The Need for Mobility
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Psomas' need for mobility reflects trends within the broader construction industry in which it operates. The old design-bid-build approach--long favored on large-scale construction projects--has been replaced by an agile and cost-effective design-build model. This often requires designers to work on-site as construction proceeds. In such an environment, a strong mobile strategy might prove the key to survival. Add in the fact that engineers coming out of school want to be able to work from home whenever possible, and Pinckney is compelled to provide an IT environment that's available and responsive in a host of settings.
The company boasts a strong voice-over-IP sys-tem, and is upgrading its cloud-based Microsoft Business Productivity Online Services suite to Microsoft 365, a move that Pinckney says will add videoconferencing and screen-sharing capabilities. Psomas is also rolling out the latest version of VMware's View desktop virtualization platform, which will provide virtual desktops that employees can access from home PCs sans a virtual private network. The platform will provide local caching to reduce bandwidth requirements. Together, these projects figure to eat up about 5 percent of the company's IT budget, says Pinckney. He's also facing a big decision on whether to employ a regional model, in which desktop services are delivered from a few hub offices, or put a virtual desktop server in each of Psomas' 10 offices in Arizona, California and Utah.
The company's investment on the mobile front will also yield a potentially significant cost savings by reducing the number of square feet of office space per employee. Rent, Pinckney says, is Psomas' second-highest fixed cost after personnel.
Meanwhile, Pinckney also hopes to combine additional economies with increased agility by targeting commodity IT assets for migration to the cloud. Psomas already has transitioned to a cloud-based spam filter, a move Pinckney expects will save $10,000 a year. He says he plans to look at every commodity IT cost the company is absorbing and search for a less expensive cloud-based alternative that would deliver the bulk of the desired functionality.
"If you can do 80 percent of what you wanted to do, as long as there's a decent cost savings, I think it makes sense to make the change," says Pinckney.
For example, Psomas is in discussions with VMware and one of its cloud infrastructure partners, iLand, about establishing a disaster-recovery environment in iLand's cloud. Currently, Psomas rents space in a top-tier data center, where its neighbors are health care giant Kaiser Permanente and Blizzard Entertainment, makers of the massively multi-player online game, "World of Warcraft." Not only would a cloud-based disaster-recovery solution help the company avoid the costs of acquiring data center equipment and space, it would allow its primary data center to be moved to a less costly, lower-tier facility.
Pinckney says that all of these objectives--fully virtualized desktops, cloud-based disaster recovery and the continued migration of commoditized assets to the cloud--will be met in 2012. As painful as recent years have been for Psomas, Pinckney credits the economic downturn with spurring the firm to focus on making IT leaner and meaner. "If there's a silver lining to this horrible recession, it's that it's a great time to make big changes," says Pinckney.