Nissan powers high-performance R&D worldwide with Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops

Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. is proceeding with its midterm business plan, Nissan Power 88, which extends through 2016 and sets the goals of an 8 percent global market share and an 8 percent operating profit ratio. The company's IT strategy is called VITESSE, which means "speed" in French, and is based on the core concepts of "Value Innovation," "Technology Simplification," and "Service Excellence." The strategy aims to contribute to business and innovation. Among these concepts, in an attempt to achieve "Value Innovation," in which business value is maximized through cross-function/cross-regional solutions, the Global Information Systems Headquarters has created a virtual desktop system for 3D computer-aided design (CAD) applications using Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, Citrix Hypervisor, and NVIDIA GRID® K2, with the goal of improving CAD/product development management (PDM) productivity at global R&D locations.

The challenge: Increase CAD productivity for globally distributed engineers

The Deputy General Manager, Engineering IS Department, Global IS Division of Nissan Motors, Mikio Matsuki, who led eVDI, the Engineering Department's desktop virtualization project, speaks about his experience creating virtual desktops as the foundation for using 3D CAD applications as a portion of the global IT strategy.

"In Vitesse, the IT strategy initiated by the company in 2011, 'Value Innovation', which aims to create new value in business, was an important theme. As part of this, we also considered the challenge of how to create a system that would centralize CAD/PDM data through global coordination in the IT area and maintain business efficiency when accessing integrated databases from all countries. At this point, we were given the task of accomplishing this using a VDI [virtual desktop infrastructure] framework by Guiotoko, CIO, Global corporate IS/IT," he says.

Satoshi Takabatake, who also works in the Engineering IS Department, Global IS Division, explains the project in detail. "The company has vehicle development and research locations in 16 sites throughout the world. We were required to coordinate with these locations by sharing data and working together in real time using CAD/PDM data managed in a single database. Also, with a single database, there were cases in which it took several hours to download the data after the CAD engineers at the overseas R&D locations arrived at work, and improving the responsiveness of global locations was a major challenge. In fact, before the topic of a virtual desktop came up, we were considering methods of splitting up the CAD/PDM database between North America and the U.K., global locations that are particularly important. We looked into whether it would be possible for the Japanese, American, and U.K. locations to each manage their own CAD/PDM database, and to coordinate by synchronizing with one another,” he says. “However, the fact that splitting the database across three locations would triple the effort needed to operate and manage it, resulting in extremely high costs, was a major problem. Also, synchronizing the data between locations would take time as well, so we gave up on the idea due to its unsuitability for coordinating in real time. Then Matsuki came to us with an idea, and we started testing virtual desktops in 2014."

Hirotaka Noguchi, Infrastructure and Production Service Department, Global IT Division, makes an addition regarding the details of the investigation process.

"When selecting a virtual desktop, we conducted tests to compare products from various companies,” he says. “In the course of these tests, we considered not only the superiority of functions and capabilities, but user-friendliness and the outlook for the future as well, and we attempted to keep usage of network and hardware resources to a minimum. Wanting to adopt the solution that would deliver the maximum results, we selected Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops. In the actual investigation, we received full cooperation from Hewlett-Packard Japan, created a testing environment in the laboratory, and proceeded with the investigation while receiving feedback from end users."

The solution: Optimize the delivery of high-performance 3D CAD desktops worldwide

At the Global Information Systems Headquarters, which made the determination to create a virtual desktop for 3D CAD applications using Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops and Citrix Hypervisor and to proceed with globally centralized CAD/PDM data management, an experimental system was created, and attempts were made to actually use it from Nissan R&D locations in North America and the U.K.

"In the trial, the system was actually used by on-site CAD/PDM engineers, and they gave us reviews of responsiveness, screen resolution, etc., when operating the 3D CAD application on a virtual desktop over a WAN. At that point, we received harsh feedback stating that in comparison with the high-performance workstations used locally, performance was bad and the system was unusable," says Matsuki, looking back on the results of the initial trial. After receiving the results of the evaluations by on-site engineers, the IT Infrastructure Service Department implemented tune-ups encompassing the two aspects of systems and networks and worked to optimize performance. Also, Matsuki determined that it was important not only to improve the system but also to evaluate usability for actual users, so he added Kenji Iwama, a top-class CAD engineer from the CAD Engineering Promotion Department of Nissan Techno Co., Ltd., to the project staff.

"The mission I was given was to evaluate the results of the tune-ups carried out from the point of view of CAD engineers in order to improve practical performance. In addition to this, together with Matsuki, I investigated which scenarios to prepare in order to correctly perform evaluations of desktop virtualization suited for use by overseas engineers," says Iwama.

