in the future?

Freedom of choice

Sanders: The success that we've had, as we have spoken about throughout this call, has been the ability to deliver that desktop and to have attorneys speak to their peers and let them know. Many times, we have attorneys stop us in the hallway to find out how they too can get on a hosted desktop.

Leveraging with the BYOD program helped us, giving people that freedom of choice, and then providing them with a work desktop that they can access from wherever.

We're really looking at unified communications. One of the things that I'm very interested in is video at the desktop. It's something that I am going to be looking at, because we use video conferencing extensively here, and people really like that video connection.

They want to be able to do video conferencing from wherever they are, whether it's in a conference room, outside the office, on their laptop, on a smartphone. Bringing in that unified communication is going to be one of the next things we're going to focus on.

Gardner: Rick, we hear so much these days about cloud computing. If you decide to exploit some of the cloud models or hybrid cloud, where you can pick and choose among different sources and ways of serving up workloads, might your approach be a stepping stone to that? Have you considered what the impact of cloud computing might be, given what you have already been able to attain with BYOD and VDI?
Any time we look at a change in technology, especially the underlying infrastructure, we always take a look at what cloud services are available and have to offer.


Varju: Cloud computing is certainly an interesting topic and one that you can spend a day on, in and of itself. At Foley, any time we look at a change in technology, especially the underlying infrastructure, we always take a look at what cloud services are available and have to offer, because it's important for us to keep our eye on that.

There is another area where Foley is doing things differently than a lot of our peers, and that's in the area of document management. We're using a cloud-based service for document management now. Where VMware View and VMware, as an organization, will benefit Foley as we move forward is probably more along the lines of the Horizon product, where we can pull our SaaS-based applications or on-premise based applications all together in a single portal.

It all looks the same to our users, it all opens and functions just as easily, while also being able to deliver single sign-on and two-factor authentication. Just pulling the whole desktop together that way is going to be real beneficial. Virtualizing the desktop, virtualizing our servers, those are key points in getting us to that destination.

Gardner: I'm afraid we'll have to leave it there. We've been talking about how global legal services leader Foley & Lardner LLP has adopted virtual desktops and BYOD innovations, and we have heard about how using a VMware centric VDI and BYOD approach has helped enhanced end user productivity, cut total cost, and extended their ability to leverage the future of IT perhaps much sooner than their competitors, and this all of course across many -- up to 20 remote offices.

I'd like to thank our guests for sharing their story. It's been very interesting. We've been here with Linda Sanders, CIO at Foley. Thanks so much, Linda.

Sanders: Thank you.

Gardner: And also Rick Varju, Director of Engineering & Operations there at Foley. Thank you so much, Rick.

Varju: Thank you.

Gardner: This is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. Thanks again to you also, our audience, for listening, and don’t forget to come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Download the transcript. Sponsor: VMware.

Transcript of a BriefingsDirect podcast on how a major law firm has adopted desktop virtualization and BYOD to give employees more choices and flexibility. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2012. All rights reserved.

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