Purdue University is a public research university in West Lafayette, Indiana. Its IT staff, which manages 250 software applications used by 40,000 students, was challenged by application conflicts and the duplicative packaging processes required to run software in its desktop computer and Remote Desktop Services environments. By using Microsoft Application Virtualization, Purdue is able to reduce packaging time by 50 percent; avoids having to repackage applications for different environments—which means remotely accessed applications are available a week faster than was previously possible; and has deployed 80 percent more applications on its existing terminal server computers. As a result of isolating application packages, professors can run multiple versions of the same applications, making it easier for them to prepare coursework for upcoming classes, and IT anticipates an easy migration to the Windows 7 operating system.
Founded in 1868, Purdue University has more than 15,000 faculty and staff that serve about 40,000 students a year. Ranked one of the “Best Colleges” in the United States by U.S. News & World Report magazine in 2010, Purdue is committed to providing an exceptional education to students in fields ranging from engineering, health sciences, and veterinary medicine to agriculture, nursing, and early childhood education.
The IT department at Purdue has three staff members dedicated to deploying and managing approximately 250 software applications used by faculty and students. Application conflicts, resulting from incompatible applications that could not run together on the same computer, and packaging complexities stemming from the need to run applications in both desktop computer and server computer environments, had become a challenge for this team.
Purdue used PCR-Dist to package and deploy the applications to 1,740 computers used by students in 53 general-purpose computing labs, and to 260 computers used by faculty in the classrooms. “We spent a fair amount of time trying to anticipate potential conflicts during the packaging process so that we could avoid problems that might occur after installation. Although we figured out a way to isolate applications to some degree, which helped improve compatibility, we still had problems with dynamic-link library conflicts,” says Bret Madsen, Lab Administrator at Purdue University.
When issues occurred, the IT staff used on-demand installers such as Symantec Wise Installer and AMT Software International PRISM Pack to repair the problem application prior to execution. “It took about two hours to build each on-demand install package, and even then it did not always fix the problem; sometimes the repackaged application would conflict with other applications after it was installed,” Madsen says.
Purdue schedules deployments of new, updated, and repackaged applications to take place during the night so that professors and students would not be affected by the installations. In the case of problem applications that had to be reinstalled, this meant that users had to wait a day until the applications were available.
To aid student productivity, Purdue made about 40 applications available for remote access using a Remote Desktop Services infrastructure. This way, students could use some of the same applications that were available in the labs from personal computers in their residence hall rooms or from laptop computers when the students were in other locations. The application list was a subset of the lab applications, as applications that ran in the Remote Desktop Services environment had to be packaged separately from those that ran on desktop computers, and the university didn’t have enough IT staff resources to devote to repackaging all of its applications.
“Not only did packaging applications for the Remote Desktop Services environment consume valuable IT resources, it took about a week before we could make the applications ready for remote use,” says Madsen.
IT found it challenging to support faculty who wanted to use upgraded applications in upcoming classes. “A professor who was using AutoCAD in his fall semester courses and wanted to upgrade to the newly available version for the spring semester did not have access to the new version to become comfortable with the functionality before the new classes began because different application versions could not run on the same computer," Madsen explains. "Instead, he might have been able to run it on his personal computer but would have to wait until the semester ended so that we could uninstall the existing application and install the upgrade in the lab infrastructure. And that would leave little time for him to prepare for the change.”
In 2006, Purdue learned that PCR-Dist would not support the new features and file system structures in Windows Vista or any later versions of the Windows operating system. The university needed to find a new solution that would eliminate application conflicts, simplify packaging for desktop computer and Remote Desktop Services environments, and enable it to deploy multiple application versions on the same computer.
Purdue University had heard about Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V)—available in the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, an add-on subscription for Microsoft Software Assurance customers—and believed that it would help IT address the application compatibility and deployment issues. “Not only was the technology strong, but also, because we had a Microsoft Campus Agreement, the price point for Microsoft Application Virtualization was very attractive,” says Madsen.
||By eliminating application conflicts and consolidating packaging for desktop computer and Remote Desktop Services environments, we made deploying and managing applications much easier.
Lab Administrator, Purdue University
Purdue decided to use Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 R2 to deploy App-V and to deliver operating systems and antivirus software updates. “Microsoft Application Virtualization and System Center Configuration Manager enable us to seamlessly deploy operating systems and applications, and manage virtual and locally installed software,” Madsen says.
