Ozinga Bros. Adds Citrix Branch Repeater to the Mix for High Performance
Ozinga Bros., Inc. is a family-owned company that manufactures and delivers ready-mix concrete in the Lake Michigan region. Ready-mix concrete is manufactured according to set formulas and delivered directly to construction sites, typically by truck. Because concrete has a short shelf-life, Ozinga operates more than 20 production plants to provide fast delivery to job sites. The company, headquartered outside Chicago in Orland Park, Illinois, has several subsidiaries and employs more than 800 people.
The Challenge: Optimize Business-critical Application Performance over the WAN
Ozinga Bros., Inc. initially implemented its application delivery infrastructure with Citrix XenApp™ to enable quality control workers to access the company’s datacenter resources from manufacturing plants. Then the IT team expanded the solution with Citrix Access Gateway™ to allow employees to securely access internal applications and data from remote locations. However, most of the company’s applications remained distributed at the four subsidiaries, each running its own identical, small datacenter. “To streamline the system, we wanted to consolidate our IT infrastructure in the main datacenter in Mokena, Illinois, using XenApp,” said Tom Allen, director of Information Technology. “The goal was to give all full-time employees access to XenApp.”
In conjunction with the server consolidation project, the IT team delivers TMT, a truck maintenance application, on XenApp with Microsoft® Windows Server® 2003. Wyse Winterm thin clients were placed at the different sites to give users remote access to the TMT application over the WAN.
“The TMT application was working, but we ran into performance problems right away,” said Allen. WAN performance was so poor that the application was basically unusable by employees accessing it remotely. The Ozinga IT team sought the root cause, but, recalled Alex Kropiewnicki, IT project manager, “We couldn’t figure it out.”
In this situation, most enterprises instinctively add WAN bandwidth. And like most enterprises, Ozinga Bros., Inc. discovered additional bandwidth does not necessarily improve application performance. Kropiewnicki continued, “We run a lot of video, so we tried eliminating video from certain lines and believe it or not, that didn’t help either. This ruled out congestion as the problem. We even engaged multiple consultants and there was a lot of finger-pointing, but no results.”
Finally, the IT team narrowed the application performance problem down to network “jitter” – variable arrival of packets – and tested Citrix Branch Repeater™, a solution developed specifically to accelerate applications delivered from datacenters to branch offices and remote workers over the WAN. Branch Repeater improves application performance and end-user experience impacted by network jitter, latency or congestion.
Kropiewnicki said, “We put one of the appliances in place between Mokena and a site in Indiana, and immediately the users said, ‘You know, it’s working.’ We wondered if it was a fluke, so we moved it to a couple of other sites. Everywhere we put the Citrix Branch Repeater solution we saw immediate improvement and user satisfaction.”
Implementing a Citrix Application Delivery Infrastructure Solution
After deciding upon the Citrix Branch Repeater solution, Ozinga Bros., Inc. completed its implementation in 2007. The IT team installed a Branch Repeater appliance at each of its 30 manufacturing sites and subsidiaries. In addition to the TMT application, the company is delivering Systech Integra, its management and operations application for ready-mix concrete, via the Citrix Branch Repeater solution. Users include field sales, dispatchers and quality control staff.
Allen explained, “The dispatchers assign concrete to specific trucks, and after they are loaded, Systech tracks their progress. Also, the quality control inspectors at the plants access the Systech database to check specifications against the concrete that is being produced.” Salespeople use it to track job progress and submit quotes at customer locations.
In addition, Ozinga upgraded XenApp to the latest version of the product, which is running on five HP servers, and is planning to upgrade to Access Gateway, Enterprise Edition. This upgrade will provide Ozinga Bros., Inc. with high-availability options and integrated application acceleration and optimization.
Turning an Unusable Application into an IT Consolidation Success Story
The Citrix Branch Repeater solution not only solved the performance issues that had put the TMT rollout on hold, but also allowed Ozinga’s IT team to move forward with their server and application consolidation plans. Allen said, “Implementing TMT was a large-scale, million-dollar project. The software is mission-critical because it maintains the central database of all maintenance on our entire fleet of 500+ ready-mix concrete trucks. Until we put the Citrix Branch Repeater solution in place, TMT was basically unusable. Now, it works.”
He continued, “Our IT centralization project depended upon delivering adequate application performance to our sites. We didn’t want to go back to local servers, so it was critical to find a solution to the TMT dilemma and to the consolidation effort as a whole. The Citrix Branch Repeater solution has improved application response time to an acceptable level (as experienced by end users). It has also practically eliminated session timeouts and disconnects over our WAN. These advancements are allowing us to centralize servers for increased efficiency and cost savings.”
In addition to reducing server hardware costs, consolidation is enabling the IT team to maintain its current staffing levels, even as they support aggressive corporate growth. “Administering servers centrally is far more efficient than sending out a technician to one of the subsidiaries to fix some problem,” said Allen.
Avoiding a Major Network Upgrade
Ozinga Bros., Inc. uses a variety of network connections for its remote locations, depending upon number of users and cost. Kropiewnicki said, “We’re spread out and use whatever links we can get. If we can run DSL to a site with hardly any users at a cost of $35 a month, we’ll do that instead of putting in a T1 line for $500 a month. Before we found the Citrix Branch Repeater Solution, we were thinking of upgrading all our data links to Frame Relay or MPLS, which would have cost $100,000 per month over our existing link costs. And I don’t even know if that would have solved the problem.”
Providing a Solution for Business Continuity
Ozinga will use its Citrix solution to provide application delivery via the Web to users in the case of a disaster. With Web Interface, a feature of XenApp, the IT team can deliver applications hosted at a failover datacenter in Chicago to employees at home or a temporary location. “Server virtualization technology will send the image of the Citrix server to the other site, and Web Interface will provide access via any browser. It’s going to be the easiest way for users to get to their applications,” said Kropiewnicki. “And a second Access Gateway appliance in Chicago provides redundancy and automated failover to ensure continued secure, remote access for all users – with the same policies and rules as the primary appliance.”
Allen concluded, “We’ve had good luck with Citrix. It made our rollout of TMT a success and puts us in a great position for the future.”