The sensor technology manufacturer Balluff has massively expanded its international presence in recent years and now employs more workers in the 24 globally distributed subsidiaries than at its headquarters. Citrix technologies help the company in the management of it’s global IT infrastructure.
In autumn 2011, Balluff GmbH celebrated its 90th anniversary. From its founding in 1921 - repairing bicycles, motorcycles and sewing machines - it has evolved over the decades into a world leading manufacturer of sensor technology. Today Balluff GmbH offers a full-range range of products for every area of automation and employs nearly 2,200 people. In addition to proven technology, continuous innovation and a high level of customer focus have always been important for the company's success. To be close to the main advanced markets, Balluff gradually increased its international presence and now has its own branches and representative offices in 54 countries.
For Ballufs’s relatively small IT department, global expansion of the company was challenging: "In the past, the distributed computing jobs caused high administration costs," says Heiko Allgaier, IT System Engineer at Balluff. "The software distribution was carried out initially manually so, for example, it took quite a long time before the latest release of SAP GUI was installed at all sites."
In order to manage the infrastructure more efficiently, Baluff set the IT department on a strategy of centralization: Distributed server resources - such as local Exchange server - have been gradually cut back and consolidated in existing domains. At the same time a Citrix XenApp server farm was built in the data center to deploy applications centrally for international location. "In many cases today, hardly any local on site IT is necessary," says Heiko Allgaier. "Users receive the complete standard work on our Citrix environment and only need a thin client or a laptop with Internet access, in order to work. So we are, if necessary, able to open a new sales office within days."
The central provision of more and more applications, with access to many sites, saw the importance of Citrix infrastructure growth for Balluff. The IT managers were therefore concerned about how to continue developing the platform to meet the increased demands. In close cooperation with arkatho Service GmbH, which advises Balluff on strategic IT issues, a viable solution concept was drawn up and jointly put into practice. It was not just about the migration to a newer version of XenApp – rather, the project goal was to fundamentally expand the capabilities of the infrastructure.
As part of the realignment of the entire XenApp environment, it has been virtualized with Citrix XenServer. The single XenApp server and all infrastructure components, such as the Citrix Web Interface, run today as virtual machines on XenServer hosts. The hardware needs could be considerably reduced in this way: After virtualization 60 percent fewer physical servers are needed. XenApp infrastructure provisioning technology from Citrix makes for easier management. For the installation of patches or new applications on the server farm, administrators only need to adjust a central master image. The next time you reboot, the updated image is then automatically streamed to all servers. "This technology saves us a lot of work in everyday life," reports Heiko Allgaier. "Before, we were often taking a week to install an update on each server. With Provisioning Services, this can be done today in a jiffy. And a failed change can be undone again, just as fast."
To connect mobile users and small offices on the infrastructure, and be safe, Balluff arkatho implemented two virtual NetScaler VPX appliances. Integrated Access Gateway functionality of the solution allows centrally provided encrypted web access to all IT resources. Many of Balluff’s sales offices today come completely without expensive leased lines for corporate headquarters.
For Balluff, in the further development of the Citrix infrastructure, the subject of user comfort was brought into focus: In order to optimize application performance in remote offices, it was decided to use the WAN optimization solution, Citrix Branch Repeater. "Had first tests very quickly. Convinced by the performance of the Branch Repeater, "said Heiko Allgaier. "Since the solution to the Citrix protocol is optimized, we could reduce the average bandwidth requirements by 50 percent and greatly reduce response times."
Particularly in remote locations, such as China or Brazil, users benefit today from significantly improved application behavior and faster printing processes. Not only the user experience but also the cost-effectiveness could be increased: By using Branch Repeater in all major branch locations, Balluff spared costly investments in additional network bandwidth.
Heiko Allgaier is highly satisfied with the overall results of the project: "We have brought our Citrix platform technology to the next level, thus realizing concrete benefits for our company. With arkatho we had, likewise, already seen a competent partner on our side, who supported us with a comprehensive route for the future.” Within the project Balluff changed its XenApp licenses in XenDesktop licenses for the future, with the new desktop To use virtualization technologies from Citrix
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