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Case Study: Enterprise Apps at GIL

Gestetner's tryst with Citrix

Gestetner, an office automation major, has transformed its entire IT set-up aiming at efficiency, bandwidth optimization and 'always-on' connectivity. Citrix MetaFrame XP Presentation Server helps the company achieve cost savings as much as Rs. 25 Lakh per annum. by Shipra Arora

Gestetner India Limited (GIL), is a leading manufacturer of office automation equipment including digital printers and copiers, copy printers and stencil duplicators. The Rs. 110 Crore company spread across 30 locations forayed into digital offerings during the year 1997, leading not only to an expanded but also highly complicated product line.

These were configured products that offered different combinations of configurations, upgrades, and functionality, and hence the complications. During 1999, the company felt the need to rebuild its information systems from the legacy batch data processing environment to a more agile online connectivity. To cater to its growing business dimensions GIL decided that implementation of ERP was the way forward.

Business Challenge

For ERP the company decided to deploy MFG/Pro. During implementation certain business challenges came to light. The ERP software was bandwidth intensive, which prompted slow data transmission speeds. Gestetner required high availability for all its information systems and thus expected to be 'always on.' It further wanted to minimize pressure on IT staff by allowing easy application deployment across all the locations.

Citrix helps

The company opted for Citrix MetaFrame XP Presentation Server to enable centralized application deployment and bandwidth management. This helped minimize data transfer cost and maximize data transmission speed. The company has mapped its ERP server (IBM Netfinity 7100) and mailing server (IBM X235 Series) to the Citrix server (IBM X235 Series). The Citrix implementation has helped GIL save nearly Rs. 25 Lakh per annum through control on bandwidth, and reduction in communication costs. The solution also offers ease of administration and real-time information access across the enterprise. GIL has thus made a smooth transition to the online environment.

Centralized application deployment

The first phase of ERP implementation, spanning February 1999 to June 1999 involved the implementation of the following modules at the Delhi Head Office and Branch Office: Sales Order Processing, Invoicing, Sales Analysis, Inventory Management, Purchasing, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Forecasting/Planning, General Ledger, Multi-Currency, and India Taxation Module.

The company, during this first phase, was working on de-centralized systems with stand-alone databases spread across various locations. There were disjointed systems and data was physically travelling from different locations to the head office. Data from the branches moved to the head office only in a text format. It was exported in file format and then either couriered, or the attachment was uplinked. This was then imported into the central database.

Exporting/importing almost 100 files everyday was a nightmare for the company. This also brought the challenge of managing the integrity and accuracy of data as some of the data got duplicated and lost in the process. GIL faced the challenge to deploy and administer applications including ERP and messaging at its geographically spread-out locations.

According to Manorama Nagarajan, General Manager (Accounts & IT Systems), GIL, during this phase the company realized that the de-centralized model would not work for the company. It needed a cost-effective centralized administration solution to successfully run the applications in the WAN.

"We wanted complete control over the data and real-time availability of information so that there was no gap between the time data is produced and made available for analysis. Real-time availability of data was mandatory considering the growing importance of services in our future strategy," said Nagarajan. Having decided to centralize the whole process, there was a need for a system that would deploy and administer the applications centrally.

Bandwidth Management

Even the transition to the online environment was not very simple. This was because in the online environment the ERP software consumed excessive bandwidth resulting in slow data transmission speeds. The ERP required high bandwidth as everything was in graphics and pictures. The same difficulty was experienced for simple messaging from one location to another as the company had installed 'Lotus Domino' for its messaging needs.

GIL, on the other hand, wanted an 'always on' set-up and 'high availability' for all its information systems. According to B. Ramesh, Deputy Manager-IT, GIL, the company was going to have almost 30 users connecting simultaneously from outside at any point of time. So bandwidth optimization was a major issue. Hence, the company required a solution, which not only centralized application deployment and administration capabilities but also optimized bandwidth management qualities.

The company uses the Citrix MetaFrame XP Presentation Server. It tried direct dialing to the ERP server or another server in the network via the modem, but that did not solve the purpose of bandwidth management and centralized administration. Ramesh informs that due to the exact suitability of the Citrix solution to GIL's requirements, the company did not feel the need to evaluate other offerings in the market.

Simultaneous to its ERP rollout GIL implemented the Citrix MetaFrame XP Presentation Server. Citrix software has been deployed over a 256 Kbps ISDN link (for 10 large locations) and PSTN-VPN from Wipro (for smaller locations), which was also being rolled out simultaneously.

