When compute and storage capacities are at a premium, businesses of all shapes and sizes are faced with having to decide whether to constantly expand their existing infrastructure or make the move into the cloud. At Wienerberger AG, the decision wasn’t simply about migrating to the cloud. The company also set very high implementation standards so that they can offer their employees only the best solutions for their working day. Working together with Bechtle Austria and Microsoft, the company successfully migrated to the Microsoft Cloud with Microsoft Azure and Citrix.
Wienerberger AG is a leading supplier of building materials and infrastructure solutions in 29 countries. In Austria alone, the company employs some 1,100 employees, but the move towards digitalisation saw on-site IT resources becoming stretched to their limits. Expert help was needed and that came in the form of Bechtle. It was quickly established that constantly expanding the existing infrastructure wouldn’t pay off at such a large company in the long term, and so a plan to make the switch to the cloud was made.
In consultation with Bechtle, Wienerberger carefully considered which solutions would ultimately lead to success for the company before the migration took place. Wienerberger had already been working with Citrix and Microsoft 365, and so it seemed logical to build on that relationship. No sooner said than done, the existing Citrix server farms were combined into a Citrix Cloud running on Microsoft Azure.
The benefits were immediately noticeable. Wienerberger can access the Microsoft Clod at any time, from anywhere, Bechtle handles all service aspects. Troubleshooting—which previously required weeks—now only takes a few days. A new app can be launched in max. two weeks—something that used to take months.
Markus Benczak had complete faith in the service partner from the very beginning. “We actively seek out communication with our partner, Bechtle and the manufacturers, Microsoft and Citrix, to pick up some tips. They all have extensive experience and can support us with best practices.” This attitude ensured that the project was extremely interesting for Bechtle, as Paul Nachförg, Project Manager at Bechtle Austria explains. “Our work is made considerably easier by partners, who actively work with us to generate ideas and are willing to try out new things. Even if an idea was fraught with challenges, if it promised substantial improvements, Wienerberger was in. As a large business, you have to be on the ball when it comes to new technologies.”
Overcoming pitfalls with flexible solutions. As with every large project, there were some initial teething problems, but flexible solutions within the new infrastructure were soon found. One example is that Wienerberger did not initially have the necessary features to allow for user authentication via the Citrix Cloud, and so this was migrated to Microsoft Cloud instead. Since then, it is now possible to more flexibly control who has what access to the system. In-house employees can leverage single sign-on, while external staff use two-factor authentication.
The Wienerberger Group is a leading supplier of smart building material solutions for the entire building envelope as well as innovative infrastructure solutions. With our approximately 17,000 employees at 197 locations in 29 countries, we improve the lives of people around the world. With our products and system solutions, we enable energy-efficient, healthy, climate-friendly and affordable living.
Further information at: www.wienerberger.com
Quite simply, we had exhausted our resources. As a business, the cloud gives us many more opportunities than our previous on-site infrastructure. And not just in terms of storage capacity, but also when it comes down to costs vs benefits and the employee experience. We are striving to be a modern company and that entails leveraging the latest technologies.
Markus Benczak, Product Owner IT Workplace, IT Infrastructure Solutions at Wienerberger
This simplified login process is just one of the benefits the employees now enjoy. As the virtual Citrix desktop—which is used for work and runs from the cloud—is a closed system, users can access it from all devices, including personal ones, and even connect to their own printer at home. The work notebook doesn’t even have to be switched on to do so. If a personal computer should become infected with a virus, Citrix and all documents remain protected in the cloud. Wienerberger can also individually configure access for external users.
The biggest technical changes, however, are noticeable in the background. When all users are logged into the system, the resources are automatically increased, but if fewer are online, only the servers that are needed remain active, which considerably lightens the load on the servers. With Microsoft Cloud, only the resources that are really needed are provisioned. For the employees, this means that everything runs smoothly and Wienerberger can enjoy additional cost advantages.
There was also a lot more going on behind the scenes then users would suspect during the switch to Microsoft Teams for communication and collaboration. Previously, the app would’ve quickly brought the system to its knees, but Microsoft offers the possibility to optimise Teams via Citrix. As soon as a video call starts, the video card within the user’s end device takes on the task of rendering so that the audio and picture are flawless.
After the successful pilot in Austria, Wienerberger has turned its sights on the future. Some 300 in-house and external employees in Austria are currently using the Citrix Cloud, but there’s plenty of scope to increase that number. Seeing as the resources available in the Microsoft Cloud are scalable and are not tied to a specific location, there’s nothing standing in the way of rolling out the system to other countries.
A follow-up project is being implemented in the Netherlands, where another 300 members of staff will be able to work in the Citrix Cloud in the future. Admin staff are only given the accesses that they really need without any changes being made to the structure. This expansion has been so smooth that it is now possible for new users to be onboarded in just a few weeks instead of three to six months as was previously the case. The time zone and location are both irrelevant, which is why Wienerberger has no plans to stop just yet, and is planning a migration project with their group company, Meridian Brick In the USA. For Wienerberger, the transition to the cloud has only just started.
With Microsoft and Citrix Cloud solutions, we are extremely flexible and can add regions whenever we need to. There is one central access point to the Citrix Cloud and local Microsoft Cloud regions handle resource management—something that would have been impossible with in-house servers.
Paul Nachförg, Project Manager, Bechtle Austria
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Published on Jul 21, 2021.