Purdue began using Microsoft Application Virtualization in the summer of 2007. It virtualized about 200 applications throughout the fall, and, in spring 2008, tested the applications on 120 desktop computers. IT staff then used System Center Configuration Manager to deploy App-V to 1,880 more computers. To date, the university has virtualized about 250 applications, including Autodesk AutoCAD 2009, Adobe Creative Suite 4, VanDyke Software SecureCRT 6.2, SAS 9.2, and The Mathworks MATLAB 2009. It used the Dynamic Suite Composition feature in Microsoft Application Virtualization, which enables virtual applications to communicate with each other, share resources such as plug-ins, and be combined in the same virtual environment, to virtualize AutoCAD add-ins such as Eagle Point 2009. Purdue plans to virtualize Microsoft Office Professional 2010 and run it alongside a locally installed instance of Office Professional 2007 until it is ready to fully transition users to the new Office version.
In July 2009, Purdue joined the Technology Adoption Program for Microsoft Application Virtualization to evaluate the product’s new 64-bit capability. “We wanted to see how App-V would work with the 64-bit version of the Windows 7 operating system.” Madsen says. The university wants to take advantage of Window 7 features such as Federated Search to help users easily find the applications that they need, and BranchCache to reduce network traffic. It will use System Center Configuration Manager to deploy Windows 7 to all 2,000 desktop computers in summer 2010. Although Purdue will initially roll out the 32-bit version of Windows 7, it expects to upgrade to the 64-bit version in 2011.
||Microsoft Application Virtualization and System Center Configuration Manager enable us to seamlessly deploy operating systems and applications, and manage virtual and locally installed software.
Lab Administrator, Purdue University
To meet its need for expanded remote access, Purdue deployed Microsoft Application Virtualization for Terminal Services on 10 HP ProLiant BL465c and 10 Dell PowerEdge 1950 server computers running Windows Server 2003 and Citrix Systems XenApp 5. It plans to upgrade to Windows Server 2008 by the end of 2010. The university runs over 200 of the virtualized applications on these 20 server computers, which are located in the Purdue data center. Up to 1,400 concurrent users can access the applications from their desktops.
Using Microsoft Application Virtualization, Purdue University was able to accelerate application packaging and deployment, run more applications in its Remote Desktop Services environment without adding hardware, and simplify operating system and application migrations.
“By eliminating application conflicts and consolidating packaging for desktop computer and Remote Desktop Services environments, we made deploying and managing applications much easier,” says Madsen.
Reduces Application Packaging Time by 50 Percent
Purdue cut the application packaging process by half. “Before using App-V, it took up to four hours to package an application because we had to spend time anticipating and working around potential conflicts. Now that applications are completely isolated, we don’t have to worry about their effect on other applications. Packaging takes less than two hours,” Madsen says.
IT also saves time by not having to build on-demand install packages to remediate application conflicts. “We don’t have to redeploy applications,” says Madsen. The staff can use the two hours previously spent creating each installer package on other IT tasks.
Purdue still tends to deploy new applications and updates during the night, but now IT also has the option to deploy during the day. “We have greater flexibility to provision applications whenever we need to,” Madsen says.
Runs 80 Percent More Applications Without Expanding Infrastructure
Making applications available in its Remote Desktop Services infrastructure is also easier and faster. “In most cases, we can package an application once and run it in both desktop computer and Remote Desktop Services environments,” says Madsen. “As a result, we can make all of our applications available by remote access, and can have the Remote Desktop Services applications ready a week faster than they were in the past.”
Whereas previously, students could only access 40 of the applications from their residence hall rooms or other locations where they use their own computers, now over 200 applications are available. This makes it more convenient for students to complete their assignments.
“Because we no longer have to deal with conflicting applications, we can also run more applications alongside each other. We deployed 80 percent more applications on the same 20 server computers,” Madsen says.
Simplifies Software Migrations
Purdue can more easily move users to new applications and upgrades, such as the upcoming migration to the Windows 7 operating system. “Using Microsoft Application Virtualization will make it easier to transition to Windows 7. Instead of taking months to repackage applications for the new operating system, in most cases, as long as the application is compatible with Windows 7, we can deploy our existing virtualized applications on the computers that are running Windows 7,” says Madsen.
Purdue can also give professors the extra time that they need to get comfortable with new application versions. “Because we can run multiple application versions on the same computer, professors can have both AutoCAD 2010 and AutoCAD 2009 on their computers, for example. This way, they can start using the new functionality in AutoCAD 2010 while they’re still teaching classes that use AutoCAD 2009. When the new semester begins, they will be fully prepared to help students use the new version,” Madsen notes.
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:
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