The implementation, which was done by Momentum Infocare, a member of the Citrix Solutions Network, was completed by August 2001. Presently the company has 50 Citrix licenses. All the GIL locations except the Head Office in Delhi and the branch office, log on to the Citrix server for ERP and messaging requirements. The Delhi HO and branch offices directly log in to the ERP and mailing server.

Key Features

The key features of the Citrix solution implemented at GIL include centralized administration through Citrix Server Administration, Shadowing, Security through login profiles, Universal Printer Drivers, Printer Bandwidth Management, Enhanced Content Publishing, User Policies, Delegated Administration.

With a feature called 'Shadowing,' the system administrator based in Delhi can remotely control the end user system (at remote locations) and sort out a problem. Security through login profiles allows restricted use of
various applications, and with the universal printer drivers feature there is no need to install printer drivers separately.

Administrators can also configure 'content publishing' to open published content with either a server-based or local application through the enhanced content publishing feature. With this the local applications are no longer required to access published content. The publishing application can also prevent users from accessing certain resources on the network. For instance the administrator can define users who can use e-mail services but not the ERP application.

'User Policies' allow administrators to configure MetaFrame settings like time zone, printing and shadowing for specific users and groups. The 'Delegated Administration' feature enables organizations to designate specialized Citrix administrators to handle specific MetaFrame XP administration areas like managing printers, licenses, published applications, and user policies.

The solution also has a built-in upgradation feature.

Citrix benefits

One of the benefits of the Citrix solution implementation for GIL has been the tremendous saving in communications cost coupled with effective bandwidth management. According to Nagarajan, with its inherent bandwidth management feature, the Citrix solution has helped GIL to considerably cut its bandwidth costs even while running a high-end application like ERP. Now it is possible for the company to deploy applications securely with less bandwidth need, at reduced communications costs.

"Since communications costs are recurring the cost benefits are going to be substantial. Effective bandwidth control has also resulted in high data transmission speeds," says Ramesh.

Some of the other benefits derived out of the Citrix implementation include real-time information access across the enterprise, and faster and easier application deployment. The business expansion has also been facilitated as the Citrix solution helps to easily add more clients in the network by faster application deployment.

According to Ramesh the solution has also resulted in investment protection by using low-end machines while retaining high-performance, as the application and network performance remain extremely good even on low-end client machines. The flexibility also comes in terms of systems administration as the administration rights can even be delegated to the users at the front-end. Presently the systems uptime levels are always more than 99 percent.

A roadmap

GIL is planning to buy 25 new Citrix licenses by this year-end as the number of users logging to Citrix grow. Considering the growing amount of traffic on the Citrix server, it is also planning to adopt the load-balancing feature. The IT department has proposed to buy another Citrix server. The load-balancing feature will allow the load from one server to automatically get transferred to the other server in case of the server going down. However, the end-user will be transparent to this entire process.

In a nutshell
  • The company
    Gestetner India Limited (GIL), is a leading manufacturer of office automation equipment including digital printers and copiers, copy printers and stencil duplicators. It is spread across 30 nationwide locations.
  • The need
    The company's ERP software was too bandwidth intensive. This prompted slow data transmission speeds. Gestetner required high availability for all its information systems and thus expected to be 'always on'.
  • The solution
    The company deployed Citrix MetaFrame XP Presentation Server.
  • The benefits
    This new solution offers Gestetner India benefits like centralized application deployment, bandwidth management, minimal data transfer cost, and optimal data transmission speed. The Citrix implementation has helped the company save nearly Rs. 25 Lakh per annum through control on bandwidth and reduction in communication costs.
GIL's IT setup
  • 160 PCs all over the country including Head Office
  • Six servers at the Head Office: ERP server, mailing server, Citrix server, SMTP server, HR application server, and backup server
  • The LAN at the Delhi Head Office and Branch Office is connected to a 10/100 Mbps switch through Cat 5 cable. The LANs at other locations are machines connected on 16 port hubs
  • WAN - All the 30 GIL locations are connected using 256 Kbps ISDN and a PSTN VPN from Wipro. The company also has a 64 Kbps Internet connection
  • Mail - A combination of Lotus R5 and Ccmail 8.02. Both communicate through MTA
  • Database - Progress database management system

Shipra Arora can be reached at shipra@expresscomputeronline.com

 
     
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