Fast processes are critical to the business of the automobile trading company Porsche Holdings Salzburg. The IT subsidiary Porsche Informatik has long been using Citrix technology, providing business applications and updates without any delays to sites at home and abroad. With Citrix NetScaler the company now also accelerates web applications and ensures high availability of the central IT infrastructure.
Porsche Holdings Salzburg is part of the largest European automobile company with operations in 21 countries in Europe and in China, Chile and Colombia. The company was founded in 1947 by the two children of Ferdinand Porsche, Louise Piëch and Ferry Porsche. In addition to the Porsche sports car marque, the brand portfolio today includes the Volkswagen Group (VW, Audi, Seat, Skoda, Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti), the company which is based in Austria and Southeast Europe. There are also retail locations across in Western Europe for marques of the various manufacturers. Since 2011 Porsche Holding Salzburg has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Volkswagen AG.
Porsche Informatik GmbH is responsible for the information technology of the trading company, based in Bergheim near Salzburg for more than four decades. The subsidiary covers an end-to-end total service for IT areas - from process consulting, software development and the operation of business applications in one of the most modern data centers in Europe to training and user support. Porsche Informatik today delivers more than 160 applications centrally for about 10.000 users in Austria and to almost all international corporate locations. More than 200 application developers deliver the Porsche Holding Salzburg customized software solutions for wholesale and retail trade as well as for finance and insurance services.
An important milestone in the development of Porsche Informatik was to develop an Application Service Providing offering from the year 2000: As part of the international expansion of the parent company with new sites in Southern and Eastern Europe and South America, Porsche Informatik decided to provide the most important business applications from Salzburg. "Our goal was to provide that all core applications as central services where this was possible and advisable," said Anton Spitzer, Head of Infrastructure Services at Porsche Informatik. "In addition the more efficient management, the performance and security aspects played a central role."
Many applications that Porsche Informatik provide centrally, like the Dealer Management System 'CROSS' or the Wholesale Application 'Carlos' communicate closely with IT systems operated by the Volkswagen Group in Wolfsburg. The international locations are therefore dependent for prioritisation and business processes on a stable relationship between their applications and the central systems. To achieve this, Porsche Informatik relocated the client applications to a central Citrix XenApp server farm in the computing center in Salzburg. "We were able to communicate between the client applications and the combined central IT systems operation via a stable, powerful and fail-safe network connection", explains Peter Klinger, Director Windows & Network Services at Porsche Informatik. " At the same time the administration and the provision of applications for the international locations is considerably simplified with the Citrix technology. We do not install and update applications locally on devices in the offices."
Employees in international locations access the centrally provided applications over MPLS connections or via encrypted Internet connections. The sleek Citrix protocol ensures that only relatively small amounts of data between the sites and the data center in Salzburg are transmitted. With the central model of application deployment, Porsche Informatik could also establish a high security standard: The IT organization maintains full control over business-critical applications and data in any situation and ensures that sensitive information is not stored on potentially insecure devices.
"In the early phases with new vehicle importers and dealers we have only limited influence on which client hardware and what security systems international sites work with," says Peter Klinger. "Therefore, we provide business applications in a protected environment - and our globally distributed users gain secure access through the Citrix Receiver on their terminal "
Even with organizational changes - such as the change of a general importer - there are no risks to data security: With the end the cooperation agreement, Porsche Informatik needs only to disable access to the central systems. Sensitive information therefore does not remain on local computers at the previous contractor.
Porsche Informatik today provides more than 160 business applications and Windows applications centrally. Alongside this there are now numerous Web applications like an online car configurator and a new car stock search. In addition the company operates a number of large web sites, including the Austrian sites of the Group's brands - such www.volkswagen.at - as well as the online used car market www.dasweltauto.at.
"The number of hits on our online platforms have increased considerably in recent years," says Anton Spitzer. "We were therefore looking for a networking solution with which we could manage the growing load more efficiently and relieve our backend systems." After an intensive evaluation phase, Porsche Informatik increased the universal use of Citrix NetScaler Application Delivery Controller. Objectives were mainly to optimize the load balancing of web servers and to free servers from intensive computing processes in the SSL encryption and decryption.
"Citrix NetScaler provides us with the necessary functionalities for web optimization and web acceleration in an appliance. And the price-performance ratio has convinced us further that it wasa very good decision," says the Head of Infrastructure Services.
Porsche Informatik implemented two NetScaler MPX 7500 appliances as a fail-safe pairing in two spatially separated server rooms in Salzburg. With the support of IT-Partners HTH Consulting the two appliances were configured and put into operation. All the all initial objectives could be achieved in practice with the solution: The SSL offload functionality of NetScaler accelerates SSL processing, ensures high SSL transaction rate while relieving the computational capacity of the web and application servers. "The certificate management has become easier, because, for example, new certificates are automatically synchronized to the appliances," said Anton Spitzer. "NetScaler has helped us fundamentally, even more online processes securely encrypted and decrypted over SSL, while ensuring a high Web performance on the user side."
The Citrix solution contributes especially to advanced load balancing for good performance of online platforms: The NetScaler solution distributes user requests based on the existing web resources, so the infrastructure is always loaded as evenly as possible. At the same time the solution monitors the appliances with the aid of sophisticated health checking functions, constantly monitoring the availability and performance of back-end servers and redirecting requests automatically to the most appropriate systems. Hence if any server should not be accessible, user requests can still be processed without interruption.
HTH Consulting recommended that Porsche Informatik use the load balancing features of NetScaler not only for the web infrastructure, but also for the XenApp environment. So the two Application Delivery Controllers manage resiliency and continuous availability of critical components such as XenApp Web Interface and XML Broker. "With the solution NetScaler provides, we today ensure that our XenApp users in 20 countries have access to their business applications at any time" Anton Spitzer concludes.
After installation of new network technologies, as the next step, Porsche Informatik and HTH Consulting modernized the XenApp infrastructure in the data center. This was involved migrating to XenApp 6,5 and the virtualization of the server operating system in the server farm to Windows Server 2008 R2 with the use of provisioning technology from Citrix. With the new virtualized XenApp environment - the need for physical server hardware could be minimized. Also the IT administrators no longer needed to manually administer the XenApp server, but use the Citrix Provisioning Services for providing efficient and quick updates.
"We have only a few master images for the Latin, Slavic and Cyrillic character sets and let all virtual XenApp servers boot from these standard images," explains Peter Klinger. "So we can roll out updates very quickly - and reset and update the environment, if necessary, by a simple reboot. With the Citrix Provisioning technology, the management of XenApp environment is very elegant and we can always keep all production servers on an absolutely identical software version."
Porsche Informatik sees itself also well equipped for future growth: "With Citrix technology, we are at any time be able to bring applications to new locations," says Anton Spitzer. "Recently, for example, we have provided SAP applications to a new branch office in South America in a very short timescale, this could be deployed without requiring an on-site installation. With the NetScaler solution from Citrix, we also provide the necessary high availability of centrally operated services."
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