Thin nearly in at travel agency

Thin-client computing looks set to gain another convert as travel agent Signature Travel contemplates a Citrix rollout across four offices.

Thin-client computing looks set to gain another convert as travel agent Signature Travel contemplates a Citrix rollout across four offices.

Signature’s Auckland-based IT manager, Phil Goad, says Citrix implementation is on the cards as a means of extending the life of the company’s three- to four-year-old PCs.

The Citrix option is also attractive as a way of giving the company’s 70 agents in Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton and Christchurch access to a central bookings database which will replace separate databases in each of the centres. An alternative means of providing the same access is via a wide area network (WAN), but Goad says that would still require replacing 70 PCs at a cost of about $150,000.

“Citrix will be about half that,” Goad says.

Aside from the immediate cost benefit, Citrix also promises to make future software rollouts simpler. Signature’s booking system is Serko Online, developed by parent company Gullivers Pacific. Serko also has a back-office application that is being updated in six- to eight-week cycles, and Goad says Citrix would provide an efficient way of installing the latest version on the 70 client machines.

“Instead of having to do it on location in each of the offices, we could push out the latest version during a weekend.”

Goad says Signature’s aim is to reduce the cost of making bookings so a decision was made two years ago to take the business online. Customers and agents can make bookings and view their status by linking to Serko Online through the internet. Serko Online is linked to the Amadeus global distribution system.

According to Citrix New Zealand manager Andrew Cashmore, the trend toward doing business online is leading to growing interest in thin-client — or server-based — computing.

“The technology has matured and our resellers are getting a better understanding of its return on investment benefits. They are succeeding in getting that message across.”

Organisations showing interest tend to have dispersed users.

“We’re doing well in the insurance, banking and retail markets in particular,” Cashmore says.

There’s growing interest as well, he says, among organisations with as few as five users, which Citrix is catering for more favourably since it began selling a five-user licence pack. Customers used to have to buy at least 20 licences.

Market researcher IDC says it has no firm figures on the popularity of thin-client computing in New Zealand, although it detects growing interest. It is considering collecting data on the subject “if there’s vendor demand”.

Signature’s Goad says he’s aware of potential complications from using Citrix, but believes they can readily be overcome. One possible difficulty might be local printing of travel tickets, a requirement of Amadeus. The company will also incur new telecommunications costs, whether it chooses a WAN or Citrix solution. Under the Citrix option, those costs could be offset against savings from eliminating leased servers in the branch offices. Citrix would also squeeze about another year’s life from the company’s PCs, he says, once reconfigured to run as terminals.

He expects a decision on the possible Citrix deployment within a few days, saying it has implications for the wider Gullivers Pacific group.

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