Israel Electric Corporation is the primary electric utility for the State of Israel, generating most of the energy and transmitting essentially all electricity used in the country. Headquartered in Haifa, it’s one of Israel’s largest industrial companies, with total assets of $21,6 billion. The company designs, builds, maintains and operates 17 power-generation stations, along with all the nation’s electric transmission and distribution networks. Its 13.500 employees serve more than 2,5 million residential, commercial and industrial customers.
Israel Electric was planning to migrate 8.000 of its employees to Microsoft Windows 7 and Office 2010 before Microsoft withdrew support for Windows XP—which meant the utility had to upgrade 80 percent of its desktops to run the new operating system. Not only that, the company had more than 4.000 applications in its environment, and there was no consistency because desktops were maintained by administrators in each local office. IT management was cumbersome and inefficient, and desktop performance was poor. What’s more, it was nearly impossible to keep track of security patches for desktop applications, which put corporate data at risk.
The utility turned to Citrix for a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). The goal was to enable the Windows 7 upgrade in the short term and to improve IT management, desktop performance and service to customers in the long term. Citrix XenDesktop delivers a consistent, stable desktop image to employees. Citrix XenApp provides access to a standardized set of centrally managed applications. Citrix Receiver allows employees to access their desktop environments at home and on the road from their devices of choice, whether a smartphone, tablet or personal laptop. “In the past we supported the PC,” says Shai Levi, manager of the desktop virtualization project for Israel Electric. “With Citrix, we can support the employee. It’s the user that’s important.”
The Citrix solutions made it straightforward for Israel Electric to migrate employees to Windows 7 and Office 2010. Rather than upgrade physical PCs and then manually migrate each desktop, IT staff can now manage that effort centrally. “The entire VDI project, including the migration to Windows 7, cost less and took less time than when we upgraded from Windows 95 to Windows XP,” says Yosi Shneck, senior vice president of information and communication for Israel Electric. The utility also reduced the number of applications in its environment from 4.000 to about 700. As a result, IT management is more efficient and cost-effective; users have access to the software they need to do their jobs; and a stable, high-performance desktop environment enables employees to be more productive.
With a virtualized desktop environment, Israel Electric no longer relies on inexperienced administrators in local offices to manage individual PCs. Now IT staff can centrally manage standardized desktop images to support the requirements of each user role. Just as important, IT technicians have the confidence that all applications are updated with the latest security patches, helping ensure the protection of sensitive corporate data. Overall, the IT environment benefits from greater stability and performance. “The Citrix environment has meant huge efficiency gains for our IT technicians in the field. In fact, the time it takes IT field staff to serve employees has decreased by 50 percent,” Shneck reports.
Israel Electric management and staff increasingly work from home and on the road. The Citrix solutions allow them to access their desktop environments wherever they need to, from smartphones, tablets or their personal laptops. That flexible connectivity proved vital in December 2013 when much of Israel was hit with the worst winter weather in decades. “We set up command-and-control centers around the country,” Levi explains. “With Citrix, those users could get immediate access to the same corporate workspace they use every day.” Users are equally pleased with the Citrix environment on an ongoing basis. “I’ve been working in IT for 40 years,” Shneck says. “This was the first project where users actually came to us asking to be switched to the new environment because they saw how happy other employees were with VDI and wanted it for themselves.”
Israel Electric is now migrating its computer-aided design (CAD) users to the Citrix virtual desktop environment. The CAD users include the engineers who design, plan and construct the power plants, transmission lines and other infrastructure that’s core to the utility’s mission. Going forward, the company will move users from 32-bit to 64-bit desktop images. “We simply create two application catalogs, one for 32 bits and one for 64 bits,” Levi explains. When it’s time to move the user, IT technicians just assign the new catalog. “The Citrix environment means any future upgrades will be far easier,” Shneck concludes. “We can change the operating system without the need to replace PCs, and employees will continue to see their familiar environment and applications.”
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