Radisson SAS serves up thin IT

Hotel chain implements Citrix solution across three Middle East locations to provide a central and scalable IT environment. The deployment has also improved security and eased management headaches.

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By  Maddy Reddy Published  August 28, 2004

|~|Citrix_Minoshinside.jpg|~|Minosh Salam, product manager, enterprise access solutions at Solutions Middle East. |~|Radisson SAS Hotels & Resorts has completed a thin-client implementation across its operations in Sharjah. Designed to streamline and centralise its IT systems, the project was carried out by Solutions Middle East and took just two days to complete. It involved the migration of Radisson SAS’s existing technology infrastructure, which consisted of multiple operating systems and multi-access protocols, to a centralised, scalable and manageable environment that ensures employees have the right information at the right time. “Before the project, end user access to applications was difficult to manage and support was a tedious exercise,” says Fraidy Pinto, regional IT manager at Radisson SAS. “We had two local area networks (LANs) with separate serial connections that end users [used] to access mission critical applications. [These apps] ran on multiple operating systems ranging from Linux, Novell, and Windows to other point of sale (POS) systems. These, in turn, were accessed through multiple TCP/IP protocols, all of which reduced the performance and manageability of our IT set up,” he explains. The hotel chain, which is part of Rezidor SAS Hospitality and operates 130 hotels in 37 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, also decided to use thin-client model across its IT infrastructure to ensure standardisation. The thin-client environment created by Solutions Middle East, comprises 10 servers running Windows 2000 Server, load balancing services and Windows NT clients. Citrix Metaframe Presentation Server enterprise edition (XPE) was also deployed and operations were centralised at a Dubai Media City (DMC) hub. “We deployed two servers to make sure there were no load balancing issues, and that backups were always available on both servers, [just in case] one went off-line,” says Minosh Salam, product manager, enterprise access solutions at Solutions Middle East. Since the deployment went live, Radisson SAS’s front-line employees have been able to access back office applications directly from their desktops, something that was not possible prior to the deployment. “We did not have to [either remove] or replace any part of our existing infrastructure during deployment, which safeguarded our prior technology investments. At the same time, we were able to raise employee performance rates by a huge margin,” says Pinto. “Centralised administrator control allows instant application deployment, access to legacy applications and online support to increase employee productivity and reduce overall IT costs. The thin-client implementation has enabled us to migrate our legacy applications and upgrade software for 150 clients across our network with minimum downtime. A two server application access layer guarantees high availability and scalability with direct and secure access to RadissonSAS peer sites,” he adds. An additional benefit of moving to a thin-client environment has been the extra security such a computing environment provides RadissonSAS Hotels & Resorts. For instance, the hotel chain has been able to build a virtual private network (VPN) into the Citrix application access layer that guards Radisson’s legacy applications and 150 clients. “We can now strictly control what end users can and cannot access by customising and providing them with accessibility levels through their passwords. This will help us maintain bandwidth efficiency levels by preventing the use of heavy applications at the desktop level and unproductive use of the internet,” says Pinto. Furthermore, end users can now connect through one unified protocol to access relevant information on applications such as Fidelio for front office, sales and catering; Scala ERP, and Microsoft Office suite. All applications accessed at the clients’ side run on the servers to save hardware resources. “The return on investment [ROI] is going to be between seven to 15 months, taking into account the thin-client licenses and the hardware infrastructure involved,” says Salam. From the management perspective, network administrators can now access client PCs for any support or upgrade related issues, apply network-wide patches and provide support at the touch of a button. Recurring costs such as technical support have also been reduced. “Our technical support professionals can now shadow end users remotely to solve any issues, and can deploy security patches and software upgrades instantaneously across the whole network, regardless of the geographical location,” explains Pinto. “We have seen support calls drop dramatically, which has reduced our technology costs. End user technical support, which was a serious resource drainer, has now become a straightforward process,” he adds. ||**||

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