A thousand or so users using up to 10 applications or more apiece and spread across a vast Canadian province can present a bit of a challenge for the IT folks responsible for keeping the network up and running well.
Log-ins had become a particular problem for the $4 billion Conexus Credit Union of Regina, Saskatchewan, as it approached the end of its first decade of using a Citrix remote network to link its approximately 1,000 system users, including about 700 who log in daily across its now 46-branch operation.
To simplify things, Conexus deployed user virtualization tools from AppSense Inc. including the American company’s Environment Manager, Application Manager, Performance Manager and Management Center solutions.
One immediate result is that log-ins that used to take several minutes now can take just several seconds, said Chandra Nauth-Misir, senior application administrator at Conexus. Group policies and other administration tasks also have become easier, he said.
"It provides quicker log-in times for users and makes sure their environment is personalized with whatever of the 200 or more applications we have right now they need to use," Nauth-Misir said.
"And the end user has no idea these products even exist, and if you’re familiar with Cisco, it’s easy to use," he said. "For instance, we just put in a new HR training program that all we had to do was create a URL that the individual user can type in each time they connect. It launches and populates their environment without them ever having to see anything like a registry."
The general idea is that the AppSense tools, within the Cisco virtualized desktop environment, decouples the desktop–the user identity–from the operating systems and applications and is managed independently, applying it as needed and thus avoiding the repeated use of scripting, group policies or using cumbersome user profiles, the company said.
And in addition to letting people in, it helps keep people out by blocking applications from being launched by unauthorized users without having to use complex scripts or high-maintenance lists, the company said.
Nauth-Misir said Conexus is now expanding its use of the AppSense software for Microsoft Office programs as well as banking and loan systems. He said it also will soon be used to facilitate the movement of large amounts of registry updates and other requirements involved in consolidating its applications into one central location, including the main Fiserv iSpectrum core platform on a farm of 30 to 40 servers.
AppSense is based in New York City, with operations in North America, Western Europe and Australia. Its client list of about 5,000 organizations includes about 16 credit unions and 5 million end users, said Peter Rawlinson, the company’s vice president of marketing.
"The solution is a comprehensive approach and could be mistakenly considered too complex for some smaller departments," he said. "However, it has been successfully deployed at a number of smaller customers."
Rawlinson said the typical client sees a return on its investment in less than nine months, and claims ongoing savings of more than $500 per user over three years.
Nauth-Misir at Conexus said he can’t quantify an ROI at his credit union, but did note, "Users never really tell you when you’re doing a good job. You usually only hear when things are going bad. Now we don’t have the complaints about log-ins like we used to, so we’re apparently doing a good job."