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Unidesk helps law firm weather VDI storms

When a New England law firm needed to enhance its VMware VDI environment, it turned to Unidesk to manage more than 100 application layers for approximately 200 employees.

VMware plans to integrate recent acquisitions to deliver a full workspace environment management suite this year, but some VDI shops will continue to pay for third-party profile management and application layering tools.

One law firm believes Unidesk Corp. offers the best tools to weather VDI storms -- both technological and natural.

Having consistent and continuous access to documents and materials is of great importance to a law firm, and that was apparent recently when the Northeast was hit by several large snowstorms.

Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer & Nelson, P.A.'s attorneys and staff couldn't make it in to the office, but could still access their desktops remotely using the VMware Horizon VDI environment with Unidesk Corp.'s application layering.

"Almost 100% of our attorneys were remotely connected, working and being productive as opposed to shoveling all day," said Matt Kramer, the firm's director of information technology.

The multi-service law firm -- which has offices in Portland and Augusta, Maine, as well as Manchester, N.H. -- has approximately 100 attorneys and 100 support staff spread across the three offices.

Bernstein Shur runs VMware's Horizon 6 for VDI on Cisco's Unified Computing System and Cisco's Whiptail for VDI storage.

Why Unidesk?

The firm needed a product to help with desktop management and application layering. It turned to Unidesk of Marlborough, Mass., about two years ago, and runs version 2.8 of its software. It had tested other profile management tools, including VMware's App Volumes (formerly CloudVolumes), but remained most impressed with Unidesk, Kramer said.

VMware's recent purchase of startup Immidio adds a profile management component to App Volumes, and it might make companies re-think paying for third-party management tools. But providers such as AppSense Inc. and Liquidware Labs Inc. offer additional functionality not available through Immidio, such as application rights management.

It's too soon to say exactly how App Volumes will work with Immidio, and Bernstein Shur may look at the product again once VMware fully integrates the tools it acquired, Kramer said. But he expects VMware's initial integrations to be tricky, and plans to stick with Unidesk's software.

Almost 100% of our attorneys were remotely connected … as opposed to shoveling all day.
Matt Kramer, IT director, Bernstein Shur

"Unidesk has been around the block, and to us, it's been more rock solid," Kramer said.

Bernstein Shur runs several specialized plugins to apps used by its attorneys, especially within its Microsoft Office environment, as well as LexisNexis InterAction, a customer relationship management email archiving plugin. Unidesk was the best option for providing a consistent experience across its virtual desktops for all those applications, and provided the easiest setup for Bernstein Shur's IT staff, Kramer said.

"It could become a helpdesk nightmare but Unidesk gives us one pane of glass to manage everything," Kramer said.

To deliver different sets of apps to different sets of users, Bernstein Shur's IT staff would need to manage multiple golden images within the VMware Horizon View Composer environment. But with Unidesk, the staff only has to manage one golden image, Kramer said. Using Unidesk, the firm has delivered more than 100 apps as unique layers to its persistent virtual desktop environment.

Unidesk works in the background and is transparent to users. Together with Horizon and Cisco UCS, Bernstein Shur's IT staff feels confident its data stays where it belongs on a day-to-day basis, Kramer said.

Bernstein Shur is happy with Unidesk's product, but from time to time, it makes suggestions on items it would like to see in future releases. For example, Kramer likes how App Volumes allows an application to be applied to a desktop without having to then reboot the desktop for it to show up.

"I'm hoping I can see that in a future release [of Unidesk]," Kramer said.

List pricing for Unidesk for a one-time perpetual license and one year of maintenance is $180 per desktop, or $225 for the license and three years of maintenance. 

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