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Virtual Desktop Infrastructure for Achieving Better Efficiency

“Our decision to adopt desktop virtualisation was based purely on the need for business expansion, and reduction of operational costs and carbon footprint,” says Maheshwar Singh, Manager – IT Infrastructure at The Sona Group
The Sona Group was founded in 1987 to manufacture components for the automotive industry. Today, it is an $ 800-million multinational with around 20 plants across India, Germany and the US. The group also has a strategic position in Fuji Autotec, Europe, which has subsidiaries in Brazil, France, Sweden and the Czech Republic.
Starting out as a “Manufacture to Print” organisation, the group today boasts of having created its own IPR, particularly in the areas of power steering for off highway applications and precision forging.
The Sona Group has engineering capabilities in the areas of machining and assembly, precision forging, cold and hot forging and heat treatment. The Group’s range of products primarily consists of steering and driveline components for the automotive OEM segment namely passenger cars, utility vehicles, commercial vehicles and specialty vehicles.
The Challenges: Reducing Costs, Improving ManageabilityWith several manufacturing units spread across the country, the traditional desktop environment was posing a great deal of challenge for the IT team at The Sona Group.
“The desktops were a huge drain on the operating expenditure,” says Maheshwar Singh, Manager – IT Infrastructure at The Sona Group, as he laments the huge cost attached to the conventional desktop infrastructure. “One desktop consumes 150-250 watt of power, whereas a thin client consumes only 8-20 watts. From a business point of view, it made sense to deploy virtual desktop infrastructure,” he adds.
Maintenance and management of 700 desktops also posed a formidable challenge, as the Group had to deploy a large team of maintenance engineers. It was difficult to get complete back up of data from each desktop. Rolling out patches and software updates was also cumbersome and time consuming.
Put together, these challenges not only restricted the growth of IT infrastructure but also hampered the overall expansion of the Group.“Our decision to adopt desktop virtualisation was based purely on the need for business expansion, and reduction of operational costs and carbon footprint,” says Mr. Singh.
Citrix XenDesktop at New FacilityThe Sona Group set up a new manufacturing facility near Dharuhera in Haryana last year. With the management’s nod to roll out the IT infrastructure at the new facility, the company decided to set up a virtualised desktop infrastructure.
“There were very limited options available at the technology evaluation stage. There were two vendors in the race – Citrix and VMware. Citrix proved to be a better choice. It not only helped us enable application virtualisation but also had security features. Besides, it supported shared hosted desktops,” says Mr. Singh.
Citrix is one of the leading providers of virtual computing solutions that help companies deliver IT as an on-demand service. Founded in 1989, Citrix combines virtualisation, networking and cloud computing technologies into a full portfolio of products that enable virtual workstyles for users and virtual data centres for IT.
“In our environment, 95 per cent of users are static. They use enterprise applications such as ERP, Workflow, E-mail and office applications. There is no need to put data on to their desktops. Citrix XenDesktop enabled shared desktop access to these users at our data centre, thereby reducing the number of virtual machines,” he adds.
The implementation was done with the help of PC Solutions, Citrix’s channel partner. As part of the project, 100 desktops were replaced by virtual machines. The project was initiated in November 2011 and went live in April 2012.
Cost Reduction with Citrix XenDesktopThere were several benefits that were accrued from Citrix XenDesktop. As the company moved from a power-guzzling conventional desktop environment to a Citrix XenDesktop environment, there was a 10 times reduction in power consumption.
Not only was the Citrix solution easily deployable, it also ensured process improvement and offered ease of manageability. Citrix XenDesktop has helped speed up patch rollouts in the company with little or no downtime. Previously, each desktop had to be individually updated, which was a tardy and time consuming process.
From a security perspective too, Citrix XenDesktop proved to be a winner. In the virtualised desktop infrastructure, the users log into their personalised desktop environment each time and the crucial corporate data always resides in the data centre. Now it is possible to get a clear view of who is accessing which data over the network.
While the Citrix XenDesktop solution was implemented at the new plant, another plant in the vicinity had PoE (Power over Ethernet) based Cisco networking switch with separate network for voice and data.
“We connected both these plants with industrial grade 200 Mbps Wi-Fi data connection. As a result, the second plant did not have any server, IT administrator or telephonic voice exchange (a Cisco call management system was deployed in the new facility). It only had a network to get access to Citrix XenDesktop and Cisco CUCM. We could, therefore, do away with the large maintenance team,” informs Mr. Singh.
Reducing Storage RequirementsAmong the other important capabilities delivered by the Citrix solution, is its single-image management via the provisioning services functionality. This technology streams desktop workloads on-demand to any physical device or virtual machine. This reduces hard disk consumption. Singh has been able to realise huge benefits from Citrix XenDesktop, and now plans to leverage the solution at his other plants too.
“In future, we plan to deploy virtual desktops across the company. However, there is a risk of capital expenditure loss if we replace our traditional desktops to thin clients. Therefore, to ensure that the investment doesn’t go waste, we intend to use open source technology and combine it with Citrix client to convert existing desktops into thin clients and bring in virtualised desktop environment,” explains Mr. Singh.
Applications Delivered• ERP • Mailing applications • Office applications • Plant manufacturing applications
Networking Environment• Citrix XenDesktop Version 5.4.0.59 • Two HP ProLiant DL380 G7 rack mountable servers with two hex-core processors, 128 GB RAM and dual 8GBPS FC Controller • EMC VNX series storage connected to the servers • Cisco network with separate VLAN for voice and data connectivity
Key Benefits• Lowers IT costs• Significantly reduces storage for virtual desktops• Improves security and manageability• Lowers need for maintenance

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