Customer availability and quality of service are top priorities for the Wertheimer corporate group. The digital business processes at the building material trader’s branches were admittedly hampered by slow WAN connections. A software-defined WAN solution from Citrix provided a remedy. The company profits from this with heightened WAN performance and reliability and also saves on investments in additional MPLS bandwidth.
The Wertheimer Group has been the first point of contact for corporate and private customers in the Baden region on the topics of construction, renovation and modernization for over 70 years. The company is the regional market leader for the building material, lumber and tile trade and employs approximately 1,000 employees at 23 locations.
The majority of IT systems in the individual hardware centers and specialized stores are administrated and maintained by the Wertheimer Dienstleistungsgesellschaft mbH [Wertheimer Services Company mbH]. The internal service provider makes all-important business applications available to almost 700 end users via a data center in Freiburg. The core applications include the inventory control system Prohibis, plus the associated document management system, as well as the Microsoft Office 365 suite.
“In the last few years, we have broadly centralized our IT systems and virtualized them with Microsoft Hyper-V,” says Peter Gründler, head of IT and Organization in the Wertheimer Services Company. “For the central provision of the business applications, we use Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops.” With the Citrix solution, employees in the branches access their applications and data in the data center. Fat client PCs with locally installed software are the exception today: The majority of workplaces have now been equipped with thin clients.
Even mobile users of the Wertheimer Group have access to their complete digital workplace from any place thanks to Citrix. Employees use the solution too, for example, accessing planning tools and product documents for customer evaluation while on the move. All web communication is encrypted and secured via a Citrix Gateway in the data center.
Several years ago, the IT organization of the Wertheimer Group had constructed an MPLS network for the connection of external locations. Rising numbers of users and ever-more-resource-hungry applications meant that the available bandwidth would soon no longer suffice.
“Our users today run graphic-intensive applications and multimedia content at their workplaces,” clarifies Johannes Keppler, representative head of IT and Organization in the Wertheimer services company. “For example, they make use of training videos from manufacturers in order to explain the processing of building materials to customers. These product demonstrations are an important part of the consultation service, and therefore must function as fluidly as possible.”
The overloaded MPLS network consistently held the employees back, however. In particular, a hardware center in the Black Forest with a very large catchment area suffered from massive performance problems. Here, several factors came together: Firstly, the volume of sales and number of users had grown enormously; secondly, new workflows caused data traffic to explode; and additionally, all print jobs for product advertisements in the store had to be sent from the central system to a local plotter. The large graphics files heavily obstructed the connection and slowed all other applications. In this way, even writing an email turned into a waiting game.
“Our employees on site were very displeased with the situation, and so we spoke with our MPLS provider about optimization and expansion possibilities,” says Peter Gründler. “The provider proved in any case to be less than flexible. A widening of the broadband would have enormous additional investments associated with it.”
Network specialists at IT Partner Makro Factory, therefore, recommended that the Wertheimer Group evaluate a software-defined WAN solution. With this approach, various connection technologies such as MPLS, DSL, and LTE were bundled into an individual, logical WAN. This would mean the connection capacity of connections to external locations is made very simple and flexible – and greater efficiency and reliability are simultaneously achieved.
The specialists from Makro Factory implemented Citrix SD-WAN appliances for the test in the Wertheimer data center in Freiburg as well as in the Black Forest branch in question. “Beside the MPLS connection, there were two more DSL connections which had been provided as backup connections. With Citrix SD-WAN we were able to add these paths to our virtual WAN construction as additional active bandwidths,” says Johannes Keppler.
The results of the test convinced decision makers immediately. The users at the branch reported that the application performance had significantly improved. The printing of advertising materials, for example, now worked much faster, and the reaction times of other applications drastically shortened.
“Citrix SD-WAN also provides us with interesting insights into data traffic,” tells Johannes Keppler. “With the integrated monitoring functions, we could analyze the connection capacity on the level of individual services. We determined among other things that broadband was being reserved for services that were not being used whatsoever. With this information, we could make specific improvements and also free up the reserved MPLS broadband virtually completely.”
The IT department was supported by Makro Factory and product specialists from Citrix throughout the configuration of the solution and the evaluation of the monitoring. “We were very pleased with the results as well as with the collaboration during the test,” summarizes Peter Gründler. “Therefore we decided relatively quickly to gradually fit all locations of the Wertheimer Group with the SD-WAN solution from Citrix.”
