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Virtualization of desktop infra boosts Perfetti Van Melle productivity

Jasmine Desai, Principal Correspondent
Confectionary maker Perfetti Van Melle scores a perfect ten when it comes to the use of virtualization—at the server as well as desktop levels. After realizing the benefits of server virtualization, Perfetti decided to get leaner and greener on the IT front through virtualization of desktops.

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As a result, Perfetti began its desktop virtualization rollout in late 2009 by replacing existing PCs with HP thin clients. It started off with 50 thin clients, but gradually increased it to 150. "The failure rate of thin clients is miniscule, compared to normal PCs. So is the power requirement. Keeping in mind our commitment to go green, thin clients were the way to go," says Basant Chaturvedi, the head of IT for Perfetti Van Melle.

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Chaturvedi cites standardization, the ability to quickly and efficiently deliver applications across locations and high-definition user experiences as the main reasons to opt for virtualization of desktops. To this end, Perfetti zeroed in on Citrix XenDesktop 4 as the platform to virtualize its desktop infrastructure. "Compared to other desktop virtualization solutions, XenDesktop works best in remote environments because of Citrix's ICA protocol. As a result, you can achieve fast transmission of user desktops," says Chaturvedi.

Perfetti has eight remote sites across India. It has a total of 550 users, of which 150 are Citrix XenDesktop users. The Citrix XenDesktop solution runs Windows XP for thin clients. Perfetti plans to gradually migrate to Windows 7 (the pilot phase has been completed recently). Citrix XenDesktop 4 runs on a Windows 2008 server platform, which in turn runs on VMware ESX Server 4.5. Thus, Perfetti performs virtualization of desktops using three different VMware instances which run on three HP blade servers (BL460c) hosted on a single chassis.

Explaining this move for virtualization of desktop infrastructure, Chaturvedi says, "It's essential to know the kind of load generated, and the applications that you want to run on the machines planned for desktop virtualization. It is also necessary to know whether to provide a dedicated server or run desktop virtualization on multiple servers using a virtualized server environment." Perfetti did not have many graphic requirements from the client machines, so it decided to perform virtualization of desktops using multiple virtualized server environments. This was performed in order to obtain load balancing along with high availability.

Perfetti runs SAP, an e-mail application, Microsoft Office, and its SharePoint portal on Citrix. It provides AutoCAD to some users. Since AutoCAD is a heavy application, Perfetti has decided to upgrade its Citrix environment using an integrated acceleration tool. The desktop virtualization solution was implemented by its partner, PC Solutions.

Along the way, Perfetti faced minor challenges in terms of thin client performance. With increase in the number of LAN users, Perfetti started to see a reduction in application speed. The challenge was to deliver performance without increasing bandwidth consumption. Perfetti used Citrix Branch Repeater and WANScaler to overcome this challenge. Without increasing bandwidth, the company has improved utilization of bandwidth by almost five times.

For desktop virtualization to be up and running, organizations should have a minimum of 64 Kbps bandwidth. But that also depends on the number of users and the type of applications. Thus, Perfetti has a 4 Mbps connection on its central site. Plants have 1 Mbps links, branches utilize 512 Kbps connections, and small locations use 64 Kbps to 128 Kbps links.

Like any other technology, one should consider the benefits after virtualization of desktops. "In our case, it was effortless scalability and reliability aligning with compliance that made virtualization of desktop infrastructure the right fit for our requirements," adds Chaturvedi.