Zurich Australia leads regional thin client push

 

Insurer replaces 1200 desktops in Australia.

Zurich Financial Services has issued 1200 thin client devices to staff in Australia and New Zealand, ahead of a wider rollout to offices in the Asia Pacific region.

The insurer replaced its Australian desktop fleet with Wyse thin client devices late last year, with its standard operating environment (SOE) served from a virtualised, on-shore data centre.

“We have only a handful of desktops left in the whole place now,” chief information officer Scott Watters told iTnews after a CSC customer event last week.

“We’re running those little Wyse devices and that’s given us huge benefits – everything from reduced electricity bills through to the ease of maintenance of them.”

Watters said the rollout was preceded by a business case and proof-of-concept trials. He did not disclose the project’s cost, but said it had “paid dividends already”.

It’s cheaper than running desktops,” he noted. “It’s $300 per [thin client] device, compared to, I don’t know, $700 or $800 for a desktop.”

But Watters said Zurich would benefit most from reduced maintenance costs, speed and flexibility as the business expanded in the Asia-Pacific region.

All other Asia-Pacific branches besides Australia and New Zealand were served from a virtualised data centre in Hong Kong.

“All the maintenance and support is done at the data centre instead of having to go out to people on site,” Watters said.

“We just keep [spare Wyse devices] in the cupboards of all the branches and there’s no operating system on them.

“From a business point of view, Australia generates about 60 percent of all revenue across Asia-Pacific at the moment,” he said, noting that the regional rollout was led by Zurich’s 140-strong IT team in Australia.

“We’re going to grow Asia-Pacific to be bigger than Australia. We’re the more mature market and we’ve had the data centre around for a long time.”

When Zurich opened a new 20-person branch in Indonesia last year, Watters said all those staff members were issued with thin client devices running Zurich’s SOE.

Within two months, the insurer hired another 100 people for the branch. “All we needed was desks; the rest of it was already there,” Watters said.

Looking forward, he said the organisation would improve its voice, videoconferencing and collaboration tools, providing these centrally so “everything’s on the same pipe and same environment”.

The insurer planned to trial a "social business platform" that would offer customer relationship management, videoconferencing and collaboration for staff and trusted business partners this year.

Watters hoped to deploy a full platform next year, with staff using consumer-grade videoconferencing services like Skype and Facetime to connect with external partners in the interim.

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