Since 1994, Noventa, headquartered in Diepoldsau, Switzerland, has provided engineering services, including assisting its customers in the design, industrialization and production of different products. For example, Noventa develops and produces the entire assortment of hand towels and soap dispensers for CWS-boco, a leading international provider of professional washroom supplies. Together with Nestlé, the company developed an innovative beverage vending machine that prepares hot beverages, and for Siemens, it delivered various components for fire alarm systems. Noventa is considered the model Swiss company for lean production and shares its know-how with other companies through its subsidiary, Noventa Consulting.
To succeed in a demanding environment with strong international competition, Noventa must rely on highly efficient, integrated processes, lean project management and the Japanese philosophy of kaizen, the practice of continuous improvement in its services. "We must be in a position, with minimal personnel effort, to react very quickly to growing demands, provide infrastructures that are flexible yet stable and do so while remaining as cost-efficient as possible," says Cemailj Bajramoski, head of IT at Noventa.
To achieve this flexibility, the Noventa IT team had to tackle application and desktop management. "The number of employees who work for us has increased significantly in recent years; while at the same time, the different departments—from development and production to marketing and distribution—have been faced with new technical challenges," says Bajramoski. "In the end, the administration of such a large number of heterogeneous clients became almost impossible to manage internally."
The task was made even more difficult by the quickly growing number of mobile employees and home office workspaces. "Today, a large number of users need access to our internal network while on the go or at home—so we need to ensure sensitive data is being reliably protected," says Bajramoski.
To meet its challenges, Noventa began by centralizing application delivery using Citrix XenApp. Business applications, such as the client software employed in the production planning system, were outsourced to a XenApp server farm in Diepoldsau. "However, we soon noticed that this method did not allow us to map all of our user desktops," explains Bajramoski. "Yet, our goal was to make almost all IT workspaces available regardless of location—without hurting the user experience."
Noventa decided to introduce the Citrix XenDesktop solution to virtually operate any number of desktops in its datacenter. This gave workers the ability to access their personal desktops, running as a virtual engine on a central server, from any location. At the same time, XenDesktop simplified the management of the operating system and applications: Virtual desktops boot from a centrally stored master image where certain standard applications are preinstalled. Other applications are delivered on demand to desktops through the XenApp environment.
Noventa also uses Citrix XenServer as its virtualization platform and is gradually outsourcing more than 30 server workloads to virtual servers—from exchange servers and database servers to the XenApp servers.
As part of its modernization project, Noventa implemented a mirrored storage solution at its two datacenters, managing it using DataCore Software. The XenServer hosts use the storage environment as shared storage. If one host fails, the virtual machines are automatically restarted on a different physical server. Even if both server rooms fail, the data mirroring still ensures all key systems remain available.
To satisfy its mobile workers, the company worked with k-iS Systemhaus to implement a solution for secure remote access to applications and desktops. "For technical and economic reasons, we recommended Noventa use Citrix NetScaler VPX as their integrated application delivery controller," explains Carsten Bloemena, executive director of k-iS Systemhaus. "The solution provides an SSL VPN component that can be used to encrypt and secure web access to the XenDesktop and XenApp environment. At the same time, NetScaler VPX can take over the load balancing for critical services." The solution also supports the high availability of the virtualized IT infrastructure.
"For us, it was naturally very positive to be able to manage multiple network-related challenges all at once with NetScaler VPX," says Bajramoski. "As a virtual appliance, the solution is also very easy to install and manage."
Changes to the desktop environment have become much simpler with XenDesktop. Updates and patches no longer have to be installed onto each end device. Instead, a single modification of the central desktop image suffices.
The changes are then implemented for each workspace every time the virtual engine is restarted. "This approach, for example, accelerated the rollout of Microsoft Office 2010 within our company rather significantly," Bajramoski explains.
Employees who access the internal network using NetScaler VPX are spread out around the globe. Workers, for example, in Thailand can use all applications on their PCs, thin clients or notebooks, while the actual data remains in the secured datacenter in Diepoldsau. To further optimize on-site application performance, Noventa is currently testing the use of Citrix Branch Repeater, a WAN optimization solution. "Although our users in Thailand can already work pretty well with the centrally provided applications and desktops, initial tests have shown that the Branch Repeater further minimizes delays caused by geographic distance," Bajramoski says. "Furthermore, we hope to better exhaust the potential of the existing network bandwidth."
The HDX RealTime feature in the solution allows employees to work with all forms of communication tools, such as telephony, video conferencing or document sharing. VoIP telephones can be connected to end devices via USB. Since the processing power for the virtual desktops is provided by the servers in the datacenter, Microsoft Lync can be used on older PCs as well, as can the latest Microsoft operating system Windows 7.
"The server virtualization using XenServer has helped us improve hardware capacity utilization quite considerably and to reduce the need for physical servers and thereby the infrastructure costs generally associated with them," says Bajramoski. "At the same time, virtualization offers us a greater level of system stability. For that reason, our goal over the midterm is not to operate dedicated servers at all anymore."
More and more, the Noventa IT team is using all its Citrix solutions to create its own Noventa cloud. "The individual components are perfectly coordinated to work together and allow us to offer any IT resource at any location and for any end device," says Bajramoski. "And we want to become even more flexible in the future. With the Citrix Receiver, we will be able to offer users the option to use their own smartphones and tablets to access our IT."
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