Beginning in April 2014, Noguchi took charge of the IT Infrastructure Department, and through a system involving cooperation with engineers from Citrix, Hewlett-Packard Japan, and others, work was started on the construction of a full-fledged system for accessing data centralized in Japan from North America and the U.K. through a virtual desktop.

Alongside the technical project by the IT Infrastructure Service Department, in order to alert the North American and U.K. CAD engineers to the merits of desktop virtualization, Iwama created 13 scenarios covering all CAD engineers, including the engineers who create the actual 3D data and, in particular, engineers who use viewer software, and conducted additional tests with on-site engineers.

"Today, development tasks for automobiles have become extremely specialized. We have worked to obtain accurate evaluations from the various sites by classifying users' jobs and using scenarios to alert the engineers to the merits of each task. By actually visiting North America and the U.K. and operating the virtual desktop under the actual 3D CAD environment, we were able to create tune-ups aligned with the needs of on-site engineers," Iwama explains.

Following the establishment of a virtual desktop user environment with which the overseas engineers are satisfied from the perspectives of both IT infrastructure tune-ups and scenarios involving usage by engineers, the system went into operation in July 2015, one year after the start of the trial in July 2014, in North America, and in October 2015 in the U.K.

Matsuki praises the project as follows: "It was possible to proceed with the challenging project of allowing the two important global locations of North America and the U.K. to access data centralized in Japan thanks to the cooperation of a team comprised of engineers from vendors such as Citrix."

The virtual desktop for 3D CAD created by the team at the Global Information Systems Headquarters of Nissan Motors features an NVIDIA GRID K2 board, and the Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops virtual desktop created on Citrix Hypervisor can access NX, the integrated 3D CAD/CAM/CAE solution of the Siemens PLM software, from North America and the U.K.

eVDI System Overview Chart

eVDI System Overview Chart

Key benefit: Improved performance in a globally integrated computing environment

Matsuki praises the system that was created: "By constructing a virtual desktop environment with Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, Citrix Hypervisor, and NVIDIA GRID K2, while giving consideration to hardware resource and network usage zones, we established a globally integrated CAD/PDM usage environment. Because we are now able to centrally manage CAD/PDM data in Japan, we will be able to provide faster speeds to other locations in the future."

Key benefit: Better security at a lower cost

Takabatake praises the system as follows: "Thanks to the fact that we can now centrally manage the CAD/PDM database in Japan using Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, not only have we managed to reduce the cost of operations, we have also managed to add an additional layer of security. Also, by improving the system on the server side in the future, we will be able to reduce investment in workstations on the client side, so I believe the CAD/PDM infrastructure we have established has a high degree of long-term cost performance."

Key benefit: Seamless productivity across locations and devices

Matsuki also discusses the secondary effects of the virtual desktop. "The virtual desktop was implemented for the purpose of using 3D CAD applications, but it has many secondary merits. For instance, even in a different location, it is possible for a user to continue working from exactly where they left off by reconnecting to the virtual desktop. There will be no more opportunity loss at the global level, and a user will be able to restart work the day after arriving at the site of an overseas business trip, providing them with a truly mobile work space. Also, if the PC suddenly shuts down, the CAD/PDM on the virtual desktop will not be affected. We will be able to improve the service level by considering the capacity of servers constructed in the secure data center."

Looking ahead: Use the virtual desktop in the R&D global formation shift

"We are at the starting line for implementing the system in North America and the U.K. We have 16 overseas locations, and at the design and R&D sites of the remaining locations as well, we are planning to implement the system," says Takabatake, touching upon future projects. "From the point of view of operating the system, we would like to keep usage of network bandwidth and hardware resources to a minimum on Linux virtual desktops as well, and with regard to Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, we are looking forward to HDX 3D Pro being compatible with Linux. Also, the number of CAD/PDM users will increase in the future, so we would like Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops to continue to be a product that achieves maximum functionality while keeping use of network and hardware resources to a minimum," says Noguchi, stating his hopes for the future.

Matsuki discusses his goals as follows: "The virtual desktop is already being used for other applications. Thanks to what we have achieved with 3D CAD, we are now able to use the virtual desktop for a wider range of tasks. Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops makes this type of thing possible. As we implement it in our various locations, I believe that the way we work will change completely. As far as we are concerned, we have managed to construct a highly practical virtual desktop infrastructure, and we will continue to work on the challenge of using it to create new business value."

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