Essar Steel Secures Critical Data through Citrix XenDesktop

Essar Steel is a global integrated steel producer with an annual capacity of 14 million tonnes with a strong presence in intensive steel consuming markets of Asia and North America. It has operations in four countries -- India, Canada, USA, and Indonesia. Essar Steel India is an integrated steel producer with an annual production capacity of 10 million ton. 

The steel plant located at Hazira has modern infrastructure like a power plant and a port that can handle 30 million ton cargo annually. With a focus on value added products, it produces over 300 grades of steel conforming to quality standards of international certification agencies. Essar Steel uses information technology extensively for its operations thereby ensuring consistent quality of its products.

The Challenge: The Data Security Challenge

“The Hazira plant has several USPs. It is the fourth largest plant in the world. It is also the widest plate mill in Asia, and the product range that we can create in the plant makes it one of its kind. The facility carries a lot of IP. Besides, the industry we work in is very competitive, and we need to be very secure about our information,” says Rahul Kumar, General Manager & Head IT Services (Hazira), Information Technology, Essar Steel. 

In addition to security being a major challenge for the steel plant, the tough environment was also posing problems for the IT infrastructure deployed there. 

“The environment of a typical steel plant is extremely hostile. As compared to the AC rooms where we work, the manufacturing facility has a lot of dust and heat. This leads to a very high failure rate of equipments in the plant,” informs Rahul. 

Essar steel was also looking at a solution to save on capital expenditure, ensure better manageability, and improve productivity at the plant. 

“Given the fact that it was one of the largest steel plants in the world, it took a person 20 minutes of walk to reach the building from the entrance gate. The turnaround-time for an IT guy was, therefore, always more. We wanted a solution that gave the employees the liberty to work on their desktop from any machine,” Rahul says. 

The Solution: Meeting requirements with Citrix XenDesktop

For the Hazira steel plant, the Citrix implementation was a top down mandate. The implementation at the group level started around two and a half years back. Together with Aegis (the group’s global business services provider in the area of experience management) and Essar, almost 15000 desktops have been covered. Of these, around 3000 desktops were from Essar.

The rollout was a part of the overall Citrix deployment. Essar had evaluated the top vendors. However, we went with Citrix XenDesktop because of application virtualisation, the ability to create shared hosted desktops and the USP of the ICA protocol when you are accessing Citrix over WAN.” 

As per the implementation, 100 desktops were covered using Citrix XenDesktop in the Hazira steel plant and another 200 users were covered in Essar Steel Service Center in Pune. There was a mix of SHD (Shared Hosted Desktops) and VDI with the primary implementation being on SHD. Both the solutions use the solution out of the corporate data center in Mumbai over WAN. 

“These 100 desktops are being used by more than 200 users as some machines are used by multiple employees in three shifts. The plant-level employees and Service Center employees have different sets of applications which have been defined on the image in SHD for standardization,” says Rahul. 

The solution was rolled out in a step-by-step approach. As Rahul reveals, “We went in for user profiling, creation of image, network bandwidth assessment, testing with select users from the business teams for pilot, and then finally the rollout to the end users.” 

Citrix XenDesktop was rolled out to the blast furnace and service center followed by CSP, contract and secondary sales, HSM, SMP, SCM, CRM, Platemill, HBI, Utility, and finally Essar academy. 

“The users are connecting through thin client to Citrix server and obtain their session based on profile. We have also completed the total build and design phase by commissioning of XenServer, XenApp, XenDesktop, XenClient, PVS, ZDC, NetScaler, DB, NAS and SAN storages. All these have been configured in a redundant mode for high availability. This environment is accessible from any device and anywhere,” says Rahul. 

Riverbed WAN optimization solution has been implemented across location for optimization of WAN bandwidth and ensuring impact of desktop virtualization on bandwidth is managed effectively. To ensure latency free access of the virtual desktops across the LAN, Essar upgraded to the backend network core in the datacenter to a 10 GB LAN. 

“Load balancing for the access of the virtual desktop is done efficiently by Citrix Netscaler equipment that is deployed in the Essar environment,” he says. 

Initially, the users were reluctant to migrate to Citrix XenDesktop as it was a cultural change for them. 

We have conducted training for users as well tuned application performance was done before implementation in production,” shares Rahul. 

The in-house team from Aegis implemented the solution. The implementation went live within three months. This included migration of user’s data / mailbox. Utmost precaution was taken for multiple profile migration on single desktop / laptop. 

On his experience with the Citrix team, Rahul says, “The Citrix sales team helped us with the various challenges and concerns on integration of the solution with Essar specific applications and niche solution deployments.”

Through Citrix XenDesktop, several applications for both plant employees and service center employees are delivered. These include MS office, LYNC 2010, SAP, etc. All standard applications were tested and implemented in Citrix. The applications can be accessed on tablets as well.

Benefits galore with Citrix XenDesktop

“We have looked at Citrix not as a cost saving initiative but as a data security initiative. It has met all our requirements on this parameter,” says Rahul. “As a result of the implementation, the centrally secured virtual desktops and apps in the datacenter reduce the risk of data loss or intrusion when delivered to any device. Corporate access remains secure while intellectual property and sensitive private information stays safe.” 

The Citrix XenDesktop infrastructure also meets the tough environmental requirements of the plant. 

“What replaces a desktop is a very compact and hardened thin client with no moving parts in it. It’s a dumb device and its life is very high, wattage and cost is low and in case of outage we just have to swap it with another device,” states Rahul. 

Using Citrix, the need for computing power has shifted away from the desktop and toward the datacenter where it can be optimized for energy efficiency. 

Another advantage of the implementation has been a considerable reduction in costs. As Rahul reveals, “This model has helped us to reduce costs for scheduled software maintenance, patch management, hardware break-fix, and OS support. We have been able to reduce considerably the headcount of our existing desktop support engineers helping us to save on the management cost.” 

“During refresh cycle of assets, by replacing relatively expensive PCs with thin clients that require less frequent upgrades, we have been able to save considerable investment on full-fledged desktops. Around 200 such refreshments have helped us to save considerable amount of investment,” he says. 

The new solution has also made life easy for the IT team. To cater to the ever increasing demand of business, IT governance, licensing norms, etc., there was a need felt for consolidating all the user’s systems and applications in one single place making the datacenter team’s task simpler and easier. Citrix XenDesktop has helped achieve this. 

Going forward, Rahul plans to roll out 1000 users on Citrix XenDesktop.

It is recommended to have separate Citrix infrastructure for Hazira. This will cater services to all plants, service station, remote and marketing office.
- Rahul Kumar

GM & Head IT Services (Hazira), IT

Essar Steel

About Citrix

Citrix Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CTXS) is a leading provider of virtual computing solutions that help companies deliver IT as an on-demand service. Founded in 1989, Citrix combines virtualization, networking and cloud computing technologies into a full portfolio of products that enable virtual workstyles for users and virtual datacenters for IT. More than 230,000 organizations worldwide rely on Citrix to help them build simpler and more cost-effective IT environments. Citrix partners with over 10,000 companies in more than 100 countries. Annual revenue in 2010 was $1.87 billion.

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Citrix XenDesktop provided us with application virtualization, ability to create shared hosted desktops and the USP of the ICA protocol when accessing Citrix over WAN. We have looked at Citrix not as a cost saving initiative but as a data security initiative.
- Rahul Kumar

GM & Head IT Services (Hazira), IT

Essar Steel


Key Benefits

  • Ensures data security
  • Savings on capital expenditure
  • Better manageability

Citrix Product