Sporton International, the largest certification company in Taiwan, services global manufacturers of mobile phones, integrated circuits, chips, and wireless radio frequency devices. The company wanted to deploy the Windows 7 Enterprise operating system to its 500 computers but was stalled by compatibility issues that prevented older applications from working with Windows 7. Sporton was also challenged by application management issues. By using Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization and Microsoft Application Virtualization, Sporton accelerated deployment of Windows 7, improved computer stability, and reduced help-desk call time and volume by 80 percent. The IT team has much tighter management over the desktop environment and application licenses. The company moves employees to upgraded applications faster and eases the transition for workers.
Sporton International, based in Taipei, Taiwan, provides testing and certification services to hardware and mobile communications companies. Sporton ensures that its customers’ products pass various certifications—including electromagnetic compatibility and product safety—that are required by global markets.
Many of the company’s employees rely on applications that only run on the Windows XP operating system. This presented challenges when Sporton wanted to transition to newer operating systems. “Because some applications need to be upgraded in order to run on the latest operating system, we would have had to spend thousands of dollars on new application licenses,” says David Feng, IT Director at Sporton International. “There was no money for that in the immediate Windows upgrade budget, so we needed to find an interim solution.”
||Without MED-V, we wouldn’t be able to deploy Windows 7 enterprisewide. Now, we don’t have to worry whether an older application is compatible with Windows 7. We just run it with MED-V and it works.
IT Director, Sporton International
For instance, when Sporton planned to upgrade from Windows XP to the Windows Vista operating system in 2007, the IT team knew that it would not be able to upgrade all of its computers if it could not figure out a way to run older applications on Windows Vista. Sporton heard about Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V), which would enable it to run older applications in a virtual Windows XP environment on computers running Windows Vista. The IT team successfully tested MED-V on about 10 computers, but because the hardware that most of its employees had at the time was not compatible with Windows Vista, Sporton suspended the deployment. Plans for the Next Operating System Upgrade
When Sporton decided to move to Windows 7 Enterprise in January 2009, it joined the Technology Adoption Program for Windows 7 and began evaluating the Windows 7 Beta product. “We wanted to take advantage of security features in Windows 7, such as AppLocker, which would help us lock down computers; User Account Control, which would help reduce the chances of malicious software (malware) being downloaded; and BranchCache, which would allow us to minimize the burden on our network. The only thing missing was a solution for running older applications on computers running Windows 7,” says Feng. About 100 of the company’s 500 employees use financial and sales applications that require Windows XP or the Windows Internet Explorer 6 browser. Because Windows 7 has Internet Explorer 8 as part of its base image, and only one version of Internet Explorer can be installed natively, IT staffers cannot install Internet Explorer 6–based web applications on devices running Windows 7.
Sporton briefly considered using the Windows XP Mode feature in Windows 7, which would enable employees to run Windows XP applications on computers that have Windows 7 installed, but the company realized that Windows XP Mode would not adequately address its problems. “While Windows XP Mode is great for small implementations, it isn’t designed for an enterprise environment because it does not enable centralized deployment and management. Our IT staff would have had to visit our computers to manually update and maintain applications that ran on Windows XP,” says Feng. “But, with just three IT staff members responsible for managing computers in 11 locations—many of which have no on-site IT support—that was not feasible.”
Sporton was eager to deploy Windows 7 enterprisewide, but the company could only install it on about 50 percent of its computers—those used by employees who were not likely to need applications that required Windows XP or Internet Explorer 6. But determining which employees could use Windows 7 was time-consuming. The IT team would need to test all the older applications that an employee might use to see if they could run in Windows 7. For each user, Sporton spent about three to five hours testing the applications, which meant that—if Sporton ran tests for every employee who needed earlier applications—the IT team would have to spend more than 400 hours on testing. Challenges with Application Management
The Sporton IT team also spent more time than it wanted handling application management tasks. “We have a lean IT department, so we need to work as efficiently as possible and optimize our use of resources. But that was hard to do,” says Feng.
