GEI Consultants Get on the Same Page with Talon FAST™
GEI Consultants is a Massachusetts-based consulting, engineering, and environmental firm that provides professional services to improve our world’s built environments. With more than 820 staff members and 39 offices across the United States, GEI brings multi-disciplined engineering and technical services to a range of private and public sector clients all over the world.
GEI’s multidisciplinary team of engineers, scientists, and planners deliver integrated water resources, environmental, ecological, geotechnical, and waterfront engineering solutions to diverse clientele nationwide. The firm has provided a broad range of consulting and engineering services on over 50,000 projects in 50 states and 22 countries.
As an employee-owned firm, GEI attracts the best of its industry to brings to its clients technical expertise, creative problems solving, and innovation with a collaborative spirit. GEI is consistently ranked among the top firms in Engineering News Record’s annual list of “Top Design Firms and Top Environmental Firms.”
Challenge: Managing “Islands of data" and keeping file sets consistent
GEI Consultants was founded in 1970, and like many companies today, GEI has grown in reputation and size over the years. Their offices now stretch across the US, and their clients are spread across the world. Since GEI has been expanding for so long, they’ve been forced to regularly update their infrastructure to keep client information at the ready. This has resulted in a mismatch of data storage solutions and a never ending stream of technology investments. They needed a permanent solution for their entire company, not just a temporary fix.
Currently each of GEI’s 39 offices houses its own file server, with two large data centers located in Sacramento and the Boston-metro area, both utilizing Dell Compellent scale-out NAS. This presents a number of consistency issues for GEI. “If I worked on a project on my office’s local file server, I want my revisions to be available to anyone else who accessed the same information," said Kevin Mugford, Vice President and IT Director for GEI.
With the ever increasing demands of file-sharing, GEI found themselves falling behind on projects. “Just opening these files from distributed locations was slow and less than optimally efficient. One office would make changes to a file and another office would make copies, but those might not be the most-up-to-date revisions. We couldn’t create a single source of truth. Users experienced issues with latency and version control that we needed to address,” explained Kevin Mugford.
As an engineering firm, GEI relies heavily on Computer-Aided Design (CAD) files, which can be large, complex, and data intensive, and after several revisions, unwieldy. GEI began searching for a solution that would help to consolidate their file storage while bringing together data from 39 offices. Additionally, GEI IT needed to provide a solution to address data size issues that were were bringing about noticeable delays when users were trying to collaborate.
After unsuccessfully finding an optimal solution from leading firms on the market, GEI realized they needed more than just additional hardware. They needed a solution that would provide an “infinite amount of bandwidth” for instant collaboration between offices. After refining their search, they landed on Talon. Between fair pricing and a dependable storage solution, Talon could solve every one of GEI’s issues. When they realized Talon could centralize decades of legacy information into one location, they were sold.
GEI began with a Talon FAST™ test run in two of its smaller offices. The implementation required no additional hardware purchases and provided a solution to their consistency challenges. Once FAST™ was up and running and employees saw the benefit, there was company wide demand to expand Talon FAST™ to the entire file server fleet.
“What I really like was that Talon utilized our existing infrastructure. There were no hardware migrations or additional costs. Talon FAST™ was cost-effective and makes it feel like information is on your local file server, even when it is not,” said Mugford. “Ultimately, Talon is leading the way for GEI to eliminate some of our servers to store data files as it facilitates collaboration between our offices nationwide.”
Solution: Talon provides a cost effective solution—“It feels good”
“It feels good. Talon FAST™ is as good as anything on the market today and with every successive upgrade keeps getting better and better. Customer service has been very responsive and willing to dig in and find the answers to our tech questions and needs. They will come on site with short notice and are happy to help.”
The Talon FAST™ software allowed GEI consultants to eliminate version control issues, collaborate nationally across all offices, and consolidate legacy data. Users could finally work in real-time on any project, without waiting for a slow transfer.
GEI Consultants saw significant benefits from the Talon FAST™ deployment:
- Talon FAST™ addressed data sprawl and consolidated data from 39 remote file servers to a centralized “authoritative data set”
- Talon FAST™ resolved GEI’s project and file version control issues, enabling the company to manage data effectively and efficiently
- Talon FAST™ leveraged GEI’s existing infrastructure without purchasing additional hardware
- The Talon customer service team helped GEI address issues any time of the day
Vision for the Future
“We have a cloud plan and our vision is to eventually utilize the cloud for more than just intra-office 'housekeeping' needs,” said Mugford. “We would like to have a cloud system in place where we utilize it as a main repository for our projects. Our first steps toward the cloud would include Talon on the front end for caching, to facilitate collaboration, and further eliminate the need for the 37 file servers to we currently have to store our data. It’s a vision that is off into the future, but one of our goals.”