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Turbocharging apps

Rajendra Sonawane, Deputy General Manager of Technical Solutions Support at The Landmark Group.The Landmark Group is one of the largest retailers in the region with over 750 stores in the GCC countries, plus Bahrain, China, Egypt, Spain, Pakistan and India. The company employs 24,000 people and is headquartered in Dubai.

The Landmark Group’s aggressive expansion strategy was being hampered by the wildly varying standards of telecoms infrastructure in the countries in which it operated. The opening of new stores could be delayed by weeks, even months, as the company waited on the local ISP to provide the building with adequate bandwidth. Even with the connection in place the high bandwidth required by The Landmark Group’s applications was not always available, particularly during peak periods throughout the day, which meant that the system was not always fully operational.

Each country had its own dedicated server which meant there was no central repository for data. One territory requiring information from another would have to send a request and wait for it to be sent – a time-consuming process. In addition it was extremely difficult to control what information and applications each individual had access to.

The Landmark Group decided to implement a solution that would solve all these problems. It needed greater security, control over what each user could access, easier sharing of information and, most importantly, dramatically reduced bandwidth requirements.

The Citrix solution

Citrix set up a central server farm running four IBM Blades in The Landmark Group’s headquarters in Dubai. From there around 50 applications can be accessed through VPN in each of the company’s territories. The Landmark Group can easily decide which applications and information can be accessed by each individual member of staff.

In addition the system can be accessed by an employee who is travelling anywhere in the world through the use of a standard internet connection.

Data is automatically uploaded and stored centrally, allowing much easier sharing of information across the company’s territories. The fact that there is now only one central server, as opposed to one in each country, has created a system that needs the minimum of IT support to keep it running in optimum condition.

But by far the biggest benefit has been the reduction in the amount of bandwidth that the company requires, says Rajendra Sonawane, Deputy General Manager of Technical Solutions Support at The Landmark Group. “Application delivery has become really simple since we installed the new system.”

“When clients accessed the network from remote areas we used to face a lot of challenges in terms of bandwidth utilisation. That has really gone away. The number of users that can share the same bandwidth has been doubled, without us needing to upgrade the bandwidth at all. The business is growing very quickly and there is a huge demand, so we are able to expand our business without having to increase our bandwidth,” he adds.

The new system means that as many as 200 concurrent users will access applications in real time across the network.The reduced bandwidth requirements have also had a dramatic effect on productivity since the sharing of information is no longer so heavily reliant on internet connections that provide unpredictable speeds. The Landmark Group’s accounts department, for example, is based in Dubai and processes the figures for all the company’s operations across 12 countries. With slow internet connections during office hours in many territories, such as Saudi Arabia, staff in both Dubai and the country in question previously had to remain in the office until late at night in order to get a fast enough connection to simply do their jobs.

Citrix solved that. “After the Citrix rollout I never heard a single complaint about anyone having to stay late again,” says Sonawane. In addition to increased productivity in existing stores, the Citrix solution also allows the company to open new ones quicker.

“If we’re told that we’re opening a new store at short notice we know that it really won’t be a challenge from an IT perspective because we just need the store to be internet enabled,” says Sonawane. “It will take a maximum of a week to have the store accessing all the applications it needs. Previously we had to wait for the ISP for a lot longer, so it would take three to four weeks.”

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