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April 3, 2014updated 22 Sep 2016 11:15am

How one construction firm has rebuilt its IT infrastructure with Lenovo

New servers help to protect expensive design software and large data loads.

By Duncan Macrae


Founded in 1898 by Matthew Myles Walsh, the Walsh Group is a family-owned business currently in its fourth generation of leadership. Based in Chicago, Walsh is a general contracting firm recognised as the largest construction firm in the area, employing roughly 5,000 engineers and skilled tradesmen. Most notably, in the last 20 years, Walsh has grown into an international business, exceeding the $4bn mark with current projects in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Norway.


As a general contracting and design-build construction firm, the Walsh Group manages hundreds of project sites across the country, with many located in harsh climates.

To maintain productivity and reduce the potential for destroyed or ruined devices, Walsh required technology hardware that was ruggedised and equipped for field use by the average employee. In addition, some of the larger-scale construction projects the Walsh Group is contracted for, such as the Ohio River Bridge or expanding I-H35 in Texas, may take on average five years to complete and outlast the two-year life cycle of a typical server. To avoid constant, expensive server replacements, Walsh needed servers that are compatible with upgraded data management software and easily expandable without having to invest in entirely new hardware.


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The Walsh Group has been working with Lenovo products for over 13 years, relying first on its durable ThinkPads in the field. During that time, the Walsh Group was also using competitor desktops for all data requirements at project sites, which ultimately were unable to support the company’s exponential data growth or survive in harsh weather conditions. The large amount of data generated by most construction projects also requires hardware that can manage a large amount of data successfully and securely, but also easily handle complex design software such as Autodesk AutoCAD. Additionally, Walsh does not have an on-site IT staff for troubleshooting, meaning Walsh needed an upgradable server that was simple to deploy, monitor and manage.


The Walsh Group uses both the ThinkServer TS130 and TS140 depending on the job size. Both models are enterprise-grade servers built to protect expensive design software and large data loads, as well as withstand the hostile weather conditions found at job sites. These ThinkServers, typically deployed in clean office environments, are also able to perform without issue at dirty, non-traditional construction sites, and with the same legendary reliability.

They feature built-in, simple tools for deployment, monitoring, and ongoing management allowing Walsh’s remote IT staff and on-site employees to monitor the health and performance of each deployed ThinkServer with ease, which prevents downtime at job sites and allows projects to be completed on or ahead of time.

"Our construction jobs can take us anywhere: down a deep tunnel in the Thornton Quarry to below freezing temperatures in Canada," says Patrick Wirtz, an innovation manager with the Walsh Group. "Our engineers and tradesmen need to be able to focus on getting the job done in many different challenging places and not worry about the technology keeping up. Lenovo’s ThinkServers provide that reliability and security." Currently, the Walsh Group has 250 ThinkServers deployed at job sites all over the country and abroad, equipped with the latest Intel Advanced Management Technology (AMT), which allows Walsh’s IT staff to conveniently access and manage data remotely.


The Walsh Group has been using the reliable, affordable TS130 and TS140 models for five years and benefited greatly from their flexibility: the hardware is able to remain the same while the data capacity can be expanded. With up to 16TB of storage, 32GB of memory and four PCI/PCIe slots for easy expandability, Walsh can continue to take on bigger jobs with double the data confident that its ThinkServers will easily scale up with the job. "We’ve seen a significant cost-savings using ThinkServers, which are not only easily expanded and re purposed, but come at an affordable price point. When a project is complete, we’re also able to re-deploy most of our ThinkServers because of the quality and ability to keep up with the general wear and tear associated with exposure at job sites. They really are the gift that keeps on giving," says Patrick.

The ThinkServer TS130 and TS140s have also significantly decreased the likelihood of data loss, crashes or security breaches with features like error correcting code (ECC) memory and an onboard storage controller. This data security and server reliability translates to less time spent recovering from losses, allowing Walsh employees to focus on completion of projects and better serve the end-customer. The absence of a dedicated IT staff at job sites across the country could potentially spell disaster and costly travel or staffing investments. However, the simplicity of the ThinkServer TS130 and TS140 allow the average Walsh employee to handle everyday server maintenance, in turn saving the remote IT staff endless round trip flights to job sites for troubleshooting.

"There’s no time on the job at construction sites for server crashes or data loss, and our employees are pretty vocal and rightfully frustrated when something goes wrong with Technology," Wirtz notes. "But now with the ThinkServers’ legendary reliability, we don’t get many phone calls and rest easy knowing that they are empowered and able to handle everything on site without IT present."


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