L'Oreal System Optimisation using the visionapp Platform Management Suite brings Performance and Stability Benefits to LOreal

L'Oral Germany has already been operating a Citrix terminal server farm for several years. However, by early 2004, the tried and tested manual installation practiced by the administrators had reached its limits, leading to instability in the system. Using visionapps Platform Management Suite, LOreal was able to fully automate the installation of its terminal servers and thus considerably increase the stability and its IT infrastructure.

L'Oral is one of the leading cosmetics companies in the world and Its LOral Paris brand names (including ElVital, Maybelline, Jade, Lancme, Vichy, Garnier and many others) are recognised across the globe. The international company is based in two sites in Germany, the first being management and administration which is based in Dusseldorf. The logistics centre with 12,000 m2 of floorspace for warehousing, commissioning and distribution of the diverse product range is located in Karlsruhe. Products are exported across Europe from the Karlsruhe plant, one of the most modern production centres in the LOral group outside France.

The L'Oral IT department, led by Abder Dellys, has to administer over 300 PC workstations internally at the Karlsruhe and Dusseldorf locations. Before the terminal server infrastructure was set up, an extensive user helpdesk organisation had to be maintained to keep the system up and running and to support users. In addition, PCs were replaced every three years. The introduction of new applications, software releases and extensions to the system were also costly. "We wanted to end all that," recalls Mr Dellys. "We wanted to reduce both the support costs and the hardware costs arising from the cyclical replacement of PCs." Having recognised that change was needed, LOral began to research alternatives, and first discovered Citrix terminal server technology four years ago.

External sales staff link as pilot project

At the same time, L'Oral sales staff who needed to have external access the corporate network frequently experienced difficulties due to performance problems. Strict security controls at L'Oral meant that dialling in over the Internet was not permitted. In any event, the system in use at the time was far too unstable. Consequently, four years ago L'Oral decided to install the first Citrix terminal servers and to link up external sales staff via RAS access as a pilot project. The pilot project proved highly successful and the link with the external sales force demonstrated to IT staff how well the terminal server technology worked. Subsequently, when it came to deliberations on how to reduce support costs, the company IT team rapidly came to the decision to link up internal workplaces to the terminal servers as well. Having established that most staff use more or less the same applications and work in a process orientated way, it seemed reasonable to expand the number of terminal servers to link up internal users and thus negate the need to regularly replace PCs.

A system at its limits

In 2002, L'Oral started to expand the terminal server farm and integrated around 300 workplaces. While virtually all staff in Karlsruhe were linked up, in Dusseldorf staff workplaces were connected where reliable access was required. The entire installation and operation of the terminal server farm comprising eight servers was under direct control. "Initially it worked very well. Over the course of time, though, instabilities occurred more and more often. The system caused an increasing amount of problems," recalls Dellys, who knew that other companies with terminal server technology were able to make it operate much more smoothly.

In early 2004, L'Oral decided to ask the visionapp specialists for support. visionapp was familiar with the company IT structure from occasional collaboration and was initially commissioned to analyse the current status. It soon emerged that the eight terminal servers which ran on Windows 2000 under Citrix Metaframe XP, had no identical status due to manual installation. Hotfixes and security controls were not identical on all servers. This was causing session aborts and server crashes. The system had reached a critical mass with a configuration that could no longer be maintained at a justifiable expense.

Reinstallation of the terminal servers using the visionapp Platform Management Suite

The only solution here was to reinstall the eight available terminal servers using an efficient installation process to create a consistent, updated environment, and at the same time reduce the administrative costs. visionapp therefore suggested installing the visionapp Platform Management Suite v4.0.

Firstly, the correct conditions had to be created for installing the Platform Management Suite. An SQL server was available and adapting Netinstall and the OSD add-on tools (to allow full automation of all the necessary installation processes and simplify future system administration) ran smoothly. Platform Manager and the installation packages supplied by visionapp, in addition to pre-defined templates, were installed and adapted. L'Oral installation applications tailored to the client were also packaged in NetInstall packages. The costly manual installation of the applications could be fully reproduced in NetInstall. The actual installation via Platform Manager happened virtually "out of the box" and ran without fault. It was possible to seamlessly replicate the existing configurations with the automated process from visionapp. After a total of only 20 man days, the reinstallation of the entire L'Oral terminal server infrastructure was complete.

Marked improvement in stability and simpler administration

Following the reinstallation there was a marked and immediate improvement in the stability and reliability of the L'Oral terminal server farm. Installing the servers using the Platform Management Suite ensures identical, up-to-date server release status across the board. The system now operates well and administration has become much simpler for the L'Oral IT team. Automated installation has greatly reduced the expense of reinstalling a server and represents a substantial time saving for the administrators. Whereas it used to take 8 to 12 hours for each manual server installation between 64 and 96 hours for eight terminal servers reinstallation of the entire system using the visionapp Platform Manager can now be initiated on Friday evening and is complete for all 8 servers within 4 hours. A rollback to the previous server status reports, previously only possible manually, is now fully automated and can be achieved within the aforementioned time.

The servers in Dusseldorf, which manage the databases at that site, are now in a NetInstall link with Karlsruhe. The servers in Karlsruhe and Dusseldorf now have the same status. The centralised, automated management of the terminal servers also eases the burden on the administrators in Dusseldorf and relieves them of the task of installing and managing the terminal servers.

The reinstallation has substantially improved work quality. The system runs smoothly and it has saved the administrators time. "It has been possible to reduce back-up support and new applications can be distributed much faster. L'Oral has also avoided the virus attacks of recent months, due to rapid application of the necessary patches," says Dellys. The overall project cost of optimising the system was very cost effective due to the short project time of just 20 man days.

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