With a Dell solution, it's always show time at E! Networks
E! Networks lowers support costs and boosts uptime by running Citrix on Dell servers and workstations
Challenge: Manage an IT infrastructure, support end users, and roll out new applications from thousands of miles away; slash end-user support costs while guaranteeing high availability; support one set of applications on multiple platforms
Solution: Deploy eight Intel® Pentium® III processor-based DellTM PowerEdgeTM 2550 servers and 10 Intel XeonTM processor-based PowerEdge 2650 servers, all running Microsoft® Windows® 2000 and Citrix® MetaFrame® software; deploy 75 Dell OptiPlexTM workstations in "smart client" computing model
Benefit: Company can administer user workstations remotely and roll out new applications to all users instantaneously, regardless of their locations; when users need help, IT staff can provide support without leaving their desks; solution enables significantly lower IT support costs and higher availability
E! Networks is one of the most successful media companies in the United States, operating E! Entertainment Television, the 24-hour network dedicated to the world of entertainment, and Style, the 24-hour network devoted to style, beauty, fashion, home design, and the people and events that shape these worlds. E!'s television networks reach more than 80 million cable and direct broadcast satellite subscribers in the United States, with international channels available to more than 20 million cable and satellite homes
outside the United States. The company also operates E! Online, one of the most popular entertainment news and information destinations on the Web, serving more than 7 million unique visitors and 150 million page views each month.
Different business lines at E! Networks require different technical approaches, meaning that the company must support myriad platforms, applications, and users who have varying degrees of expertise. To make matters more complicated, the company's 800 knowledge workers are scattered across the United States.
How does a technician in Los Angeles reinstall Microsoft® Office on 50 computers
located in New York Citywithout travelling to the site for at least a week? To
address this situation, E! installed Citrix® MetaFrame® software on DellTM PowerEdgeTM 2550 and 2650 servers. This platform enables staffers anywhere in the world to use a Web browser to access applications maintained centrally on Dell hardware. E! employees also can access a full suite of centrally deployed software from computers running Microsoft Windows® , MacOS® , Linux® , and UNIX® operating systems. For the IT department at E!, the Citrix solution enables software upgrades and new application deployments without long weekends and expensive travel arrangements.
And because the Citrix solution runs on Dell PowerEdge servers, E! employees have a rock-solid solution for high availability.
E! plays cross-country computing
E!'s rapid growth and the demand for increasingly complex applications presented numerous challenges to E!'s IT department, particularly in the areas of configuration management and end-user support. The company has five office locations and data centers in four cities, but its IT staff is concentrated in Los Angeles.
"Our motivation for using Citrix was that we had users in different parts of the
country in remote satellite offices who needed to access applications," says Jeff Mayzurk, vice president of technology at E! Networks. "The servers and IT department were halfway across the country and the users were in multiple offices. Citrix software gives us a way to deploy those applications quickly and provide good performance over a wide area network."
An early implementation of Citrix MetaFrame XPTM focused on supporting the
network's The Howard Stern Show, which is produced in New York. Scripts and metadata for each episode are archived in a centralized database, which resides in
E!'s Los Angeles headquarters. To provide employees with remote access to that database, E! would need to roll out client applications to the entire staff or accept
the security risk of making the database accessible via the Internet. Also, the intense bandwidth requirements of database queries would require an expensive upgrade to increase the company's wide area network (WAN) bandwidth. Instead, E! installed Citrix clients throughout the enterprise and installed the client application only once on a centralized Dell server running MetaFrame. The existing WAN worked without a hiccup.
Mayzurk says the process of upgrading or installing new applications—which used to take several weeks and require temporary staff to work after hours—is now a snap. "We can upgrade the entire user base in a weekend, and that would not be possible if we had to perform the upgrade on every PC at every location around the country."
Let the server do the work
Thanks to the Dell-Citrix solution, E! not only saves money on bandwidth, but it
also reaps major savings in upgrade costs. Because workstations off-load processing
tasks to the server that runs Citrix, E! was able to optimise its use of existing desktops.
"We chose to upgrade some of our workstations to OptiPlex workstations, and Citrix allows us to run our applications in Macintosh® , Windows, or UNIX environments," Mayzurk says.
E! chose to install 18 Dell PowerEdge 2550 and 2650 servers running the
Microsoft Windows 2000 Server operating system. "Dell provides the features we
need, excellent pricing, and good serviceability in small 2U packages, saving us
valuable rack space," Mayzurk says. E! uses the load-balancing features of
the PowerEdge servers to achieve a 50 percent utilization level on each machine
and prevent the Citrix servers from becoming overloaded. Then, if one server
suddenly crashes, the others can take on the workload. E! also benefits from the
servers' standard components that can be upgraded easily.
Infrastructure keeps users productive
One key benefit of the Citrix environment is that E! can remedy end-user problems
much faster than is possible in traditional client-server environments. That is
because the Citrix shadowing feature allows IT support staff to troubleshoot PCs
remotely by taking control of a user's Citrix session if application difficulties
arise. This capability enables E! to remotely manage PCs and avoid the time
and cost of providing on-site support at each E! location in the country.
For more serious problems such as hardware failures, the E! IT staff can do repairs much more quickly in the Citrix environment. "Citrix enhances productivity because users have less downtime," Mayzurk says. "If a PC hard drive crashes, we can just swap out the device rather than try to resurrect the hard drive and recover the data. We can be back up and running in 15 minutes." Because both data and applications are stored on the central server, IT staffers need to reinstall only the Citrix client application to get the client running at full speed.
Coming up on E!
E! Networks has extended its use of Dell technology throughout the enterprise. E!
also runs Oracle® databases, Web servers, and other applications on Intel® XeonTM processor-based Dell PowerEdge 2650 servers running Linux. "The PowerEdge 2650 is a phenomenal platform for Linux," Mayzurk says. "With the excellent price, performance, and stability of Linux on Dell hardware, we're starting to deploy more of our mission-critical applications on Linux rather than the more conventional RISC-based UNIX platforms."
E! also plans to increase the total number of users on the Dell-Citrix solution. As E!'s Citrix-on-Dell environment reaches maturity, Mayzurk looks forward to using the disaster recovery features of the Citrix solution. Then, if the primary data center in Los Angeles becomes unavailable, E! can redirect all of its clients to Citrix servers in a remote data center while maintaining reasonable performance. By running the Citrix solution on Dell, Mayzurk says the company's disaster recovery capabilities will be that
much more solid.