Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) serves one million patients in coastal communities of British Columbia, Canada. Each of the organization’s hospitals has its own IT department and multiple ways of delivering applications to its multi-user desktops. VCH deployed Microsoft® Application Virtualization (App-V) and, as a result, accelerated application deployment, improved application access, and simplified recovery. It will continue deploying virtual applications and adopt virtualization as its deployment strategy.
Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) provides a full range of healthcare services ranging from hospital treatment to home health, mental health, and public health services. It has U.S.$2.3 billion in annual funding and serves more than one million residents in Vancouver, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, and Richmond, Canada.
The organization has 14,000 PCs that run a mix of the Windows® XP and Windows 2000 operating systems. VCH lacked a centralized strategy for delivering applications to the desktop and IT staff at each of its 14 hospital sites used various delivery methods—Group Policy Objects–based installations, Novell ZenWorks, Altiris Software Virtualization Solutions, and manual installations.
VCH relies heavily on multi-user computers, rather than assigning a computer to a specific user. Clinicians, doctors, and other hospital staff can log onto any desktop computer that is stationed throughout the hospital. However, with its model, VCH could not guarantee that every application that users needed would be provisioned to each computer users could access. “It’s difficult and time consuming to track which users need which applications and on which computers in a multi-user workstation environment,” explains Gordon Yuen, Senior Systems Analyst at Vancouver Coastal Health. “It would be easier for us to provision computers, and a better experience for users, if we had a solution that enabled us to have applications ‘follow’ users—no matter which computer they access, only the applications they need to do their job is available.”
VCH sought a solution that would help it develop a uniform deployment strategy and deliver applications that users need regardless of the workstation they’re using.
In 2006, VCH formed an IT group responsible for finding a solution and developing a uniform deployment strategy for its regional hospital sites. In March 2008, that group decided to deploy Microsoft® Application Virtualization (App-V) 4.2. It partnered with Long View Systems to design the solution architecture and document the deployment process, and also to help with knowledge transfer for the installation process.
||It’s difficult to provision a multi-user workstation environment, but with App-V we can deliver applications to specific users, regardless of the workstations they’re using, and still control application access.
Senior Systems Analyst, Vancouver Coastal Health
In its pilot, the healthcare organization sequenced 30 applications, most of which are in production, including critical applications that track patient data. To start, It installed the Microsoft App-V client on 7,000 PCs and is streaming one virtual application to users—Homecare. The application is one of the most critical applications that doctors and nurses who visit patients in their home use. Homecare records patients’ vital statistics and stores them in a central database. By streaming this application, VCH helps ensure that home healthcare workers are always working with the latest version of the software.
With the initial success of its App-V 4.2 deployment, VCH plans to upgrade to Microsoft App-V 4.5 in the future and use virtualization in its long-term IT strategy. It will install the Microsoft App-V client on its remaining 7,000 PCs at the same time that it upgrades the App-V 4.2 client.
The healthcare organization plans to implement a full infrastructure with its upgrade to Microsoft App-V 4.5, with both the Microsoft App-V Management Server and the Microsoft App-V Streaming Server. One of the most compelling features of App-V 4.5 for VCH is bubble-to-bubble communications. In addition, it looks forward to using Active Directory® groups as the central management tool for provisioning and controlling virtual applications.
As a result of Microsoft App-V, Vancouver Coastal Health has accelerated application deployment and improved application access in its multi-user workstation environment. Now, recovery is easier in the event of failure during the application installation process. With the success of its initial roll-out, VCH has a blueprint for the future of virtualization efforts in its organization.
Accelerated Application Deployment
VCH can quickly deploy and upgrade applications with Microsoft App-V. With Homecare, its critical application for recording home patients’ data, it was previously a struggle and required significant man hours to create a package that VCH could deploy to its workstations within a required eight-hour time frame. What used to take weeks, VCH can now achieve in a matter of days. “Now we can get the new version pre-cached onto the workstation, and when it’s time to make the switch to the newer version for users, we just change the shortcut and save ourselves significant time,” says Yuen.
Improved Application Access
With Microsoft App-V, the healthcare organization can deliver specific applications to individual users regardless of the workstation being used. Explains Yuen, “it’s difficult to provision a multi-user workstation environment, but with App-V we can deliver applications to specific users, regardless of the workstations they’re using, and still control application access.”
In the event of failure during application installation, recovery is easier. VCH can now revert to a previous version of the software application without manually backing up and re-installing it. “With App-V, we can simply change a shortcut and go back to the previous version without spending hours and hours re-installing the software,” explains Yuen.
Blueprint for Virtualization Strategy
With the success of its initial deployment, VCH looks forward to upgrading to Microsoft App-V 4.5 and sequencing and deploying more virtual applications. As virtual applications are deployed on a wide-scale across the organization, it will be able to eliminate multiple application deployment methods and use one, uniform strategy at all sites.