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December 10, 2013

Swissport opts for Desktop as a Service (DaaS) with IGEL thin clients

Aims to cut monthly operating costs for each workstation across Europe to less than £10.

By Duncan Macrae

Swissport International, a provider of ground handling services for the aviation sector, has implemented IGEL Technology thin clients, which it described as a fast and efficient way to set-up client infrastructure and reduce operating costs.

Thanks to a DaaS (Desktop as a Service) model, Swissport aims to reduce operating costs for each workstation to less than £10 a month. Within Europe, the company currently operates around 1,500 thin clients at various sites, including Heathrow, Manchester and Gatwick airports. Just one person, using half of their work time, remotely manages the IGEL workstations.

In order to be able to react more quickly to the changing needs of the market, Swissport has been centralising, virtualising and outsourcing its IT in Europe with the help of Citrix software since 2003.

As part of its outsourcing program, a global service provider furnishes the ground handler with a "fully managed desktop" with IGEL thin clients as efficient end user devices. This "lean" and extremely flexible IT infrastructure enables the growth-oriented company to be able to set up a completely new loading station with 300 employees in just three weeks.

A wide range of thin client solutions

As a result of its migration efforts to date, Swissport uses IGEL thin client solutions at around half of its 3,000 IT workstations. Depending on the scenario, the company uses different thin client models with different operating systems in order to achieve the greatest possible savings. For example, the ground staff at Munich Airport use the screen-integrated all-in-one IGEL UD9 LX thin client in order to allocate passenger buses and other resources in an extremely cost-efficient manner with the help of a 3G connection and the integrated web browser.

Thanks to the Citrix XenApp and Cortado ThinPrint software solutions, Swissport is able to operate up to 100 thin clients and administer them in a fail-safe manner via a VPN tunnel using a 10 MBit/s wireless connection rather than the expensive airport LAN. Swissport also uses the IGEL Universal Desktop Converter 2 (UDC2) thin client software in order to convert existing airport PCs into remote-administrable software thin clients. This saves the logistics costs and customs charges associated with hardware replacement while reducing support time.

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Standardised management

According to Swissport International, IGEL was chosen because of the quality of its solutions and its thin client expertise, as well as its license free standardised remote management software for all models in the range. The IGEL Universal Management Suite (UMS) solution comes supplied with all thin clients. Its key features include profile and group-based configuration and administration as well as the facility to assign profiles using a tree structure or drag and drop.

With the help of this tool, Swissport can perform rollouts even more quickly and react immediately to organisational and technical changes. As proof of the system’s great efficiency, Swissport’s CIO Philipp Schlatter pointed out that the complete remote-management of all 1,500 thin clients takes just 50 percent of the time of one full-time post.

Outlook: virtual desktops and multimedia

According to Philipp Schlatter, the fact that all the IT work per 100 end devices – including installation, support and training – can be carried out by just one full-time employee is largely due to IGEL’s thin client solutions. As far as monthly operating costs are concerned, IGEL thin clients are already more than £30 cheaper than a "managed" PC. In the long term, the intention is to reduce the costs for the end devices to less than £10 per month. The plan is therefore to keep increasing the proportion of thin clients, for example with the help of virtual desktops, provided that the latency at the various sites permits it. Video conferences are another interesting option for the future. Swissport has already performed successful tests with the Microsoft Lync unified messaging solution.

"When it comes to achieving a particularly flexible, efficient and reliable IT infrastructure, we always try to avoid problems rather than solving them with a disproportionate use of resources," explained Philipp Schlatter, CIO at Swissport. "With the low-maintenance thin client solutions from IGEL, we achieved our goal."

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