Company News • 15.09.2009

A New Generation at the Checkout

In terms of reliability, the previous AS/400 monitor workstations at Möbel Martin are hard to beat. They had been in place for many years, until the owner of the furniture chain decided that it was time to modernize. To complement the success of its centralized infrastructure, Möbel Martin has been gradually replacing all 500 of its proprietary end user devices with flexible and versatile thin clients. The company, which is managed via its offices in Saarbrücken, is following the current trend in deploying cost-efficient desktop infrastructures.


A Traditional yet Modern Company

The Möbel Martin Group, currently with some 1,500 employees, was founded in 1959. It started with a wholesale furniture business in Neunkirchen, Germany (Saarland), which has grown to seven furniture showrooms and four logistics centers in the Saarland and the Rhineland. The company management is located in Saarbrücken, from where the company also manages the approx. 1,100 IT workstations that make up its comprehensive desktop infrastructure. Before the modernization project, this infrastructure included some 500 AS/400 terminals (IBM model 3487). The host environment, consisting of two IBM iSeries 9406-520 servers running the i5/OS operating system, is used for such functions as merchandise management, financial accounting as well as payroll services. The system is administered by one organizational unit. “The decision to convert to thin clients was made at the start of 2005,” recalls Christopher Klein, IT project manager in charge of the AS/400 peripherals. „The primary reasons for the change were difficulties in obtaining replacement units and ergonomic deficiencies of the existing monitors. Furthermore, the proprietary workstations could not accommodate Windows®-based applications such as Microsoft® Outlook or Word.”
 

A New Network and Desktop Infrastructure

Möbel Martin was able to create the technical prerequisites necessary for parallel operation of AS/400 sessions and Windows®-based work by introducing thin clients which offered both terminal emulation as well as protocols for accessing central terminal servers. These protocols were first introduced in 2006 using Microsoft Windows Server™ 2003. In 2007, the process was switched to Citrix® Presentation Server™. To make it possible to use thin clients to access the applications provided in this manner, the network architecture in the retail stores had to be upgraded from the proprietary Systems Network Architecture (SNA) with Twinax cabling to the 100 Mbit/s Ethernet Standard with CAT 6 network cabling. Then, starting in mid-2005, the first generation of 150 thin clients was deployed. However, after only a short time it became quite apparent that these products and their support service were inadequate in actual practice. After conducting some thorough research, in 2008 Möbel Martin decided to install thin clients from the German manufacturer IGEL Technology. The firmware provided by IGEL offers the Ericom® PowerTerm range of terminal emulation tools for accessing legacy host systems. Furthermore, it also offers a wide range of software clients, tools and protocols for accessing centralized infrastructures, including Citrix® desktop virtualization.
 

The customer

  • Privately-owned furniture retail company with seven showrooms and four logistics centers
  • 1,500 employees


IGEL Thin Clients pass the Practical Test

It was not just the screen and printer emulation provided by IGEL thin clients that made a big impression right from the start. The ruggedness of the devices and the quality of support from IGEL, which Klein made particular use of with regard to AS/400 macros, was particularly impressive. Möbel Martin now has some 350 IGEL thin clients in its seven stores. The most recently installed devices are from the latest IGEL generation, IGEL Universal Desktop (specifically UD3 LX). Typical areas of application include POS and sales-consultant workstations as well as warehouse and back office. Möbel Martin intends to gradually replace the first 150 thin clients that had been sourced from another supplier. Once this is done, the company will enjoy the full convenience of standardized remote administration with the IGEL Universal Management Suite which comes standard with IGEL Universal Desktops. “The group-based configuration and management of thin clients by means of the IGEL management software has simplified things here considerably,” Klein reports. “In the past each station had to be configured separately, a process that was very time-consuming. Furthermore, the configuration tool was not network-capable, which meant that having several support personnel each with their own local version and database, constantly produced inconsistencies. In some cases, recent changes made by one IT staff member went unnoticed and were inadvertently overwritten by another member.”


The challenge

  • Find a suitable replacement for 500 older IBM AS/400-monitor workstations
  • Cut the administrative load and energy costs
  • Enable the optional provision of Windows®-based MS-Office applications


Efficient, Standardized Management

With the IGEL Universal Management Suite, the IT team at Möbel Martin now has a common database, a central management server as well as a standardized Java-based - and thus web-capable - administration console that also allows definition of administrator profiles with different levels of access rights. According to Christopher Klein, this management solution also sped up the in-store roll-outs. “In the thin client settings, only the names of the emulations have to be entered. Everything else runs automatically. After the first configurations, we generally don’t have to do anything else, except in the case of firmware updates, which don’t occur very often. But these updates can be scheduled and be installed automatically.” In a workshop on the IGEL Universal Management Suite, the company’s administration team also acquired important knowledge on setting up thin client profiles. With the new generation of devices, all Möbel Martin needs is a single, basic profile with standard settings such as for mouse speed and keyboard layout. Department- and workstation-specific settings are assigned to the different device groups by means of secondary profiles. These profiles include specifications such as the number of terminal emulations, Citrix sessions or specific monitor display resolutions.


More Functions, Less Cost

Compared to the previous AS/400 terminals, energy consumption with the new thin client environment has dropped by a third. The resulting savings in power costs come to about 5,300 euro per year (see Table 1). Compared to the previous IGEL LX Compact models, the new IGEL UD3 LX models save even 25% more energy, requiring an average of only 12 W during normal operation and at most only 2 W in sleep mode. Möbel Martin also enjoys yet another cost advantage by being able to make Windows applications available over thin clients and Citrix® Presentation Server™. In fact, about 100 end devices are configured to allow parallel use of Microsoft® Office, Internet Explorer and/or the Solitas “Infostore” document management system. Without the thin clients, Windows® PCs would be needed to do this, and their energy consumption alone would bring an additional expense of some 2,000 euro (see Table 2).

The solution

  • New workstation solution with TFT displays and IGEL UD3 LX thin clients
  • Simultaneous access to AS/400 and Citrix® environments (Citrix Presentation Server™)
  • IGEL Universal Management Suite for efficient remote administration by means of group profiles


Fast Roll-out

Klein cites yet another quality feature of the IGEL solution: the fast system roll-out. For instance, the deployment of the thin clients in the store in Zweibrücken (about 80 units) took only a few days to complete. „We first received a list of device serial numbers and MAC addresses, which we then imported into the IGEL Universal Management database. After creating the profiles once, we then only had to connect the devices and switch them on. The automatic registration through DHCP saved us another day of work.” The complete conversion in Zweibrücken took about two months to complete – from ordering the thin clients from the company Profi AG in Darmstadt, to running the cables and installing the new network switches by the in-house building services department and PC support to the final placement in operation.


Design and Ergonomics at the POS

Looking back, the EDP department at Möbel Martin is very pleased with the implementation of the IGEL thin clients. “Our reaction has been totally positive. The project was successful, the devices are reliable and capable support from IGEL is available whenever needed. In addition, the new black-themed system with DELL TFT monitors and compact IGEL thin clients promotes the company’s progressive design image and impresses our customers. Our POS and sales consultant workstations now look more modern and attractive. They fit right in.” It should also be mentioned that the employees at Möbel Martin also benefit from new equipment: “The TFT displays cause less eye strain and are generally much more ergonomic. IGEL thin clients also contribute to this benefit, as they produce a better quality graphic.”
 

Supplier

IGEL Technology GmbH

Hanna-Kunath-Str. 31
28199 Bremen
Germany

channels: thin clients

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