The Ministry of Defense in the Netherlands upgrades its client operating system during its normal hardware refresh cycle. The organization started a pilot with the Windows® 7 operating system, and has planned an upgrade to 50,000 computers through 2010. Users have reacted positively to the user interface enhancements, and the organization looks forward to improved information access and easier IT management.
The Ministry of Defense in the Netherlands is made up of administrative staff, the Royal Navy, the Royal Army, the Royal Air Force, the Royal Military Police, and the Command Services Centers. The Ministry of Defense has more than 68,000 personnel, making it one of the largest employers in the Netherlands.
The IT branch of the Ministry of Defense serves 50,000 computer users. It has 80 percent desktops and 20 percent mobile computers, all running the Windows® XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) operating system. Its server environment is centralized with a small number of data centers throughout the country, and is composed primarily of the Windows Server® 2003 operating system.
The Ministry of Defense wanted to explore upgrading its operating system. The organization’s strategy is to only upgrade the client operating system during the course of its normal hardware refresh cycle. “We tie our operating system upgrades to our hardware refresh cycle to minimize migration costs,” says Christ van Gestel, Product Group Manager Application Hosting at the Ministry of Defense.
The organization usually skips one operating system generation—using an operating system until the end of its support cycle, skipping a version, and adopting the next subsequent version as quickly as possible. “It’s the best-case, low-cost scenario for us to skip a version,” explains Van Gestel. The Ministry also knew that Windows XP was moving to the extended support phase of the operating system support cycle at Microsoft, further driving the upgrade.
||With Windows 7, we have the added benefit of implementing built-in security features that meet our high level of standards.
Ministry of Defense
The Ministry of Defense decided to explore an upgrade to the Windows 7 operating system, keeping in line with its upgrade strategy, and evaluate several features in the operating system as part of its long-term goals. Specifically, it sought to reduce costs by using built-in security enhancements and also wanted to improve information access for employees at its 300 branch offices.
In May 2009, the Ministry of Defense started a pilot deployment of Windows 7 Release Candidate with 35 users. Starting with employees in the IT branch, the Ministry of Defense selected pilot users to include those who use different applications and who have different responsibilities within the organization.
The Ministry of Defense is running formal application compatibility testing. It inspected group memberships on Active Directory® services against inventory in Microsoft Systems Management Server 2003 to generate a list of its 150 most-used or business critical applications to be tested. The organization anticipated several application compatibility issues because of the fact every application now runs on Windows XP. However, last year the organization started testing every new application, or new application version, on the Windows Vista® operating system, and because of the high compatibility between Windows Vista and Windows 7 the organization has a positive outlook on any possible application compatibility issues. For its pilot, the organization is using the Microsoft® Deployment Toolkit 2010 Beta 2 for a Lite Touch deployment. The Ministry is evaluating Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 R2 for its widespread deployment.
The Ministry is evaluating several features of Windows 7. For enhanced security, it is evaluating BitLocker™ drive encryption for data protection on computers and BitLocker To Go™ for encryption of removable media. The Ministry will also evaluate BranchCache™ and DirectAccess—features that work with Windows Server 2008 R2. BranchCache locally caches frequently used content on a branch network, helping to improve information access and increase WAN utilization. With DirectAccess, remote employees can connect to the corporate network without a virtual private network (VPN) connection.
When Windows 7 Enterprise release to manufacturing (RTM) is available, the organization will, as a first step, deploy the operating system to 200 users. It has plans to deploy Windows 7 to all 50,000 computer users by July 2010.
Still early in its pilot phase, the Ministry of Defense already sees many positive responses from its users. It is looking forward to improving information access and streamlining IT management.
Improved User Experience
Employees at the Ministry of Defense have offered positive feedback about the Windows 7 user interface, and have noted improvements in productivity. “Our users have praised the subtle, but impactful changes to the user interface that help them complete tasks faster,” says Maarten Stegmann, Project Manager at the Ministry of Defense. Specifically, simple features such as the ability to “pin” applications or documents to the Windows Taskbar, or Jump Lists that give users quick access to files that they access regularly—saves users valuable seconds.
Improved Information Access
With BranchCache, the Ministry of Defense can cache content at branch offices from remote file and Web servers, helping to reduce application response times and provide easier access to corporate resources for branch employees. With DirectAccess, the Ministry can enable remote employees to connect to the network and access resources with any Internet connection, instead of requiring a VPN connection.
Streamlined IT Management
The Ministry of Defense can use built-in security enhancements, instead of third-party solutions, helping to streamline IT management. BitLocker gives the organization full-volume hard drive encryption, while BitLocker To Go extends data security to removable storage devices, such as USB thumb drives. “Our security standards are very high given the nature of our work and we are where we need to be in terms of security. With Windows 7, we have the added benefit of implementing built-in security features that meet our high level of standards,” says Stegmann.