Managed digital workspaces instead of self-managed virtual desktops: KORSCH AG, one of the world's leading manufacturers of tablet presses, has switched to a desktop as a service (DaaS) model. Citrix technologies and comprehensive support from the service provider SVA are accelerating the digitalisation of the work environment and ensuring satisfied users – from Berlin to Singapore.
Rethinking and continually improving the tried and tested – that has been KORSCH's aim for over 100 years. Founded in Berlin in 1919, the company was one of the first companies to work on new processes for pressing powdered substances. Emil Korsch’s mechanical eccentric presses laid the foundation for a long history of success. Today, KORSCH AG is the market leader with the most comprehensive and innovative range of tabletting products – from special presses for research and development, rotary presses for the production of medium-sized batches to high-performance presses for 24-hour operation. The company's most powerful machines produce up to one million tablets per hour.
KORSCH is a real “hidden champion” – a family-run medium-sized company that has grown continuously and today generates 80% of its revenues from international markets. It continues to develop and produce all its tablet presses at its site in Berlin and, from there, supplies them across the globe. KORSCH now also has service offices in Boston, Mumbai and Singapore to provide the best possible support to its worldwide customers from the pharmaceutical industry and other sectors.
As a result of increasing digitalisation, its number of IT users has risen sharply in recent years. At first, this was a real challenge for Sebastian Grünberg, IT Manager at KORSCH: “At some point we reached an order of magnitude where the old processes and procedures stopped working. Individual application support took too much time – software rollouts sometimes dragged on for months. We realised that we needed to focus more on standardisation and automation.”
Faced with this situation, KORSCH’s IT department started to think about its future workplace strategy. Firstly, they wanted to standardise the digital work environment to keep administrative time and costs as low as possible. Secondly, desktops and applications needed to be usable on all devices – and from anywhere.
As the basis for its new workplace strategy, KORSCH tested a virtual desktop solution from Citrix, initially with 40 pilot users. “The solution was very well received by the users right from the start,” reports Sebastian Grünberg. “With Citrix, we were able to fundamentally simplify desktop deployment and support mobile working from any location immediately. The ability to access virtual desktops from any end device – even from home offices – made it much easier for us to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic in particular.”
However, the supervisors also saw that they couldn’t manage the virtual desktop infrastructure themselves in the long-term. The service quality demands were high, particularly as users were spread across the world: “If one of our technicians is on site at the customer's office in the USA, they must be able to access their digital workspace reliably,” Grünberg says.
“As a result, we rely on a very stable VDI infrastructure. Therefore, we decided to go for a desktop as a service model with an external partner.”
The final decision was to go with SVA System Vertrieb Alexander GmbH – a Citrix partner for many years that also operates successfully as a managed service provider. SVA offers its customers customised desktop-as-a-service products (DaaS) with 24/7 support and use-based billing. Customers benefit from a digital work environment that is always up to date – and an operating model that combines the strengths of on-prem infrastructure with those of the public cloud.
After analysing the requirements of the different user groups, SVA then created a suitable solution concept. One unique feature was that a lot of KORSCH employees work with graphics-intensive applications such as Siemens NX for CAD/CAM/CAE or Adobe Creative Cloud applications. Therefore, SVA recommended using graphics acceleration with Citrix HDX 3D Pro and NVIDIA graphic cards to optimise the display of these applications on the virtual desktops. “The graphics support enabled us to really integrate all workspaces into the DaaS model – even 3D designers’ desktops where the performance requirements are very high,” says Grünberg.
SVA implemented a hybrid solution architecture for KORSCH. The virtual desktops and applications are provided via a Nutanix cluster in KORSCH's data centre. This ensures optimal performance when interacting with backend systems such as the Siemens Teamcenter PLM platform. In contrast, the management components of the DaaS solution – such as the Citrix Gateway Service for secure remote access – run in the Citrix Cloud and are automatically kept up to date by Citrix. As a managed service partner, SVA has an overview of the performance and availability of the whole environment at all times and can react immediately in the event of errors or imminent failures.
“Thanks to this solution architecture, we can offer our users an optimal user experience – especially in hybrid workspace scenarios. For example, CAD users can access and edit 3D models from home using standard laptops. With a classic VPN solution, this would not have been possible at all for performance reasons,” says Grünberg.
Comprehensive security measures are also integrated into the Citrix DaaS architecture. Remote access is exclusively via encrypted connections and is protected by multifactor authentication. All access privileges can be controlled granularly. This also ensures that sensitive design data does not leave KORSCH's data centre.
Access to virtual desktops in Berlin is also frictionless at the company's international offices. This means employees can work productively even over long distances. If the connection to the digital workspace is interrupted for a short time, the user session stays open on the server. As soon as the connection is restored, the user can continue working without losing any data. Lastly, the DaaS solution also opens up new possibilities for KORSCH's production. The IT department has installed a whole range of cost-effective thin clients in its assembly shops. This means production employees can access 3D models and other data directly when at the machines. “In this way, we increase the digitalisation of our production without having to make big investments for additional end devices,” says Grünberg. “We can use robust, low-maintenance thin clients in production instead of high-end workstations. The desktops and applications for these workspaces are provided reliably around the clock by our DaaS infrastructure.”
The DaaS model minimises administrative time and costs for the entire digital work environment – and thus considerably relieves the pressure on KORSCH’s IT department. The Nutanix cluster in the data centre and the entire Citrix solution up to the operating system level are managed and monitored by SVA.
If, for example, there is disruption to the central infrastructure at the weekend, SVA is notified immediately and takes the necessary action. All Citrix and Nutanix component updates are first carefully checked by external specialists before they are installed in the environment. This also increases operational security and ultimately the reliability of KORSCH's production and business processes.
“Without Citrix technology and SVA's service, we would no longer be able to manage the rapidly growing number of users and end devices,” says Grünberg. “We can now fully concentrate on improving our digital workflows, since the DaaS solution frees us from a lot of administrative tasks.”
The IT Manager is convinced that KORCH’s decision will pay off from an economic point of view also. “We would definitely need more staff if we managed the entire infrastructure ourselves. Above all, however, we are benefiting today from clearly calculable costs and future-proofing: no matter how fast we grow in the next few years and what new services are added, our digital work environment will be able to keep up with our requirements.”
“The Citrix DaaS model combines flexible and secure access options for our users with greater agility for our business. As an IT department, we can now just say “yes” and cover new business requirements very quickly. SVA has paved the way for us and has provided us with absolutely reliable support in the course of our operations.”