From self-adhesive labels to drug packaging to flexible solar modules and membranes for fuel cells, various day-to-day and high-tech products are produced on systems of the mechanical engineering company Kroenert. For more than 110 years, the company, headquartered in Hamburg, Germany, has been the worldwide leading supplier of turnkey system solutions for the coating of materials such as paper, foil, and film. Kroenert sees itself as a developmental driving force for coating technologies and has its own research and test centers in which innovative and environment-friendly solutions are developed and tested.
CAD construction is an important component of the work done by Kroenert. Today, 40 internal employees are busy developing the coating systems and planning them in detail. To save time, Kroenert often works with two external engineering firms that support its internal developers.
Previously, the IT department provided the external workers with secured workstations and encoded hard drives on which the 3D-CAD software, Siemens NX, was installed locally. The external workers could then access the design drawings in the Kroenert datacenter using a VPN connection.
"However, this solution had serious disadvantages in practice," says Lars Lorenzen, IT manager at Kroenert. "The loading or saving of a model via the VPN connection often took up to 30 minutes. If the computer crashed before a file was stored centrally with us, it was possible to lose the entire day’s work. In addition, we always felt anxious about allowing sensitive design data to leave our facility despite the lockdown and encoding of the end devices." This solution was a compromise that neither Kroenert nor the external workers were satisfied with.
To improve work conditions for the external design engineers, the IT department evaluated several solutions for the virtualization of the CAD applications. The idea was to make the desktops accessible with the Siemens NX software via the datacenter. Kroenert carried out several trials of desktop virtualization solutions in collaboration with IT partner, SMP Management. "In the end, only Citrix XenDesktop, with HDX 3D Pro technology, met our expectations in these tests," says Lorenzen. "The competing products were eliminated relatively quickly as the necessary graphics performance could simply not be achieved on the client. Productive work via the WAN was not possible with these solutions."
Citrix XenDesktop was able to meet the requirements of both the IT department and the external design engineers. Its HDX 3D Pro technology enables the presentation of graphics-intensive applications in virtual environments via the combination of software and hardware-based rendering and compression technologies.
Citrix XenDesktop offers different configuration options on the server. Depending on the required performance, the IT department can either assign dedicated graphics processors to the virtual desktops or use hardware-based graphics processing unit (GPU) sharing. Citrix is the first supplier of desktop virtualization solutions to support the GPU technology from NVIDIA that makes it possible to distribute the capacity of a graphics processor among several virtual machines. "We have tested vGPU successfully, but in the end, we have decided to provide each user with his own graphics processor," says Lorenzen. "Our users work with extremely complex models and thus have very high performance requirements. We use the GPU pass-through technology of the virtualization platform Citrix XenServer for direct access to the physical graphics processor from the virtual environment."
The external workers were impressed by the performance of the virtual CAD desktops right from the start: "We received feedback that there is no detectable difference in the locally installed CAD application," says Lorenzen. "The models can be edited on the screen as fluidly as before; different 3D mice function as usual; and there are no problems even during multi-monitor operation." The loading and saving of models is vastly accelerated via the virtual environment. The design data no longer runs via the WAN connections and is now only transmitted within the datacenter using 10 Gb fiber optic cables. "Often, external users can work even faster than our own employees on the LAN," adds Lorenzen.
No matter what location the developers access the virtual desktops from, sensitive design data no longer leaves the datacenter of Kroenert. In addition, the IT department can control all access and usage rights granularly with the Citrix solution. Thus, employees of the external design firms can print out drawings of systems in the office but cannot save documents to local hard drives. User access is protected via multilevel authentication, and encoded connections are used to access documents in the datacenter. "The topic of security was an important argument for us for the virtualization of the CAD workstations,” explains Lorenzen. “With the Citrix solution, we stay in control of our design data—and thus of the valuable intellectual property of the company—in any situation."
Following the virtualization of the CAD workstations, Kroenert has already started its next project with Citrix technology: The IT department will provide an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system using Citrix XenApp for its affiliate company, DRYTEC. "After the CAD project, this is no longer a great challenge from a technical perspective," says Lorenzen. "We can make the internal collaboration easier with a Citrix solution and thus create a significant added value for the company."
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