Login Consultants is an IT services firm renowned for using innovative technologies to transform desktop computing. Customers rely on the firm’s expertise in virtualization to eliminate application conflicts and packaging complexities. A long-time proponent of Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V), Login joined the Microsoft Technology Adoption Program so that it could be privy to enhancements to the App-V Sequencer and help customers quickly take advantage of the new functionality. By using App-V, Login expects that customers with no virtualization knowledge will be able to easily package applications, thereby reducing the need for outsourced packaging experts, speeding packaging by at least 75 percent, and facilitating upgrades to the Windows 7 operating system. Customers have rolled out applications 90 percent faster, stabilized application environments, and reduced IT costs.
Login Consultants was founded in 2001 as an IT consultancy that specializes in server-based computing. Since then, the Netherlands-headquartered company has expanded in geographic scope—adding Belgium and Germany practices—and technology expertise. Today, more than 100 consultants provide design and implementation services for desktop and application virtualization, migration, and deployment projects. Login counts more than 100 midsize and enterprise customers among its clientele, in markets ranging from healthcare, government, and financial services, to transportation, manufacturing, and education.
According to Holger Brink, Managing Consultant at Login Consultants, “Economic uncertainty is putting our customers under greater pressure. Whether they have 500 or 100,000 desktops, they’re all increasingly challenged by the unpredictability, complexity, and high costs that have been inherent in traditional application packaging and deployment.”
Before engaging with Login, many of its customers had packaged only a small percentage of their applications. “Traditional packaging could easily take four weeks and consume a lot of resources. These businesses didn’t want to spend the money that packaging entailed, and their application owners and end users didn’t want to wait so long to get applications. So, instead of asking the IT department to package and deliver applications, employees often installed software themselves,” Brink explains. “Less packaging meant that fewer applications could be centrally managed by IT staff. And that made it more time-consuming and costly to support desktops and users.” Complications from Application Conflicts
Login customers conducted some application compatibility testing prior to deployment. Although it was very time-consuming—typically taking several weeks per application—the testing helped to mitigate conflicts that occurred after applications were installed. However, when employees deployed applications without involving the IT department, there was no chance to have them tested against existing software. “Our customers only found out about these rogue applications when they ended up conflicting and crashing devices, driving employees to the help desk for troubleshooting. As a result, many companies that outsourced support functions ended up spending more money than they wanted with their help-desk vendors,” says Brink.
Conflicting applications also caused some businesses to suffer from “server sprawl.” According to Brink, organizations with terminal server environments had to install incompatible applications on separate silos so that they wouldn’t conflict. And because they needed to build redundancy into the environment, the more silos they had, the more physical server computers they had to purchase—and the more complex and time-consuming it was to support the infrastructure. Problems with Traditional Application Packaging
Complexity was also at the center of the packaging issue. Brink notes that the packaging process often took up to a month because it comprised so many steps. It usually began with an application owner creating documentation about an application and sending it, along with the application binaries, to the company’s packaging administrator.
“At that point, instead of packaging the applications themselves, many companies outsourced them to MSI-packaging specialty firms in countries such as India, where labor is less expensive than it is in Germany. But because of language and cultural differences, it wasn’t unusual for mistakes to be made and deadlines missed,” Brink notes.
When an application was finally packaged and returned to the company, the IT staff sent it to the application owner for quality assessment. If it didn’t behave as required, it was returned to the packaging firm, where the cycle started again. If it did work, then the application owner sent the package to the IT administrator for review and finalization. After that, the IT staff put it into a central repository, from which it could be deployed to users.
||App-V has always been impressive, and the enhanced Sequencer ensures its market-leading position. With packaging so easy and nearly impervious to error, it opens virtualization to a whole new audience.
Managing Consultant, Login Consultants
Companies that chose to avoid larger-scale packaging sometimes ran into difficulties during operating system upgrades. “Some companies approached us because they wanted to upgrade to the Windows 7 Enterprise operating system but were concerned about the amount of time it would take to migrate unpackaged applications to Windows 7. They were in danger of missing Windows 7 rollout milestones because of extensive application installation requirements,” Brink says.
Login customers needed a faster, easier, and more cost-effective way to package, deliver, and support applications.Solution
Businesses that approach Login Consultants already have an idea of how to solve their application-related problems. “We’ve built a reputation for being virtualization experts. Companies come to us because they’ve heard that application virtualization can eliminate conflicts, speed application packaging and deployment, and save them time and money. They want to find out if it’s really true,” says Brink. “The German market is driven by two factors: money and proof. If a solution won’t drive monetary savings—either directly or through time and service level agreement improvements—then companies won’t even consider purchasing it. And before moving ahead with any decision, they must see evidence that the solution works as promised.”
Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V) meets these criteria. “App-V is proven to save companies time and money, and it definitely performs as expected,” Brink says.
App-V transforms traditional applications into virtualized, network-available services by separating the application’s dependencies from the client computer. The application can be streamed on-demand to the user’s computer, where it runs on the local cache without actually being installed on the operating system. This helps to eliminate the application conflicts and lengthy compatibility testing that are typical with traditional software installations, and it simplifies application delivery.
As a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, Login has been working with App-V since 2002. “App-V was the first solution of its kind. It was worth considering even back in the early 2000s; however, it wasn’t until Microsoft acquired the technology [formerly called SoftGrid] in 2006 and incorporated it into the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack for Software Assurance, that it became really attractive from a price perspective,” Brink says.
