Q&A with IGEL Community Member Jeremy Green
We recently sat down with IGEL Community member Jeremy Green to discuss his experiences working with IGEL's products and solutions.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your role in IT, etc. and maybe something fun about you?
I have had various IT-related jobs and hobbies ever since I was a kid. I got my first Corporate IT job back in 2013 as a desktop support tech. Nine months later, I was moved into a System Administrator role and have worked as a Sysadmin ever since. I moved jobs a couple of times but in these past seven years. I've had my hands on a little bit of everything, from the System Center Suite to Exchange, VMware, Active Directory, Citrix, etc. Lately, a lot of my time is going into automation and streamlining client and patch deployments using tools such as SCCM, IGEL, and PowerShell.
How long have you been working with IGEL technologies?
We started looking into IGELs around mid-2018. That year we did a small pilot deployment of about 40 devices. Then over the next couple of years, scaled up to about 1500 devices running IGEL OS.
Was IGEL your first experience with 'thin clients'?
I was introduced to IGEL during a local Citrix User Group. I knew we were looking for something to replace our current aging thin clients and really liked management's ease during the demonstration. I got to chatting with the Presales Engineer, who was present that night and got my hands on my first IGEL UD Pocket micro thin client to start playing with the OS. I then got some demo devices and started playing around with building profiles to match our current thin client deployment capabilities. There were very few things that the IGEL could not immediately do better than what we already had out there.
How do you see IGEL solutions compare and contrast to your other experiences?
One of the primary pain points to our old thin client deployment was the hassle of management. You could send an update, but it was very unreliable. Dealing with Windows write filters made updates more difficult, and the need for multiple reboots and commit operations each time work was done. I remember spending two weeks just trying to patch those Windows thin clients and only scratch 80% compliance.
Conversely, IGEL management tends to be a breeze. Changes I push out are very reliably executed so long as the device is online or has a network connection. The single update operation makes that process easy and fast once I have the update packages hosted at each local site. The hardware also appears to be quite reliable. I've only had to submit 1 RMA so far over the 1400 hardware clients we've ordered.
How has COVID-19 affected how your company supports its end-users?
COVID made our main office go mostly remote for a couple of months. Many users are back at the office now, but others continue to work remotely at much higher numbers than we ever had before COVID.
Was IGEL able to help? If so, how?
Absolutely! When the local mandates came and a couple of office users getting the virus, we were quickly requested to rollout a couple of hundred WFH devices that were previously unbudgeted or unallocated. Rather than spend a ton of money on laptops, we looked at the pallets of UD2s that we had sitting in our IT cage and knew where they were headed. Within a couple of days, we had an IGEL device setup with Cisco AnyConnect and a SCEP cert that was able to VPN and then RDP to the user's Windows workstation at their desk. Two days later, we had 150 devices all setup and ready to roll out the door with a monitor, wifi adapter, and keyboard/mouse. We are still using this solution and looking into adding an ICG to our deployment to have eyes on these remote devices more reliably.
Do you see the world moving back to working from an office? If not, do you think it will happen again soon or ever?
Some companies are resistant to change and will always prefer having their workforce local. Some claim productivity is better, or collaboration is better. While I agree to an extent, technologies like webcams and virtual meetings make collaboration easy even when remote. Productivity is a personnel problem and a topic for HR if certain users cannot effectively work remotely. I expect many companies to adopt a more flexible WFH policy as an outcome of COVID. But in my scenario, I see a lot of people coming back to the office already.
What do you feel the most significant challenges relating to working with IGEL have been and where you can work around these issues?
Lately, the most prominent challenges revolve around supporting the WFH devices with no ICG. The ICG would be a big step forward here and something we are looking into adding in the future.
What is your favorite aspect of working with IGEL software?
The management of the devices overall! My helpdesk loves that there is no initial configuration to do to a device before it gets shipped out, they just need to preload the device in the console, and it sets itself up when it gets plugged in on the location. The stability of the OS is another big positive. We don't see any tickets come in for OS corruption anymore as we did on the old embedded Windows 7 devices.
Can you share your experience as a member of the IGEL Community?
Unfortunately for them, I found out about the community right as I was first wading into the IGEL waters, and I had a lot of questions!
But the knowledge and troubleshooting tips that passed back and forth in the community was invaluable in improving my configuration and management capabilities. Being able to search for existing questions and discussions is helpful to this day. I try to take at least a few minutes each day to skim the conversations to read about any potential bugs or unique solutions people have come up with. And there are so many incredibly intelligent people who stand out in the community as repeat contributors to conversations and questions. It is a joy to be in the presence of such helpful people who participate not because they have to, but out of their passion for what they do!
If you had one wish for IGEL, what would it be?
Improve the capabilities of utilizing variables within Profiles and improve scripting capabilities. It was great when we could script tasks through the UMS API, but since the API stopped receiving updates and new features were never added, the API's usefulness has gone way down. For the average administrator, this may not be a problem, but it's a big drawback for those trying to automate and customize as much as possible.
Special thanks to Jeremy Green for taking the time for this interview. Truly appreciated!