Amerisure assistant VP and enterprise architect Jack Wilson, the carrier had scheduled a $2 million PC refresh initiative for 2009 that would have required the IT team to replace the desktop PCs of workers in its Farmington Hills, Mich., headquarters and nine branch offices.
That costly exercise was avoided when, three years ago, Wilson took steps to completely virtualize Amerisure's desktop environment. His team removed workers' PCs and replaced them with Wyse Technology (San Jose, Calif.) thin-client devices connected to centralized application servers running Citrix (Fort Lauderdale, Calif.) Presentation Server.
After eight months of testing and a proof of concept, Amerisure began its mass deployment of the thin-client devices in March 2006. Twon months later the carrier rolled out the devices to its branch offices as well. "By the end of 2006, we had the entire company converted," says Wilson, who estimates that 770 PCs and 120 laptops have been replaced with thin-client versions over the course of the initiative.
Surprisingly, though, the key business driver behind the thin-client implementation was not cost savings. Instead, Wilson says, Amerisure was aiming to create a more stable and reliable IT infrastructure.
Prior to the switch, Wilson explains, the carrier's IT environment was a complex tangle of different applications and platforms layered on top of one another. "For a company our size -- a little under $1 billion in revenue, 800 people -- it just didn't make sense to have all these different layers of technology," he says. "Plus, our staff was just not large enough to be able to be experts in all those layers."
Evolving Thin-Client Benefits
But as the economy has gone south, the ways in which the thin-client implementation benefits the business have evolved. With its office environment virtualized, the necessity for a PC replacement project disappeared, freeing up a sizable chunk of the carrier's 2009 IT budget for more strategic endeavors at a time when many of the carrier's insurance industry peers are scrambling to remain competitive while cutting costs, Wilson reports.