When recruitment company ZAG Personal & Perspektiven had to provide more than 100 company locations with centralized applications, it turned to Citrix technology. With XenApp, the IT department has not only simplified desktop management, but also avoided high levels of investment in the network infrastructure. Even at low bandwidths, users can work with the central applications.
The group of companies ZAG Personal & Perspektiven was founded in Hanover in 1984 and has since evolved from a traditional temporary employment company to a modern personnel service. In addition to flexible working time solutions, the company offers its customers personnel placement, project support and individual personnel concepts. With more than 17 000 corporate clients ZAG is now one of the ten largest personnel service providers in Germany.
ZAG combines the security of a large organization with a high customer proximity and a strong regional focus. More than 100 offices throughout Germany today support applicants, employees and local businesses.
However, from an IT perspective, this corporate structure is a real challenge: ZAG's IT organization not only has to manage the desktops for 750 users distributed nationwide, but also several computer workstations in each of the 100 offices in Germany.
"In order to better handle the administrative burden, we started to implement a thin client strategy about two years ago," says Frank Werther, Head of IT at ZAG. "Our goal was to replace existing fat client PCs with locally installed applications and provide user desktops and business applications for users through our data center in Hanover."
The IT organization initially relied on the Windows Remote Desktop Services (RDS) from Microsoft. In practice, however, this did not reach the desired ZAG application performance. Many branches are connected to the company headquarters via WAN links with relatively low bandwidth – this meant that RDS users were having display problems when working with graphics-intensive applications. Scrolling in long PDF documents was particularly difficult for users and it was not possible to view sites with lots of pictures and graphics as they built very slowly on screen.
Since daily work in the offices was being affected, the IT department started to look for a possible solution. A first approach was to resolve the problem through the use of WAN optimization technology. The IT department evaluated products from several manufacturers, but could not find a satisfactory solution. With all of the WAN optimization solutions tested, application performance in remote locations was not noticeably improved.
"We considered several solutions for WAN links with higher bandwidth but the associated costs bore no relation to the expected benefits," says Frank Werther.
In order to find a solution for the centralization project, ZAG finally tested the use of Citrix XenApp. The Citrix solution is based on RDS technology and expands the base platform from Microsoft to numerous other functions and components for centralized application deployment. IT partner, Michael Wessel IT GmbH, demonstrated the capabilities of the solution and conducted a proof-of-concept on behalf of ZAG.
The results were convincing straight away: "We immediately saw a clear improvement in response times and application performance," says the IT director. "Compared to a pure RDS solution, the screen display in the XenApp test environment was significantly improved, even over connections with low bandwidth.
"The PoC made it clear that the Citrix protocol for accessing virtual desktops and applications was better with limited pipeline capacity than other remote display protocols," adds Nicole Wegrich, Sales Consultant at Michael Wessel IT. "The products developed by Citrix use different optimization methods that automatically adapt to the respective network conditions to provide the best possible performance."
After the successful test, ZAG and Michael Wessel worked together to implement the XenApp infrastructure in the data center in Hannover and installed all the necessary business applications on the server farm. Most ZAG users receive Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office applications on the XenApp environment. The Citrix solution allowed the planned IT strategy to be implemented in full.
Meanwhile around 650 of the 750 existing PCs had to be replaced with thin client workstations. Around 190 additional thin clients also had to be installed in various offices to serve as 'self-service terminals'. These devices can automatically access the web-based ZAG portal.
"Thanks to the centralization strategy, desktop management has become much easier for us in the offices," sums up Frank Werther. "For new application versions and updates, we just have to install them on the server farm to make them available at all sites. From an economic view, it is particularly positive that we have managed the project with our existing network infrastructure. The extra costs for the expansion of WAN bandwidth would have been a lot higher than the investment in the Citrix solution."
The IT manager sees further growth in the future: "We are now able to connect new offices to the IT infrastructure quickly and efficiently. The Citrix technology ultimately helps us to get closer to our customers. We can make our business applications available anywhere our staff need them."
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