In 2018, over 1.7 million passengers discovered Lake Zurich and the Limmat river on the 17 boats operated by Lake Zurich Navigation Company (ZSG)—two paddle steamers, 12 motorboats and three riverboats. Its vessels may float on water, but the company’s operations are powered by technology drawn from a secure, flexible and Swiss-based cloud. ZSG relies on a Desktop-as-a-Service solution provided by Bechtle who upgraded ZSG’s entire network as well as both shore-side and on-board devices. And it all began with a bold proposal.
ZSG was founded in 1890-91 under the name of Zurich Steamboat Company. In 1990, it was fully incorporated into the Zurich Transport Network (ZVV). ZSG operates 17 boats on Lake Zurich, including two historical paddle steamers and three river boats, offering scheduled cruises, round trips and theme trips. ZSG operates its own boatyard in Wollishofen, where vessel maintenance is carried out. In 2018, ZSG’s boats travelled 360,000 km across and around Lake Zurich and over 100 employees served more than 1.7 million guests, ensuring an unforgettable experience.
ZSG employs over 100 people who, with the help of its IT, ensure that guests are able to purchase tickets, reserve tables—and feel at home onboard its boats. The tech environment previously included some 40 applications on 50 clients connected to ten servers. ZSG has been operating all hardware and software itself on the top floor of its office. Temperatures in this space can reach 40 degrees Celsius in the summer, which is risky for IT.
When it came time to update its IT infrastructure—consisting of network components, telephony, clients and computers—ZSG opted for a complete overhaul. It was also looking for a single company to provide both the system landscape and first and second-level support. The project would require a professional data centre as well as a standardised server and client configuration. By jettisoning its former DIY approach to tech, ZSG wanted to guarantee high IT availability, quickly resolve any issues and rapidly implement new features and developments. Moreover, ZSG wanted to outsource its IT maintenance by hiring a single point of contact to take care of all IT questions and projects. To keep costs under control, transparent budgeting was essential.
ZSG first learned of 360° desktop, the Desktop-as-a-Service solution offered by Bechtle’s data centre, after issuing its infrastructure outsourcing RFP. Remarkably, Bechtle did not submit a proposal tailored to the RFP’s actual specifications. Instead, the IT system house was convinced that its own cloud service was a better match for ZSG’s requirements. This is because Bechtle’s forward-facing private-cloud environment, whose servers are housed in Swiss-based data centres, is ideal for ZSG’s core applications. Such applications can be deployed and run directly through 360° desktop while ensuring both cost-effectiveness and high availability. In addition, the solution’s access and security setup is transparent and complies with European GDPR rules. Recognising the advantages of this solution, ZSG awarded Bechtle the contract.
The new infrastructure was implemented in three sub-projects: introducing a Desktop-as-a-Service platform, overhauling the entire network and replacing all of ZSG’s end devices. All of this was done not only in land-based offices, but also on board ZSG’s fleet. Applications that had previously been installed locally, such as Office, e-mail, and business software DARWIN/Navis and Abacus, now run on central Citrix XenApp servers. They are available to all users on their clients, thanks to a Desktop-as-a-Service model. The required server infrastructure is operated in Bechtle’s data centre, which means only one provider is needed. Bechtle connected ZSG’s Zurich offices at Mythenquai and Bürkliplatz using the purpose-built multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) network of Sunrise, a telecommunications provider. The benefits of 360° desktop play an essential role in ZSG’s day-to-day business, ensuring that the technology is available round the clock and that applications run smoothly and reliably.
The boats posed a unique challenge as they are constantly moving. Each one was therefore equipped with a router featuring a SIM card and GPS. PCs were replaced by laptops on which the business software Navis is now able to store travel logs directly in the data centre thanks to a VPN client. These onboard laptops can also be mirrored in order to provide support services from the shore—even if the boats are on tour without any technicians on board.
What impressed us was that Bechtle’s submission didn’t match what we had originally asked for—but rather what we actually needed. It was the best proposal we received in response to our RFP, guaranteeing high standards, availability, security and transparent costs now and in future.
Roman Knecht, Director, ZSG, Lake Zurich Navigation Company
Bechtle revamped the entire network, both wired and wireless, using Cisco Meraki components. The new network offers user-friendly guest access allowing ZSG guests to log in to the Wi-Fi with ease. Clients were also replaced to match the new infrastructure. HP laptops and Igel UD3 and UD7 thin clients are now used in the offices and on the boats. In addition to being easy to maintain and ideal for a cloud environment, they enable a high degree of standardisation and come with a five-year warranty. The end devices are maintained using Bechtle’s 360° devicemanager solution. 360° antivirus is yet another component of the high-availability Swiss data centre’s full service. If issues do arise, ZSG’s employees are able to contact Bechtle’s central service desk, which functions as a single point of contact for any and all IT matters. If necessary, a technician can be sent to resolve the problem on site.
For ZSG, one particularly worthwhile benefit of Bechtle’s full service is its private cloud. ZSG uses and pays only for those resources that are actually required, eliminating the need for expensive investments. Core and specialist applications are accessed through a central Citrix desktop, which cuts down on administrative overhead. Remote access capabilities—including a bring-your-own-device scheme—and the system’s high level of user-friendliness further cut down on admin. Certain local installations are needed, such as CAD, but these are kept to a minimum. All of Bechtle’s services dovetail perfectly with one another, so ZSG can rest assured that its IT is always up to date, highly available and secure.
Published on Oct 11, 2019.