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Change Leader: Bringing Collaboration to the Cloud

Parul Dubey on March 30, 2020 - in Articles, Profile

These profiles are based on interviews, and the opinions and statements are those of the subject and are not necessarily shared or endorsed by this publication.

Israel Sumano is the senior director of infrastructure at Southland, one of the nation’s largest MEP building systems firms.

Changing the AEC Industry

Cloud-based technology has transformed many areas in the business workplace as well as in daily lives. Word processing, email and music are common examples of data that moved from specific and replicated locations to one location in the cloud that can be accessed from anywhere on a multitude of devices.

Sumano and Southland are leading the AEC industry by moving all of their building and design models into the cloud and using Microsoft and Workspot technology to allow their engineers and users access, no matter where they live or work.

“It’s a cloud workstation, so instead of having a machine on your desk that you work on, you’re getting a desktop—a Windows operating system, in the cloud—that sits right next to your data,” explains Sumano. “It’s centralizing all your data in one place and providing a way for engineers to have the workhorse they’re used to having at their desk, but have it in the cloud, so they can access it from anywhere.”

Searching for a Solution

Sumano has been testing cloud-based virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions for more than 5 years. During that time, he learned that it’s a very complex structure, and previous trials didn’t result in a workable solution. 

“We really wanted something that was simple and easy to use, and that really only materialized when Workspot came into the picture, giving us the ease of use as well as the performance we need with Microsoft’s partnership, to be able to have a very easy transition into VDI workspace,” he notes.

Workspot is a broker that provides access to Microsoft’s GPU workstations. 

“There’s no hardware that we have to purchase and maintain ourselves—everything is on Microsoft—and as hardware gets upgraded or gets better, we can always migrate to that hardware without any investment on our side,” adds Sumano.

Why Go Virtual?

Like many companies, Southland’s value lies in its employees and the specific talents they bring. Being able to hire the best talent anywhere in the world—and quickly plug them into the existing IT infrastructure with access to the vast AEC modeling—has saved investment in time and office space. Sumano cites inefficiencies in their previous hiring scenarios:

“For example, we hired two engineers in Chicago, and we spent $150,000 setting up an office just for them—two people in Chicago, because we needed their expertise,” he says. “With Workspot and the way we’re doing things now with centralized data, all we have to do is give them access to a cloud workstation. We don’t have to make any investment in any location, wherever the talent is.”

Savings in data replication is another benefit of putting all the models in the cloud.

“In the past, we would have to replicate all the building data to every single one of our locations,” he notes. “We were replicating more than 50 terabytes to 17 different office locations, and that footprint kept growing, so it was unsustainable to replicate all that data.” 

He also notes that engineers need the data that are local to them, so Southland had to centralize all the data and still allow its engineers across the country to be able to draw on that centralized point of data. 

“They can go to Starbucks and pull up their laptop, and the resources for them to do all their drawing, designing and detailing is all on the cloud, and they can access that through Workspot,” explains Sumano.

Changing Your Office

Sumano believes cloud-based collaboration has many benefits that all AEC firms can enjoy, especially via multi-company joint ventures, which are more common in Europe but now are growing in use in the United States. To move your office in the direction of cloud-based collaboration, he recommends laying the groundwork for change with all the relevant leaders and stakeholders.

“Approach your business leaders, let them know what you’re trying to do and what the benefits of this new technology are,” he says. “Get the key people, executives, business people and those who are actually doing the work: engineers and detailers. Have them test it; start with change management.”

Visit Informed Infrastructure online to read the full interview.


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