Torti Gallas + Partners (TG+P) is one of the largest planning and architectural firms in the United States and a leading proponent of New Urbanism. Founded in 1953, the firm comprises award-winning architects and master planners, urban designers, sustainability experts, construction administrators, and community facilitators. It has offices across the United States from Tampa and Washington D.C. to Philadelphia and Los Angeles, with an international base in Istanbul, Turkey. Torti Gallas believes that design can be a powerful force in the creation of environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable communities.
Long term issues
Like many global firms in the Architectural, Engineering & Construction industry, communication and collaboration are key to a productive workflow.
Even before the pandemic, Torti Gallas + Partners was looking for a solution to better manage, transfer and manipulate data across all of its offices and to centralize it into one place.
“We had a lot of siloed NetApp storage systems that were aging and we needed something accessible from both the office and remotely,” explained Omer Mushahwar, CTO at Torti Gallas + Partners. “Speed is everything, as without it the file access is extremely slow. We needed the same access experience regardless of geographic location.”
TG+P had already begun research into switching out its internal storage for a cloud-based system before COVID hit. Consequently, the firm wasn’t caught off guard when the shelter-in-place orders were mandated.
“The biggest thing for us was getting people quick access to the programs and the data they needed,” said Mushahwar. “We shifted all the Autodesk workload on Bim360, and basically, everything else was done through VPN – which for architecture files is a pain, because the files are so large. If there are 100 people connected to a 100MB or 1Gig circuit they are going to eat it up real fast. It slows access down a lot.”
Essential file access stalled
TG+P uses the full range of tools in the Autodesk AEC Collection including Infraworks, Navisworks Manage, Civil 3D, AutoCAD, and Revit, as well as Adobe and Office products and Sketchup. Its file sizes range anywhere from a couple of Megabytes to multiple Gigabytes with some files in excess of 100GB.
Before going remote the company had begun moving Revit projects to Bim360, Autodesk’s cloud collaboration platform, but all other workflows remained glued to the internal Virtual Private Network.
“Torti Gallas has built its success on the power of collaboration,” says Mushahwar. “In practical terms today that means collaboration at the desktop. Pre-pandemic we were concerned about getting access to applications more quickly from workstations in the office so that we can share, iterate and design the next steps in the process.
“It is now clear that the flexibility and agility that hybrid workflows bring to creative collaboration and productivity – from anywhere – will underpin our entire business approach going forward.”
Solution – turbocharged experience
Mushahwar took charge of researching and testing technologies that could help TG+P’s architects and designers collaborate as efficiently in the cloud as if their workstation was attached to a stack of local discs.
“We looked at Panzura and Nasuni and all the big collaboration platforms like Box and Dropbox and nothing fit all of our needs. A lot of them didn’t always work with all of our file types. Linking for CAD files just didn’t always work. With Panzura and Nasuni we would still have had to VPN into the office which is sort of pointless. It didn’t solve our work-from-anywhere initiative.
“We even explored doing a cloud dump in Azure or AWS with NetApp files but nobody had a really good solution for remote. No one handled that piece well.”
A particular roadblock was the ability for the team to work seamlessly with the large files of modeling software Revit.
“That was a big sticking point with the vendors we looked at. Our teams create dozens of versions of models as we iterate a project and the systems we tested just couldn’t go back to the older versions quickly enough or not at all.”
That was when they struck on LucidLink Filespaces for enabling the team to quickly work together on design models directly out of the cloud.
“The decision to go with LucidLink was a no-brainer,” says Mushahwar. “Importantly, the end-user saw no difference in the application they were accessing. The only change they experienced was a leap forward in speed. Opening and saving files in Bim360, for example, was suddenly superfast.”
“It was rock solid in terms of reliability. Plus, we got everything we needed at a price point we could jump on, especially during COVID.”
TG+P went directly from proof of concept into production.
Results – Dramatically boosting responsiveness
Beginning July 2020, Torti Gallas replaced its entire internal storage for an AWS S3-compatible object storage cloud solution from Wasabi, with data migration managed by LucidLink. LucidLink’s cloud-native NAS solution dramatically boosted responsiveness by enabling file data of all sizes to be delivered efficiently and streamed on-demand.
“LucidLink is unique,” Mushahwar shares. “The app has allowed us to mimic all our old file paths and now we have one unified storage system. It worked well with all of our software and server-based systems from day one due to the way it ties in and is read by the servers.”
LucidLink simplified and made access to project data across all of TG+P’s offices in a network that can scale easily for secure remote distributed workflows.
“We reorganized our seven network drives and data held in more than a dozen different silos into one cloud-driven location that is now easily accessible by all at any time of the day. All of our staff love it, especially when working remotely. It has made file access and speed exponentially better than VPN and has given our employees better access and experience while working on files.”
He adds, “LucidLink lets us bring data into one place and keeps everyone on the same level playing field.”
Reshaping the corporation
With hybrid office/work-from-home structures becoming the global standard, LucidLink allows multiple authenticated users at Torti Gallas to access data concurrently from one centralized location in the cloud, the single source of truth.
“Going forward our virtual office in the cloud will make it so much easier for Torti Gallas as an organization to flex our business in response to client demand. We will continue remote working as a permanent facet of our employee’s work-life balance. As a company, we can dedicate less space to housing hardware on-premises, and in turn that helps us expand our presence around the world both physically and virtually.”
He adds, “The updates the LucidLink team has added, even in the short time since we signed up, have all improved the experience. All round, this is a game-changing solution for our firm.”
SaaS offering, no hardware or IT support required
End-to-end security encryption
Works with any object storage
Instant on-demand file access from anywhere
Works with any OS