PI Industries: Improving productivity via virtualization

The virtualization market in India has been growing steadily over the past few years and is being readily adopted by businesses of all sizes

Gurgaon-based PI Industries Ltd, an agrochemicals firm in India that exports to over 35 countries, has about 1,400 employees and operates three formulation and two manufacturing facilities, besides five multi-product plants at its factories in Jammu and Gujarat.

As its workforce increased in tandem with business growth, the company’s IT department realized that adding more desktops involved additional hardware costs, and supporting its growing business and research activities was becoming an increasingly difficult task.

It was little surprise then that the company explored how the concept of virtualization—the partitioning of hardware like a physical server into smaller virtual servers—could be extended to desktops and applications too.

“For us, desktop virtualization have always been on the radar together with the servers, and a server virtualization- alone strategy was never thought of. This is because VDI (virtual desktop integration) is critical and extremely useful in a manufacturing set-up as it helps in reducing the cost as well as the complications of delivering applications to end users," said Vineet Kumar Chawla, head of IT at PI Industries.

Having decided to take advantage of the refresh cycle (when hardware is typically upgraded), the key was deciding on the right solution. The fact that PI Industries was looking at virtualization holistically—instead of one specific component of the IT infrastructure—helped determine the vendor of choice.

Over a four-month period of conducting POCs (proofs of concept), the company shortlisted Citrix, mainly owing to its strength across the entire virtualization gamut, especially desktops.

“Citrix gave us many advantages to consider. It offered VDI desktops, which personalized the user experience, and provided this personal desktop experience even over low bandwidth," explained Chawla. Further, it allowed Mac users to run Windows desktops, enabling them to access the various applications published on XenServer.

What eventually clinched the deal for Citrix XenDesktop and XenServer was the long-standing relationship that PI Industries had with Citrix. In fact, the company’s journey with Citrix started way back in 2003 when it had implemented ERP (enterprise resources planning) and chosen its solution to publish applications with minimum possible bandwidth consumption.

Having decided on XenDesktop for its desktop virtualization requirement, PI Industries went for a big-bang implementation approach. In 2013, it successfully completed the roll-out of XenDesktop to 800 users within five-six days. The implementation was carried out by Umbrella Technologies.

The company had been using Citrix application publishing solution over the last 10 years. It made it easier for users to adapt to the new VDI environment, thus reducing change-management complexities.

Today, PI Industries delivers most of its 24 applications to these 800 users over XenDesktop. With the introduction of thin clients (which function as regular PCs, but lack features like hard drives and do not run software, thus accessing applications from a server), the cost of end-user devices has come down by 50%. Meanwhile, it has also enabled better collaboration and mobility as employees can now access their data from anywhere.

Chawla said XenDesktop has changed the life of users within the organization. He recalled that when implementing a new plan, the IT department was able to deliver all the applications to more than 123 users within an hour. This led to significant time and cost savings while improving productivity manifold through effective resource utilization.

“Post the XenDesktop implementation, the application issues faced by users can be resolved by a corporate team within five minutes and any local hardware issue is managed by replacing the thin client instead of diagnosing, resolving and re-building as would be done in desktop environment," he said.

Together XenDesktop and XenServer implementation have helped reduce the company’s carbon footprint while bringing down the costs and complexity of application and desktop management. From a security perspective, the company is now able to protect sensitive information by consolidating the data on the central storage.

The IT manpower for infrastructure management has remained constant for the last 10 years though the organization has grown from 200 crore to 2,000 crore in revenue during that period.

PI Industries said it is adding another 175 users and upgrading the Citrix platform to the new releases. It is further evaluating Citrix MDM (mobile device management) or managing the growing movement towards BYOD (bring your own device), Chawla said.

The virtualization market in India has been growing steadily over the past few years and is being readily adopted by businesses of all sizes.

It is estimated that the VDI market in India will grow at a CAGR (compounded annual growth rate) of 37.8% to $32.14 million by 2017, according to research firm International Data Corp. (IDC).

“An agile, scalable, and cost-effective client virtualization infrastructure helps CIOs (chief information officers) achieve this metamorphosis and provides a measurable ROI (return on investment)," said Robert Young, research director of IT service management and client virtualization software at IDC and co-author of a research report in April, titled Driving Business Value with Desktop Virtualization.

This article is in association with CXOtoday.com, a property of Trivone.

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