Utility company Thames Water is trialling a virtual desktop infrastructure using Molten Technologies' desktops-as-a-service (DaaS) platform.

Molten DaaS is an enterprise-class virtual desktop architecture based on Desktone's cloud platform. The company says the solution needs less management infrastructure than typical in-house VDI for a similar number of desktops, keeping costs down and enabling “limitless” scalability.

Thames Water hopes that, by the end of 2012, 3,500 of its employees will be using the technology,  including a substantial portion of its third partyl staff. The first phase of the trial, scheduled for completion by the end of 2012, will involve 500 users.

“Our decision to invest in virtual desktop technology demonstrates our innovative approach and our long-term commitment to contain costs and boost staff productivity by improving flexibility and security,” said Thames Water CIO Aiden Heke. “This supports our main aim of delivering the best possible service to our 14m customers.”

The company said the decision to look at virtual desktops has been driven largely by its need to migrate to Microsoft Windows 7. Thames Water currently runs Windows XP on the vast majority of its desktop computers, and is ready to refresh its hardware estate.

Upgrading to Windows 7 at the same time as migrating to VDI was calculated to be more cost-effective, and also had the added benefit of providing greater flexibility, giving employees the option to log in from home and on their mobile devices.

“Virtual Desktop Infrastructure is complex and expensive unless you have the right expertise,” said Molten Technologies CEO Robin Tapp. “Our experience in large end-user desktop environments, coupled with the technology choices that we have made for our clients, means that we can provide a simple SLA model, so that our clients can enjoy the cost-saving and flexibility benefits of virtual desktops without the risk.”

The pilot was instigated as part of a wider project known as Smart IT, which is also seeing Thames Water introduce IP telephony and enterprise content management.

Earlier this year the company announced it was trialling a new system for smart-metering that will provide more accurate data on how the company manages its water, as well as providing detailed information on customer usage and network and customer-side leakage.