American Red Cross Uses VDI for Faster Disaster Relief through VMware Workspace ONE

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“We are a mobile organization, but our technology wasn’t really mobile.”

That’s how Dave Bullamore, Vice President of End User Services at American Red Cross, summed up the 135-year-old organization’s pre-VDI computing situation. Volunteers and employees were using a hodgepodge of old hardware and outdated software. The Red Cross needed to modernize and go mobile.

The Red Cross developed a digital workspace where their end users could access any apps— including virtual desktops and legacy, installed, cloud and Remote Desktop Service (RDS) apps—from one place. Called Virtual Workplace, this portal, powered by VMware Workspace ONE, is where all Red Cross employees and volunteers can go for role-based, single sign-on (SSO) access to applications and virtual desktops. Users simply use any browser on any device to access Virtual Workplace and enter their credentials.

Applications are now easier to manage and faster to access. A “My Desktop” icon provides a full desktop experience through VDI. Applications range from standard desktop productivity software to specialized regulatory applications. Microsoft applications are highly integrated with Virtual Workplace, providing one-click access to both legacy installed Microsoft apps and cloud-based Office 365, OneDrive and SharePoint. The portal also supports the latest cloud apps such as Concur and SalesForce1.

“We used to delight our internal customers by fixing their computer problem, whatever that was. Now I don’t have to worry about their computer problem. I can give them basically a new computer just by giving them access to the Virtual Workplace.”
—Michael Spencer, Technical Lead, American Red Cross

VMware Solves for Mobility from Data Center to End User

The Red Cross uses VMware technology across the organization:

  • Upgrading from VMware Horizon 6.1 to Horizon 7 brought benefits including Instant Clones, Blast Extreme and Horizon Smart Polices.
  • VMware App Volumes packages, updates and delivers applications to Horizon virtual desktops and RDS app servers, helping reduce image management costs.
  • VMware Identity Manager provides SSO access and serves as a gateway to RDS apps.
  • VMware User Environment Manager personalizes users’ environments, capturing individual settings from more than 150 different applications.

After a “soft” rollout of about 50 users in October 2015, the IT group started to communicate the solution to the larger Red Cross organization. Bullamore recalled that he “did dozens of demos, to anyone who would listen.” Interest grew rapidly. Now more than 10,000 unique users access the 150 available apps through VDI each day.

“We never mandated anyone to use this portal,” said Chris Moore, Lead Solutions Architect. “Our goal was, if you build it well, they will come. They’ll see the value. Now people really are seeing the value and they are always asking us to add more apps to Virtual Workplace.”

Saving Time, Saving Lives

red cross digital workspace vmware case study

Read more about how the American Red Cross uses VDI and digital workspace technology to simplify app and access management.

Red Cross IT staff shared some stories of how Virtual Workplace improves operations in the office and in the field:

  • An emergency crew headed for flooded areas in Texas didn’t have some critical paperwork. Instead of waiting for a fax machine, which is hard to find in a flood zone, they were able to use Virtual Workplace to contact the local Red Cross chapter, finish the paperwork and immediately start providing hot meals and aid to people in need. Virtual Workplace also helps disaster workers activate client assistance cards—prepaid cards that victims can use to buy medicines, clothing and food immediately.
  • Bullamore noted how employees save time because apps run faster through Virtual Workplace. “I was having a conversation with somebody in finance, who handles 25 employees and has to approve procurement card transactions. Four times a month, so that’s 100 times into the system. And she told me that she saves five seconds per click in doing that. And I don’t know how many clicks are in the average session but it’s a material amount. She’s saving nine hours a month or something like that just by running that one app. And that’s just her, it doesn’t speak to the savings of the other members of her team.”
  • When Red Cross executives make presentations to community groups, they used to spend a lot of time talking about computer logistics, making sure the group had the right cables and connections. Now, “instead of carrying laptops and all of those extra cords and equipment, hoping and crossing fingers that it’s going to hook up and work, they have to do is launch Virtual Workplace and have presentations instantly available,” said Technical Lead Michael Spencer.

To read more about how the American Red Cross uses VDI and digital workspace technology, please click here.

“What I love about the Red Cross is the mission to alleviate and prevent human suffering. That’s hugely rewarding, it drives us and keeps us grounded. But it’s our job in IT to help the people who are delivering on the mission without overwhelming them. We have to remember that they’re not here to work with technology. They’re helping and providing services to people who are really having the worst time of their life.”

—Dave Bullamore, VP End User Services, American Red Cross

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