Anthem BioSciences is a Bangalore based DRAP (Discovery Research Alliance Partner) dedicated to supporting research efforts for the discovery of new compounds in pharmaceutical, biotechnology, specialty chemicals, agriculture chemicals and material science companies.
Anthem is a group of companies, that includes Anthem BioSciences, Anthem Cellutions and Anthem BioPharma, [formerly Vestas Life Sciences]. The company employs over 450 people at its Bangalore facility and has plans to have a remote site in the next two years. The company was founded in 2006 by Ajay Bharadwaj, K C Ravindra and Ganesh Sambasivam, they were all previously senior executives at Biocon.
Anthem BioSciences does research for global pharmaceutical giants in the US and in Europe, they focus on research, manufacturing and drug discovery services. Anthem Cellutions is a product and R&D based company in the area of biotechnology. They manufacture enzymes, nutraceuticals and pharmaceutical products that have a wide-variety of uses in various industries. Anthem BioPharma was created by the acquisition of Vestas Life Sciences and it focuses on formulations.
At Anthem BioSciences, all data and applications reside in the datacentre. Whenever there is a need, the desktops are delivered to the end user. It has a SAN (storage area network), that connects users to the datacentre.
"We have end-to-end security including port blocking, firewalls, routers, monitoring tools, web filters, and anti-virus at the gateway level. We manage the critical infrastructure that supports all our operations," said Ravi Kalla, Senior Manager IT at Anthem BioSciences.
Anthem BioSciences started operations with just 50 people in early 2007. Today, it has over 450 employees across all verticals. At the existing facility the company is in the process of doubling its capacity and there are expansion plans for a remote location. The recruitment process is in full swing to bring more talent into the organisation. It is becoming a big challenge for IT to provision enough new desktops every month to keep up with the number of new employees.
"We had to provision 25-50 desktops/laptops every month, and it was very time consuming for IT," said Ravi.
"We are a start-up. There was no way we could afford to have clustering and patch management software. So while looking for clustering solutions, we thought that server virtualization and desktop virtualization could help us address the challenges," he added.
Recently Anthem deployed four different server applications. In a traditional model, they would have needed four physical servers to support them because some of them are Linux based and some are Windows based. So IT needed to invest INR 10 lakh; if they went for the n+1 concept this would have required an investment of INR 40-50 lakh.
"Since we went for server virtualization, without buying any new hardware, we just created a virtual environment and hosted the servers. So the cost of doing this was zero. This was a major business advantage of the Citrix XenServer virtualization solution for Anthem," said Ravi.
The company has now implemented complete virtualization, from server to hosted shared desktop service all provided by Citrix.
Anthem wanted to extend a remote working opportunity to some of its employees but data and information security concerns had prevented them from taking any steps in that direction. Anthem BioSciences has to send regular updates out to its customers and so it could not afford any workflow breakdowns.
"We wanted to get better control of dataflow because there was always the fear of security breaches. Whenever we sign a non-disclosure agreement with companies, security is a non-negotiable issue," said Ravi.
"For example, if we are sending an update to the customer and the desktop suddenly crashes, the email client and applications have to be reconfigured in a different location. This would result in a loss of productivity and a delay of at least 2-4 hours and it would affect our business continuity," commented Ravi.
Given these business needs and the technology challenges, Anthem BioSciences decided to deploy a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. Before selecting any product, Anthem did a full due diligence on every worthwhile option. They evaluated various options including VMware and Citrix.
"Of all the options, Citrix came closest to fulfilling our needs. It was cost effective and it had superb features like hosted shared desktop services. It was a clear competitive win for Citrix against VMware as Citrix XenDesktop was also able to provide a much better ROI," said Ravi.
To date Anthem BioSciences has purchased 200 licenses of Citrix XenDesktop and is planning further expansion.
"Although VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) is slightly expensive because you have to buy Microsoft licenses and an annual subscription for VDI infrastructure, Citrix still made the most sense as compared to other products," said Ravi.
Anthem BioSciences opted for a hosted shared desktop (HSD), as it is a lightweight component, and most of the users require only browser and Java. In the case of Citrix Hosted Shared Desktop (HSD) services, after buying terminal licenses, the desktop is available to the end user. The look and feel is similar to a normal desktop, but it is extremely cost-effective and lightweight.
"You don't require high-end features at your datacentre or at your distribution site because the bandwidth consumption is very minimal. Also, Citrix can run on any device. You don't require any WAN optimisation tools to achieve better access speed," commented Ravi.
Post virtualization, the IT organisation at Anthem BioSciences breathes easy. Thanks to the virtual desktop, the entire desktop is encrypted and delivered to the user, therefore leaving no room for any internal and external security breaches.
"We feel virtualization was the best way to address most of our secured remote access concerns. Now users can access their office desktops from remote locations. Whatever they need to do, will be at the datacentre and not on the desktop," said Ravi.
With Anthem being a start-up, it was important for the IT team to keep a tight control on costs. The numbers are good, a well configured desktop costs a minimum INR 25.000. Plus the cost of Microsoft Windows 7 professional license, this costs INR 9.000. So the total cost of the desktop becomes INR 34.000 and that's before you add in the cost of other software like anti-virus, port blocking etc.
"In the thin client model the hardware cost is just INR 14.000. Even with the cost of licenses, the cost will not be more than INR 22,00. This is an immediate saving of INR 12.000," said Ravi.
"The Citrix XenDesktop deployment has resulted into huge cost-savings for us. Plus our concerns relating to security, business continuity and deployment of applications have also been addressed," he added.
Since Citrix XenDesktop was deployed the IT team does not have to worry as much about business continuity; even in the case of a system crash the user can log in and start work from where they left off.
"We have created roaming profiles, so a user can go to any computer and access the applications that are tagged to their ID, including the mailing solution and printer access," said Ravi.
The lifecycle of a normal desktop is usually 3-4 years, whereas a thin client can work for as long as 7 years. The power consumption of a desktop is 100-140 watts, whereas thin client consumption is only about 40 to 50 watts.
"There is a significant saving on power. If 200 conventional desktops run for 12 hours, the cost of power comes in at INR 30 lakh per annum, as opposed to thin clients, that may only cost about INR 10-15 lakh," he added.
Previously for 200 desktops, the IT team at Anthem BioSciences needed a minimum of 2-3 weeks to deploy. However, now with Citrix XenDesktop in place, deployment is much faster and can happen on the same day.
"In the past around 150 computers were never shut down and this meant the company was incurring some huge energy bills. In the virtualization model, the power cost is much reduced as the systems are shut down every day. Other hidden costs are also being discovered and reduced," said Ravi.
With the huge expansion plan now underway, the company has recruited 100 scientists in the last few months. Thankfully post virtualization deploying desktops has become much faster and easier. "Deploying and configuring desktops in the 1:4 model used to take at least 10 days but now it is no longer a hassle," said Ravi.
"With the latest Citrix HSD, one physical server with 128 GB RAM and Xeon processor can support 200 users in a lightweight environment. We were initially apprehensive about putting so many users on to the server but after seeing the performance in the last four months, we are confident that it can support more than 200 users," he added.
As the Hosted Shared Desktop (HSD) does not consume more bandwidth, Ravi can now access his desktop with the use of a TATA Photon data card.
"I am able to access my entire desktop from a remote location. That is the biggest advantage," said Ravi.
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