Case Study

Argentina Ministry of Science

Company

Created in December 2007, the Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation heralded in Latin America productive innovation associated with science and technology.

Its mission is to channel science, technology and innovation into strengthening a new productive model able to warrant social inclusiveness and upgrade the competitiveness of the Argentinean economy, under the paradigm of knowledge as a development driver.

The Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation envisages innovation policies as a tool both to promote business competitiveness and to set the guidelines for the National System of Science, Technology and Innovation (SNCTI) to work out solutions for the priority social problems of the country.

A standalone agency under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation, the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET) main goal is to foster the development of science and technology in Argentina. It is the most important scientific institution in Argentina and ranking second in Latin America. CONICET has a presence throughout Argentina, with a staff of technical and administrative support in Buenos Aires of around 800 people.

Both SNCTI and CONICET are located in the Scientific-Technology Pole, a compound of buildings that host multiple institutions linked to science and technology.

Overview

Problem: Widening the current implementation of virtualization terminals with zero client devices intended to support a special, technically unrestrained protocol for virtualization infrastructure.

Solution: The SC-Z55 by ViewSonic offered a cost effective solution including all the specific technical features: Zero Clients SC-Z55 using PCoIP protocol and optimized for VMWare.®

Result:

  • Effective use of applications that require expanded video capacity.
  • No mobile parts, no generation of heat or noise and are low-energy consumption.
  • Durability, great performance and stability. Replacement of a virtual machine in 30 seconds.
  • Reduce costs and increase productivity

 It was a combination, as the specific technical features were met and the price versus other offers with same features was rather competitive. Therefore, the SC-Z55 Zero Client was the chosen product.

Andrés D'Alessio Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innocation

Problem

In 2012, due to its relocation to new headquarters, the Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation pondered on quite a few infrastructure changes. With regard to user terminals, the Ministry approved the virtualization of a significant percentage of the new workstations to be installed, including approximately 600 out of 750 terminals using ultra-thin clients as desktop devices. Most recently, as CONICET moved to the Scientific Hub, the Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation also recommended the use of virtual workstations supporting another protocol (PCoIP), specially designed to support such virtualization infrastructure and with fewer technical constraints.

The decision of installing virtualization terminals was made based on criteria related to avoiding the past situation of each computer becoming a very particular problem, with a complexity and variability of specific configuration, which in turn created an unmanageable amount of specific problems.

“Precisely because users have their own particular uses, because they get access to different sites, other kinds of software (different from standard personal computers) are installed, and such complexity may lead to instability. All of us individually experience it,” D’Alessio said.

Troubleshooting implied recurring technical support incidents in an attempt at restoring the good working order or even having to install all over from scratch, producing delays and downtime of the equipment. Sometimes, depending on the glitch, the need would arise to replace the computer.

In the government area, such situation is becomes a great inconvenience: First, because, as anywhere else, equipment downtime turns out to be untimely. Second, because hardware procurement processes in government agencies involve a significant administrative burden and take a long time.

“Sometimes, a staff member would have troubles with the equipment in a week when it should be working at its best, for it meant to support a critical activity, and anticipating the cost of such downtime is difficult indeed,” D’Allesio said.

It was concluded that virtualization would reduce downtime of workstations, from one week in the past to only 30 seconds.

“We can get a machine very much alike to that operated by the user, ready to assign it to him/her and remove the failed machine, without the users leaving their desk and without the us leaving ours. Most importantly, the operation is completed in 30 seconds. This is one of the reasons that prompted us to bet on virtualization.”

Furthermore, because of the very complexity of the task, workstations tend to be different one to another, and their management tends to be rather difficult as well. That also brings some setbacks and delays in the provision of services to users. Meanwhile, the very virtualization solution comes along with an infrastructure of tools that promote management with a certain level of control and swift deployment of additional tools,” the executive officer added.

Still another reason for which the Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation opted for virtualization was the flexible, more effective and faster allocation of resources (memory, processor). This was not the case in the past.

Solution

The Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation ordered a 940 SC-Z55, upgraded zero clients to work on networks based on VMWare® technology. In D’Alessio’s words, ViewSonic presented a product with very specific features as part of the procurement requirements and, above all, met the set goals.

The initial experience included the use of the RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) on the VDI platform for communication between thin clients and virtual machines, a rather general-purpose protocol not specifically designed for this kind of services.

In making the decision on the expansion, the technical choice of the PCoIP protocol was included. The PCoIP protocol is specially defined and designed for the provision of PC virtual services through an IP network.

“We knew that there were several brands in the market that used this protocol and  ViewSonic was among the top brands that were considered. We had the chance of looking at some equipment and getting to know its technical attributes, dimensions and physical characteristics. As a matter of fact, it relies on a technology provided by Teradici®, the creator of this PCoIP protocol, so it met that requirement. We had decided to adopt a technology line to favor the video management and the remote use of peripherals, USB devices, and the PCoIP protocol provides a set of functionalities specifically oriented to that,” D’Alessio said.

The SC-Z55 zero client by ViewSonic showed a fair price-performance ratio, especially compared to the costs of other devices from competitors and above all compared to the cost of a standard PC.

Other features listed by D’Alessio and considered when choosing the virtualization terminals included the fact that the devices have no mobile parts, do not generate heat or noise, and they are low-energy consumption (less than 10 watts). All of this makes it a very durable piece of hardware.

“It was a combination, as the specific technical features were met and the price versus other offers with same characteristics was rather competitive. Therefore, the SC-Z55 Zero Client was the chosen product,” D’Alessio concluded.

Result

The products have demonstrated superb performance and stability. The Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation has individually tested the applications for enhanced video capacity, and they were up to the expected level.

According to D’Alessio, as more and more terminals were used, the performance of the servers that supported the whole platform was not at all impaired, proving to be a cost-effective scalable solution.

“So, in this regard, our expectations were fulfilled and no problem or defect of quality, or events of failure in the hardware arose, which could have hampered the implementation. Therefore, these were very satisfactory results.”

Today, as a result of virtualization, the requirement for technical support has diminished, not only because of the product efficiency, but also because of staffing needs. Currently, four technicians support around 800 users, and there are plans to take the total number up to seven. Usually, in an organization of such a size and in an environment of standard PCs, technical support would require 15-20 technicians.

“Being able to replace a virtual machine in just 30 seconds when a user reports a problem with of operation or instability with his/her equipment, for instance, and bringing it back its initial state, totally stable and right away, has changed our way of working and substantially increased our productivity,” D’Alessio said.

Additionally, ViewSonic monitors were implemented along with thin clients, as well as one single trademark keyboard and mouse sets.

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