The professional world faced an unprecedented disruption throughout the year of 2020. Organizations across the globe were forced to quickly adapt to a rapidly changing and uncertain landscape as offices locked their doors and pivoted to working remotely in an effort to keep their employees safe and their businesses secure.

As workforces across all industries became accustomed to working from home, companies and professionals that relied on collaboration faced a new challenge: How could they attain the same levels of productivity and performance achieved in an office environment when teammates were spread to far apart?

HKS, the third largest private architectural firm in the world, faced just this problem.

Historically, HKS managed most of their projects locally. But with 23 offices and 1,400 specialists spread around the globe, the firm frequently utilized resources and expertise from multiple offices to achieve the best possible designs for their clients.

“We have lots of intra-office collaboration and talent sharing,” says Michael Smith, vice president of IT operations at HKS. “It’s not uncommon to have a dozen or more people from around the world all working with the same project files.”

Utilizing Autodesk Revit and other power-intensive design applications, HKS routinely turned to high-powered laptops to ensure their architects and designers could easily collaborate and maintain their mobility. But these workstations were little more than expensive, bulky “anchors” that required frequent replacement.

But when the pandemic hit, HKS realized they needed to make a change.

“We could continue to purchase laptops with the most RAM and latest GPUs every three to five years for all 1,400 users,” Smith says. “Or we could shift that investment to our data center and get more bang for our buck.”

From there, HKS began a phased rollout, deploying four Cisco UCS C240 servers to support 50 Citrix Virtual Desktops, each factory installed with four NVIDIA T4 GPUs and NVIDIA Quadro Virtual Data Center Workstation licenses.  With GPU-accelerated VDI using NVIDIA virtual GPU (vGPU) technology, HKS could power the most graphics intensive applications without compromising performance or user experience.

“We’re working and investing more intelligently with Cisco UCS-based VDI,” says Smith, “instead of repeatedly throwing money at the beefiest laptops and pipes.”

The result? Not only were HKS able to empower their newly remote workforce while remaining cost-effective, but they also experienced improved performance of their bandwidth-intensive workloads through their virtual desktop infrastructure.

If you’re interested in learning more about how HKS ensured their business remained resilient through the course of the pandemic, we invite you to register for NVIDIA’s upcoming webinar taking place on Wednesday, December 9th: Connecting a Remote Workforce for Design Collaboration. Experts from both Cisco and NVIDIA will be sitting down with Michael Smith of HKS to discuss their adoption of Cisco virtual workstations powered by NVIDIA GPUs and vGPU technology.

In the meantime, you can read about the many benefits and increased performance HKS experienced through their Cisco solution in our recent case study, available here.


Chris Michael

Product & Solutions Marketing Manager

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure