The world has changed dramatically over the past 90 years and so have the challenges facing society. In Europe alone, cities have recovered from damage sustained during the war, a booming population, the need to develop more critical infrastructure and meet increasing demands for energy, and now, an unstable climate.
Swiss specialist engineering consultancy, HOLINGER, has been providing process, environmental and structural solutions for new developments since 1933. Services range from making sure regions have enough clean water, protecting them from natural hazards, treating contaminated sites, such as old landfills and accelerating sustainable energy projects.
The 600-strong skilled team also helps companies optimize internal production processes to make life better for employees and people who live and work near industrial factories. In short, HOLINGER is a company focused on making life better, greener and safer for everyone.
While engineering is undoubtedly a rewarding career, the workplace is anything but ordinary. Staff may be working in remote, geographically dispersed locations and need instant access to resource-intensive apps and huge volumes of data. Collaboration can be a challenge. Not only are leading experts spread across countries, setting up a video call or sharing CAD files requires high performing IT infrastructure in the very locations where you are least likely to find it.
Removing the barriers to innovation
Back in 2015, HOLINGER had multiple locations across 12 countries, each with its own standalone hardware to enable the local team to work. Whether the site has five employees or hundreds, every location needs the same applications, consistently high levels of security and storage capabilities. As technology advanced and staff started generating more and more data, however, performance suffered, and the team was plagued with latency issues.
“The work our team does on client-facing projects shapes the world around us. We take clean air and safe waterways for granted, but we’d soon know about it if skilled engineers weren’t working to keep society safe,” says Ismaele Giunca, ICT and services lead at HOLINGER.
To help staff carry out this vital work efficiently, HOLINGER decided to embrace the cloud, moving from individual, on-premises infrastructure to a central, virtualized data center with remote working capabilities.
Centralizing operations with built-in redundancy
By 2020, HOLINGER established a new, centralized data center in Zurich, with a mirror site set up 100 kilometers away in Basel.
“In our industry, we’re very conscious of hazards and do everything we can to reduce risk. The main benefit of having self-sufficient sites with on-premises infrastructure was that if there was an earthquake or flood at one site, the rest of the company would be able to carry on working,” explains Giunca.
The “active-active” approach is therefore designed to ensure staff can continue working even if one site is hit by a natural disaster. A suite of VMware technology ensures the environment is protected from outages and cyberattacks and provides redundancy. By supporting 70 percent of the company’s workloads at each site, HOLINGER has increased performance by 40 percent, which is vital to run resource-intensive engineering applications.
Freeing up staff to work from anywhere
The next piece of the puzzle was to enable remote working and balance security with accessibility for 40 terabytes of data. The team implemented VMware Horizon to establish a virtual desktop infrastructure and uses VMware Unified Access Gateway for two-factor authentication.
To ensure engineers are not overwhelmed and can only access the apps they need to perform their job, VMware App Volumes assigns applications according to the user’s role.
Now, engineers can work seamlessly from any site or remotely, which was a huge win for business continuity during the pandemic.
Taking care of people to take care of the company
HOLINGER is a cooperative. It is owned by its employees and has a person-centered culture. As such, it wanted to improve productivity and job satisfaction for everyone, not just engineers.
“Managing the previous environment was a headache for the IT team. We had to travel between sites and any maintenance would have to be done while engineers were at home during weekends and evenings,” says Giunca. “With the new VMware environment, we can maintain our data centers with no downtime, which means we can work more sociable hours and rest easy knowing our systems are safe and performing well.”
The team also gets additional support from VMware-accredited partner soulTec, who helped design and implement the solution as well as providing ongoing advice as required.
“We have a reliable, high-performing infrastructure that will scale to accommodate another five years of growth,” Giunca says. “Now that my team isn’t spending all their time keeping the lights on, we can focus on continuous improvement and optimizing performance so our engineers can focus on what they do best.”