Our colleagues in the Mexico City office had a close call on September 19, 2017, when the magnitude 7.1 Central Mexico earthquake struck. They were already outside of their building, ironically, having been evacuated as part of a scheduled earthquake drill.

While everyone was safe, the building was damaged and deemed too unstable for anyone to go back inside. For the Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC) team, this was a big problem. If they couldn’t retrieve their laptops, they would not be able to provide much-needed technical support to our customers.

Andreas Nikas, Technical Leader, Data Center Services at Cisco and a well-known troubleshooter, was tapped by his director, to help the Cisco TAC team in Mexico City get back up and running—fast. Nikas says he gladly accepted the opportunity to assist his TAC colleagues.

After making a few cold calls to Cisco IT team members to identify the best resources for this urgent assignment, Nikas connected with Jon Heaton, IT Manager with Cisco IT’s Global Infrastructure Services (GIS). Heaton recommended that Nikas reach out to IT Engineer Rob Massingill and Network Engineer William Santos. “It was all smooth sailing from there,” says Nikas. “Rob and William did not have to help me, but they agreed to jump right in and come up with a solution.”

Massingill and Santos decided that the best course of action, in the interest of time, was to deploy Citrix Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) . The solution has been in use at Cisco for years, primarly by the Cisco ACE sales support team. But Massingill and Santos immediately saw VDI as a way to quickly provide the 50 TAC engineers in Mexico City with secure access to the Cisco network. “We knew the solution fit the situation well, even though we hadn’t done a mission-critical deployment for a group of this size before,” says Massingill.

By the time testing was completed, it was already well into the evening on September 19. But Massingill and Santos volunteered to remain on call, just in case the Cisco TAC engineers in Mexico City encountered any issues with the Citrix installation and deployment. “Not only did Rob and William drop what they were doing to put Cisco TAC first, but they also volunteered to stay late into the day,” says Nikas. “They took the time to educate the TAC team about the solution and set expectations. They followed up constantly, as well.”

Nikas adds, “This was my best IT experience while working at Cisco. The Cisco IT team—and especially Rob and William—did an outstanding job of getting our TAC engineers back online quickly so they could do their jobs and help our customers.”

“The crisis in Mexico City provided an opportunity for Cisco IT to be a true partner to our Cisco TAC colleagues in a time of need, and develop a custom solution to a very challenging problem,” says Heaton. “The situation also helped to showcase the agility of Cisco data center architecture.”

“It was an unexpected test for VDI,” says Massingill, who was part of the team that initially implemented VDI at Cisco. “We learned that the solution can provide even more benefits for Cisco than we expected. We have VDI sites in multiple theaters. So, if a situation arises again where one of teams would, unfortunately, find themselves in the midst of a crisis, we know we can help them regain network access quickly.”