Volkswagen Growth Fuels IT Renovation with IGEL
Hegeman Groep Automotive Nijmegen shifts gears using IGEL thin clients.
Volkswagen Center Nijmegen is a division of Hegeman Groep Automotive, an independent car dealer that sells Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda and company cars in the Nijmegen area. The company is booming to say the least. As a result of its success, it has invested heavily in new premises which accurately reflect Hegeman Groep Automotive´s allure. The company moved into the new premises just recently.
The move to the new premises provided a good opportunity to renovate the existing IT infrastructure, comments Jasper Faber, the head of the administration department and the person responsible for automation at Hegeman Automotive. In the previous set-up, the company had chosen to use a set of relatively cheap products to which no form of standardisation applied. Various types of desktop computers - from suppliers including HP and IBM - were used for a total of 48 workspaces. In addition, all sorts of different servers were used that ran various Windows versions. 'Once it became clear we were going to move, we decided not to invest too much in new IT resources. As a result, we ended up spending too much time in managing the environment. However, this was something we put up with, knowing it would be a temporary situation.'
When the news arrived that Hegeman Automotive's system administrator had found employment elsewhere, the organisation decided to take the plunge and outsource the implementation and management of the IT environment as non-core activities. The existing situation was analysed in consultation with Network Team Leusden, a service provider with various customers in the automotive industry. It quickly became apparent that continuing in the same vein was not an option because of the costs involved. However, aesthetic considerations also played a role, namely the appearance of the showroom in the new premises. The company drew up a plan that catered for both these factors and envisaged an easily manageable and stable environment based on a serverbased computing model. 'When we started thinking about replacement, our first thought was to simply replace all the old equipment with new hardware.
On the advice of Network Team Leusden, we eventually opted for a different architecture that was better suited to our requirements. After all, we wanted to take as little as possible complexity on board while retaining all the functionality. The solution we were looking for also had to be secure, so that visitors to the showroom would not have direct access to our data. Moreover, the solution had to match the look and feel we had in mind. It simply had to look elegant,' comments Faber. During the implementation, additional challenges were encountered in the shape of tailored solutions for the automotive industry (ELSA, ETKA and GIDS) used by Volkswagen Nijmegen, and the integration of a GIDS application by Volkswagen importer PON in the shape of an automated document flow system, with Lexmark printers. The GIDS application handles all matters in the field of car purchasing, from the quotation stage up to the orders.
Volkswagen Nijmegen eventually decided on a server-based computing solution based on Microsoft Terminal Server. Two new HP servers running Microsoft Small Business Server were installed, on which the applications Exact, Plan.IT, Microsoft Office 2003, Microsoft Exchange and ELSA were hosted centrally. The GIDS application was installed on a separate IBM RS 6000 server. All the above applications are provided via the server-based computing module. As a result, no confidential information is stored locally, and viruses and other threats are unable to reach the workspaces.
According to Faber, the 29 IGEL 2100 LX thin clients that were installed met Volkswagen Nijmegen’s requirements perfectly. 'Data can no longer be accessed locally by unauthorised parties. By default, backups are created of all the data, so that no information can be lost. Moreover, with thin clients, viruses don’t get any chance. However, should something go awry and should the thin clients crash for some reason, we would be able to get things up and running again very quickly.' The management of the new environment has become much easier than ever before. We have not experienced any downtime thus far. 'In principle, all you have to do is manage the servers. After all, that is where all the activity takes place. We are now spending considerably less time on management.' The management of the environment is currently being handled by Network Team Leusden, which also realised the integration of the document flow solution with the Lexmark laser printers.
'We have installed software on the server that intercepts printing requests from GIDS and reroutes these to the Lexmark laser printer. For instance, an invoice can be printed for a customer and at the same time a PDF file of the invoice can be created for our administration. This means the data is available on a centralised location and can be easily viewed on the server. Moreover, we now have to print only half the amount of documents,' comments Faber.
Although Volkswagen Nijmegen has plans to implement a standardised environment, its branch still is using traditional desktops. The most important reason for this is that the ETKA application and telebanking application are not yet running on the basis of a server-based model. 'ETKA only works in combination with a hard lock, as it is called, on LPT1, not through a server-based computing model.' Volkswagen Nijmegen still uses approximately ten workstations. 'When it becomes possible to make all of our applications available through thin clients, we will definitely give it a thought.' Currently the organisation is also investigating the possibility of installing IGEL thin clients at its Skoda branch.