Merlin Housing Society in South Gloucestershire has moved from PCs to Sun Ray virtual PCs as part of a complete renewal of its IT infrastructure.
South Gloucestershire Council transferred nearly 8000 homes to Merlin in February 2007 and initially provided Merlin with ICT services using traditional PCs, file/print servers and old-fashioned Centrex telephony. Anyone who has been through such stock transfers knows how much work is required to establish a new housing organisation while still providing services, and work soon began on documenting Merlin’s own technology requirements.
Derek Hart, head of ICT, Merlin Housing Society, said, “Last year we started a huge EU procurement plan for a new ICT infrastructure. It is a substantial task but it is also a great opportunity to build a flexible new platform to take advantage of the latest IT developments. Our aims were to deliver more comprehensive services for less money while being as green as possible.”
As part of the infrastructure changes, Merlin’s 170 office-based staff swapped their PCs for Sun Ray clients running Terminal Services in September 2008. Merlin chose the Sun Rays for their ease of management and low cost compared with traditional PCs and other thin clients, plus Sun’s Secure Global Desktop (SGD) made it easy and safe to support home and remote working. SGD delivers access to Merlin’s full corporate desktop and has been very popular with staff. The very low power consumption of Sun Rays supports Merlin’s green agenda, and their small footprint frees up desk space for Merlin’s staff. Merlin has also found that many applications work better on Sun Rays, particularly complex, processor-intensive applications such as Quark.
Hart said, “The low cost of Sun Rays almost makes the financial decision for you. We are just using the Sun Rays as PC replacements at the moment but we plan to adopt the smartcards soon for even better mobility. We will also shortly be integrating them with our Mitel VoIP system.”
Looking ahead, Sun Rays and SGD are well-suited to accommodate future growth in user numbers or even a merger with another housing association. Hart added, “We could simply use the other organisation’s internet connection, drop Sun Rays in, and we would all immediately be on one infrastructure.”
Other changes to Merlin’s infrastructure include VMware-based server virtualisation, the replacement of manual daily operations with batch processes for better systems availability, email archiving from Lightspeed, and providing remote access to all of Merlin’s systems for home access and flexible working using SGD. Merlin’s Academy housing management system was also migrated to a new operating system so that it would be supported on VMware.