With Citrix SD-WAN, the Wertheimer Group can provide WAN performance in its branches which measures up to the newest IT applications. No matter if it’s a sophisticated planning software or IP-based telephone and communication services: The building supply trader is now significantly better equipped for digital innovation in the workplace.
User-friendliness has improved in all locations that already use the SD-WAN solution. Buffering videos or wait times when accessing virtualized applications are now a thing of the past. Citrix SD-WAN optimizes data traffic and automatically allocates the necessary bandwidth for optimal performance to applications.
Not only can the employees of the Wertheimer Group profit from the solution but so do the company’s customers. “Citrix SD-WAN offers us the possibility to integrate local Internet breakouts. We can thereby provide visitors to our stores with comprehensive WiFi hotspots in the future. The Internet traffic of guest access points no longer has to cut into our precious and limited MPLS network,” says Johannes Keppler.
The SD-WAN solution also ensures that the user can continue working in the event of a network connection failure. Previously, stores had to switch to manual scheduling and accounting whenever connection to the data center was interrupted. The customers could still be served; however, the compilation of orders with manual delivery notes cost the employees a lot of time and effort.
With Citrix SD-WAN, operation continues seamlessly, even during network disturbances. The solution permanently monitors the availability and performance of individual paths. Should one of the physical connections fail, Citrix SD-WAN leads the data traffic to the remaining paths without the user ever even noticing.
“We carried out a lot of failure tests in the trial stage,” says Johannes Keppler. “But no matter which cable we pulled, there was never a connection interruption.” In order to achieve maximum reliability in the branches, the IT organization wants to combine DSL connections of different providers and add additional LTE connections in the future.
The new solution offers the Wertheimer Group many possibilities to tailor the WAN performance to the specific needs of individual locations and users. IT Administrators are currently concerning themselves intensely with the quality of service functions of Citrix SD-WAN and are undertaking a classification of available applications and services. They are supported in this by the network specialists at Makro Factory. The goal is to prioritize applications more accurately and to always provide the most important services with the best performance possible.
Updates to the SD-WAN configuration are automatically transmitted to all appliances. The administrators receive a system message beforehand, which informs them whether the update will be connected with an interruption. “As a rule, the adaptations occur zero-touch and on the fly, such that no user on-site ever knows about it,” says Johannes Keppler.
From an economic perspective, the use of the SD-WAN solution may pay off very quickly for the Wertheimer Group. The IT organization is now even testing whether the connection of new locations can forgo MPLS connections entirely. Per estimation by those responsible, one could thereby obtain a tenfold increase in performance at current WAN costs.
“Citrix SD-WAN helps us to keep up with the growing IT requirements of our external locations,” summarizes Johannes Keppler. “We can add additional bandwidth very flexibly, and are therefore no longer exclusively dependent on a relatively costly MPLS network.”
With Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, the Wertheimer Group makes all important business applications available to approximately 700 IT users at 23 locations. These include the inventory control system, the document management system and the Office 365 software.
With Citrix, the employees can also access their digital workplace on the go or at their home office. Citrix Gateway provides for consistent encryption and comprehensive protection of communication.
Citrix SD-WAN finally helped the company to improve application performance in external locations – without expensive investments in additional MPLS bandwidth. With the Citrix solution, the connection capacity can simply and cost-effectively be expanded through additional DSL connections. In addition, the Wertheimer Group profited from higher availability. In the event of a WAN connection failure, the traffic is immediately redirected and business operation can continue without interruption.
The Wertheimer Group has been the first contact for corporate and private customers in the Baden region on the topics of construction, renovation and modernization for over 70 years. The company is the regional market leader for the building material, lumber and tile trade and employs approximately 1,000 employees at 23 locations.
As one of Germany’s leading IT consultancies, Makro Factory has proven recipes for success and the appropriate competence at implementation concerning nearly all IT projects. The company’s specialists discuss, plan, realize, and steer projects together with their clients. They employ IT analysis, strategy, and compliance as the basis of every decision. Furthermore, Makro Factory is available for cloud, support, and maintenance services, as well as the operation of complete IT environments. According to the slogan “strategies for a virtual world,” the company helps to decide how to implement a digital transformation and acts as a trustworthy companion to its clients.
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