Automotive fleet management firm LeasePlan is using Citrix virtualisation tools to deliver applications across its global operations via a private cloud, as part of international data centre consolidation plans.
Dutch firm LeasePlan operates in 38 countries across the world with over 6,000 employees, delivering car leasing services to customers. LeasePlan has a strong presence in the EMEA region and in the UK in particular, with customers such as Virgin Media, Royal Mail, and the NHS.
As part of plans to centralise the delivery of IT across its international operations, LeasePlan Group launched LeasePlan Information Services in 2003. The aim of the subsidiary is to deliver internal shared IT services across the business, bringing all of the Group’s ICT together into a consolidated data centre environment.
One of the main facets of this consolidation and standardisation plan is to deliver a range of core applications from two data centres in Dublin to thousands of international users.
In total LeasePlan supports around 1,500 applications, ranging from standard Office and email software, to a variety of financial applications, Oracle databases, and an internally developed lease management software platform. Salesforce customer relationship management is also used by across the organisation.
Previously, all applications had been hosted in regional, internal data centres to host back end servers, with employees largely using thick clients running Windows XP or 7 locally.
In 2008, LeasePlan Information Services began to implement a range of Citrix virtualisation and delivery tools to support delivery of desktop applications as a service through the company's private cloud set-up. This included Citrix XenApp, Netscaler, NetScaler Gateway and Citrix Receiver. The company also plans to introduce XenDesktop in coming months, and is exploring adding XenMobile to deliver applications straight on to mobile devices at some point in future.
With the project underway, LeasePlan Information Services is now using the Citrix delivering IT to a total of 2,900 employees in 20 countries across Europe. This includes Sweden, Turkey, Finland and the Group’s headquarters in Holland.
A further 1,200 users are expected to be supported by the end of 2014 as the company moves towards the goal of adding another ten countries to the Dublin private cloud service, including Poland and Hungary.
The UK arm of the business, which received a localised rollout of Citrix applications, is also now being migrated into the Dublin data centres in line with wider consolidation plans, a process which is due to be completed in September this year.
Eight countries LeasePlan operates in outside of EMEA, such as Asia and Australia, will not use the Dublin service due to latency issues.
The Citrix implementation has brought about a number of a number of benefits for the company for LeasePlan. For example, the remote delivery of applications has enabled the company to set up new businesses quickly, allowing the group to operate with no physical infrastructure before moving into permanent offices.
“We recently started up a new business in Russia, and deployed them directly into our Citrix environment. That was a great example of mobility and how we managed to set up a new company in a new country with almost zero effort on the ground," explained LeasePlan’s infrastructure manager, Ronan Murray.
“Everything was done here in the data centre using Citrix servers. It allowed the new business to start operating from a hotel before moving into their own offices – they were able to get up and running with all their core services with zero infrastructure on the ground.”
Murray told ComputerworldUK that the Citrix tools are also helping LeasePlan save on IT running costs by hosting applications centrally, with a reduction in duplication of tasks such as manually updating PCs with new software. This has led to average costs savings of €800,000 (£684k) each year across all regions, he said.
More savings are likely to be achieved in future by standardising the applications used across LeasePlan’s operations, Murray said.
“Our road map is to continue until we are servicing the desktops of all of our customers out of our data centres,” he said.
“Once you get all of the applications you can really start to standardise. As a basic example, if you have got ten different versions of Adobe Acrobat you can start to bring them all together. If you do that with all of your applications, you can start to really standardise an organisation.
“Once you do that you achieve even greater levels of availability and reliability, and ultimately reduce your support costs and your TCO.”