Avianca flies into the future of IT with XenDesktop
Avianca, the top airline of the South American continent with more than 90 years in the commercial airline business, has a fleet of 130 planes offering services to more than 100 destinations in the world, 75 of which are in Latin America. Currently it has 7,000 employees, 1,200 of which work in the operations center in Bogotá, Colombia, the headquarters for the finance and accounting, human resources, sales and systems departments. To provide services to its clients, it has a network of 1,200 desktops which use 140 business applications.
Avianca is expanding its business with new international routes, more destinations and growth in the number of passengers carried in Colombia. According to Aerocivil, of the 10 million passengers who traveled in Colombia in 2009, almost 7 million were carried by Avianca. In Colombia, around 5.5 million passengers took international flights and 41.8 percent of them used Avianca’s services.
Avianca also recently completed a strategic merger with Synergy Aerospace Corp. and Kingsland Holding Limited, owner of Grupo Taca Holdings Limited that operates Líneas Aéreas Costarricenses (Lacsa), Taca Perú and Servicios Aéreos Nacionales (Sansa), among other companies. This merger opens new business opportunities for the Avianca-Taca holding company, created with the agreement signed at the end of 2008.
The challenge – Consolidate desktops and servers
To maintain the growth of the business, lower the maintenance cost of the network of the 1200 full-powered PCs that the company then owned, extend the useful life of the hardware, and centralize the administration of applications and the security of the work environment, Avianca decided to take a strategic approach: to consolidate desktops and servers using application, PC and server virtualization technologies.
“When the workload runs on centralized servers, the security level is increased because risks, such as the use of USB memory sticks, are eliminated. In this way, the possibility of information theft or the acquisition of viruses and Trojan horses on the corporate network is enormously diminished,” said Gabriel Ríos, chief information officer of Avianca.
The project included updating the 700 PCs. To do this, 1,200 Hewlett-Packard thin client terminals were purchased in two stages. These have no hard disks on which to install applications and save information but, instead, they are all stored on company servers. Using desktop virtualization technology, users get the applications and information that they need on their thin client screens.
Implementing the Citrix virtualization solution
Avianca decided to virtualize 140 corporate applications over the course of one year, including financial and accounting administration, the reservation system, ticket sales, and check-in help desk, among others.
“These applications are used on the 1,200 desktop PCs that receive information from the central servers and process the data from each of the virtualized applications. Instead of maintaining the data of each machine, the work is centralized in Avianca’s servers, which makes the system more secure and efficient,” pointed out Leonardo Gutierrez, manager of Consulting Services of Compufacil who was in charge of the project together with Natalia Barajas, Avianca’s project manager.
Key business benefit – Significant desktop savings
The project return on investment was estimated as being three years. The maintenance of a PC with a hard disk that stores company information is $20 monthly. Using a virtual desktop solution, this expense is reduced to only $9 monthly. “A thin client requires less maintenance because the workload resides on the server whose technology is well tuned to support it,” said Ríos. This solution allows for centralized administration of the company’s business data which results in a benefit for Avianca’s business since the loss of sensitive business information was reduced to zero. “If a user unintentionally erases information that he needs, the backup system allows it to be quickly found and restored to the system,” he added.
In the near future, Avianca plans to offer remote access to workers who wish to connect from other locations or from their homes via a secure access methodology so that they and their teams can telecommute with the same security that they already have within the corporate network, taking advantage of the possibilities that the already implemented Citrix technology offers them.
In addition, Avianca plans to use this technology to support the growth of its business which is happening as a result of the strategic alliance with Grupo Taca and with Synergy Aerospace Corp., which will increase the number of passengers and the number of destinations with the aim of maintaining its leadership in Latin America.
This centralized administrative platform will allow the company to increase the number of workstations required as a result of the Avianca-Taca alliance, offering all the applications on the user’s screen in a fast and simple way at a very low cost.