Case Study

Delivering CAD/CAM applications on Azure Virtual Desktop

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Industry

Design and Manufacturing

Size

50 users

Location

Bedford

The client.

Bedford Pumps are the UK’s leading supplier of fish-friendly, high capacity pumps to the water and wastewater industries. Bedford design and manufacturer all of their own pumps and use Solidworks a CAD/CAM application intensively.

The challenge.

Alix MacDonald, Head of Design at Bedford Pumps explains: “Frankly, our CAD/CAM machines that ran Solidworks needed to be refreshed, the majority of them were 5 or 6 years old and were really struggling with performance, we would get frequent freezes or crashes which led to a significant loss of productivity and user frustration. We were looking at refreshing these machines at £3-4k a device, which wasn’t all that appealing”

Bedford Pumps were also impacted by the pandemic, designers would have the remote desktop onto their machines in the office when working from home, which created further performance issues.

The options.

A quick decision on direction needed to be made and there were effectively 3 approaches that could have been taken:-

  • Refresh the client devices and accept the CAPEX outlay
  • Adopt a SaaS based CAD/CAM software
  • Adopt Azure Virtual Desktop (or Windows Virtual Desktop as it was at the time of adoption).

“The option to refresh the desktops didn’t feel financially viable, nor the best approach long-term. There were also concerns about hardware availability and the performance of the machines when staff were working from home. So we were more interested in the other options. Whilst the SaaS approach was interesting, it would create a significant overhead in terms of change and probably licensing changes. When discussing AVD with FIT, it was apparent that we could extend the life of our client devices, operate in largely the same way without any major changes to software or licensing” – Alix MacDonald – Head of Design

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FIT's Approach.

There was a high degree of collaboration between Bedford Pumps and FIT. Whilst FIT have been involved in dozens of AVD deployments, the concept of running 3D modelling software on virtual desktops was new, so there would need to be some iterative testing influenced by user feedback in order to pioneer this approach together.

FIT set up an initial pilot which gave users the ability to test the performance of the platform. There were some initial teething problems with capacity and performance consistency which were ironed out during the testing phase. Regular calls enabled us to get hold of any issues and agree steps to overcome them, it was a very fluid process.

Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) has now been adopted in full and other line of business applications are now streamed to the users via this method too. Which in time will become their only method of accessing corporate resources.

FIT provide the necessary tooling and service desk functionality to ensure that the platform is optimised (performance and cost wise), available and issues are resolved quickly should they arise.

The outcomes.

Alix explained that “Firstly, in the process of doing this, we’ve not had to change the way we work, the software is the same, it's just not hosted on-premise anymore, it's not been a disruptive exercise. In terms of the wider picture of success, I’d summarise the outcomes and benefits as follows:-"

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The system works and it's reliable, we’re not hampered by freezing/crashes anymore which has boosted our productivity.

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We’ve avoided a significant capital expenditure by retaining the older laptops and converting these to thin clients.

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We have a scalable solution, we want to grow as a business in the next 4 - 5 years and now have a method of adding users to the platform as and when is needed

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Staff want to continue to work in a hybrid fashion, partially in the office and partially at home, AVD facilitates that.

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If working with an intensive model, we can increase the performance for the benefit of that project for a temporary period of time and tune back down again afterwards."

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Through FITs proactive management and the introduction of autoscaling, we are making a 70% saving on compute costs and that is without the introduction of Reserved Instances.