Today, Login helps customers take advantage of App-V by leading App-V workshops and training sessions, conducting proof-of-concept and pilot projects, setting up App-V environments, sequencing applications, and integrating App-V with Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 R3 when companies want a unified system for deploying operating systems and applications. Login also uses App-V to enable virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). For example, during a VDI engagement, Login created a golden, stateless desktop image that could not be changed by the customer’s employees. Login used App-V to make it easy to insert applications that were not part of the golden image into the VDI environment. With App-V-enabled VDI, virtualized applications run in a shared cache that is housed on a server computer, while each virtual desktop has icons that users click to access the applications.
“App-V is the most mature application virtualization solution today,” Brink notes. “It is stable, has great functionality, and integrates seamlessly with existing infrastructure. It’s clear that Microsoft is putting a lot of effort into evolving the product—and our customers are reaping the benefits from that effort.”
Login wants its consultants to remain current on the latest App-V capabilities so that it can help customers take advantage of new functionality as soon as it is available. To that end, Login joined the Microsoft Technology Adoption Program for App-V in July 2010. “We were enthralled with the enhanced App-V Sequencer. It’s totally intuitive,” Brink says.
The Sequencer is the tool within App-V that packages an application to run in a virtual environment. A wizard walks users through the steps needed to create the virtual application package. “Packaging applications in App-V was always easier than traditional methods, but now it is so easy that even people with absolutely no virtualization experience can sequence applications,” Brink says.
Brink notes that sequencing is easier and more predictable now because so many packaging particulars are handled in the background by the App-V Sequencer. “The special virtualization knowledge that was required in the past isn’t needed now. Because the wizard handles nearly everything and guides users so thoroughly, it’s very difficult to make mistakes. The outcome of the App-V packaging process is much more predictable,” he says.Benefits
By using Microsoft Application Virtualization, Login Consultants helps its customers simplify and speed application packaging and deployment, while stabilizing their computing environments and saving money. App-V is also enabling Login customers to ease migrations to Windows 7.
“App-V has always been impressive, and the enhanced Sequencer ensures its market-leading position. With packaging so easy and nearly impervious to error, it opens virtualization to a whole new audience,” Brink says.
Simplifies and Accelerates Packaging Process by at Least 75 Percent
Brink believes that the enhanced App-V Sequencer can have a significant effect on his customers’ desktop computing operations. “In the past, many application owners didn’t want—or weren’t able—to package applications because of the technical expertise and time required. Because the new App-V Sequencer makes it easy for people with no packaging or virtualization knowledge to sequence applications, our customers can have applications packaged by application owners instead of sending them to an outsourced packaging firm,” Brink says.
||By transferring more packaging to application owners, consolidating the process, and reducing the dependency on outsourcers, App-V should help customers cut packaging times by at least 75 percent.
Managing Consultant, Login Consultants
According to Brink, application owners can sequence a software program while creating the documentation, and then they can just send it to the packaging department where corporate nomenclature and design elements are applied. “By transferring more packaging to application owners, consolidating the process, and reducing the dependency on outsourcers, App-V should help customers cut packaging times by at least 75 percent,” Brink notes. Instead of taking about four weeks for the packaging process, it should take about one week.
Because applications are so easy to package now, Login anticipates that more customers will implement virtualization on a large scale. “When customers see first-hand how simple and predictable packaging is with App-V—and application owners see that virtualized applications are much more stable and easy to support than traditionally packaged and installed software—we expect that they will push for enterprisewide adoption,” says Brink.Speeds Application Deployment, Stabilizes Environment
Login finds that many of its customers have not only increased the speed of packaging time, but also the entire application deployment process. “By decreasing the need for application compatibility testing—which could take several weeks per application—a large German reinsurance customer that uses App-V was able to roll out applications 90 percent faster. This kind of result is very common,” Brink notes.
By eliminating application conflicts, App-V also helps improve IT infrastructure reliability. “This reliability is critical; more stable computers result in less downtime and greater productivity for our customers’ employees,” says Brink.
The German reinsurance customer was able to fulfill its service level agreements 70 percent faster by using App-V. “Because deployments were standardized and application environments were more stable, it was easier and less time-consuming for the customer to roll out and maintain applications and support its users,” Brink explains.
Using App-V also helps Login customers stabilize their environments. “Our customers report that when employees know they’ll be able to get applications in a timely fashion, they’re less likely to install them on their own. With App-V, the IT department wins because it gets centralized control and a reliable desktop environment, and users win because they get the applications they need when they need them,” Brink says.Saves Customers Money
Login customers save money by using App-V. “Depending on how much they had been outsourcing to a specialty packaging firm, this can lead to significant monetary savings,” Brink says. “Companies that outsource their help desks also saved by negotiating better rates with their service providers based on the fact that using App-V leads to fewer support inquiries and faster resolutions.”
Login customers that have terminal server environments saved costs by using App-V to run more applications on each server and reducing the number of silos. “Many of our customers have realized considerable savings by consolidating their server computer farms,” notes Brink. Facilitates Operating System Upgrade Projects
Increasingly, Login consultants are helping customers use App-V to ease Windows 7 Enterprise upgrade projects. “As some of our larger customers—including a global automobile manufacturer and a chemical company—have already experienced, migrations take longer if the applications that need to run on the new operating system aren’t packaged and, therefore, can’t be centrally deployed. By making it easy to package applications, App-V is helping these customers and others minimize the time needed to migrate employee computers to Windows 7,” says Brink.
Even companies that aren’t under time pressure are using their Windows 7 projects as an opportunity to enhance their desktop environment. Brink comments, “Because they’re already doing a major desktop refresh, it makes sense to reexamine their overall strategy to find ways to make their environment more stable and easier to support. Our customers realize that App-V can help by eliminating application conflicts and simplifying management.” Microsoft Desktop Optimization
Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) for Software Assurance makes it easy for an organization to administer its applications, offering tools for virtualizing and inventorying software installations, for managing Group Policy settings, and for system repair and data recovery.
For more information about MDOP, go to: For More Information
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