For instance, although IT personnel tested applications before deploying them to make sure that they could run without conflicting with other applications, it was not unusual for new application installations to fail. “We had a failure rate of between 10 and 15 percent. We would find out in reports from our instance of Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager that specific applications didn’t install, but we didn’t know why. Because employees could install whatever applications they wanted, the ones that the IT team provisioned could have been conflicting with a program that we did not even know about. We often had to send IT staff to troubleshoot the problem. That typically meant manually uninstalling and then reinstalling applications, which could take about 30 minutes.”
Sporton also found it difficult to manage application licenses. Because uninstalling applications was time-consuming and required a desk-side visit, applications that employees no longer used were often left on their computers. “It would have been great to be able to repurpose those licenses for other employees who needed the applications,” says Feng.
Sporton wanted a solution that would enable it to deploy older applications on computers running Windows 7 and simplify overall application management.
In August 2009, Sporton International heard about an upcoming Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization release and joined the technology adoption program (TAP) to take advantage of its support for 64-bit and 32-bit versions of Windows 7. “We knew that if we joined the technology adoption program, Microsoft would give us the support that we needed to quickly deploy MED-V and that would help us expedite the Windows 7 rollout,” says Feng
||Instead of taking 10 minutes to uninstall an application, it takes just seconds. This has helped reduce the time that our team spends on overall application-related issues by up to 80 percent.
IT Director, Sporton International
After a successful pilot with 10 users, Sporton began deploying MED-V more widely. In May 2010, the company completed its deployment to the 130 employees who needed to use applications that require Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6.
While MED-V helped Sporton solve its Windows 7 compatibility problem, the IT team was frustrated by language support issues that made MED-V very time-consuming to deploy. MED-V could not run on the Chinese version of Windows 7. It had to be installed on the English version of Windows 7. “To resolve this, we had to export employee data, uninstall the existing Chinese Windows 7 implementation, install English Windows 7 along with a language pack for Chinese, and transfer the data back to the worker’s computer,” says Feng. “The process took at least two hours per employee. It was a huge time drain for our IT staff. And because the employees’ applications were still in Chinese, there was a lot of confusion around inconsistent languages.”
In June 2010, Sporton found out that the TAP for a newer MED-V was starting. “When our Microsoft account representative told us that MED-V would now work with Chinese Windows 7, we immediately signed up for the TAP,” says Feng.
Sporton began testing the upgraded MED-V in July 2010. “The latest MED-V worked great with Chinese Windows 7. Because we no longer had to go through the process of replacing Chinese Windows 7 with English Windows 7, we could deploy the newer MED-V 70 percent faster,” says Feng.
Sporton also liked that, now, MED-V does not require a separate server infrastructure. According to Feng, “It requires much less architecture, which makes it a much more cost-effective solution. And now that it works so well with System Center Configuration Manager 2007 R3, we can use our existing environment to manage MED-V.”
As of February 2011, Sporton has deployed MED-V to 100 computers used by employees that require older applications and installed Windows 7 on 300 of its 450 computers. It used System Center Configuration Manager 2007 R3 to deploy the MED-V client and MED-V workspace, and a combination of System Center Configuration Manager and Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010 to deploy the operating system. The company is in the process of refreshing its remaining computers and, once complete, it will deploy Windows 7 on them. Sporton will provide MED-V to additional employees as the need arises.
To address its application management challenges, Sporton uses Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V). App-V transforms traditional applications into virtualized, network-available services that can be streamed on demand, running in the local computer’s cache without actually being installed on the computer. App-V and MED-V are part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, a suite of technologies available as a subscription for Software Assurance customers.
Sporton began using App-V in March 2010. As of February 2011, it had deployed the App-V client on 300 computers by using System Center Configuration Manager and virtualized 12 of the 17 applications that the IT department manages. The company plans to upgrade to the next version of App-V to take advantage of the enhanced Sequencer. The Sequencer is the tool within App-V that packages an application to run in a virtual environment. By using a wizard, users move through the steps needed to create the virtual application package. “By using the newer Sequencer, we will be able to make virtualizing applications easier and more predictable,” says Feng. “The combination of MED-V, App-V, System Center Configuration Manager, and Windows 7 is fantastic. By using them together, we can more easily, quickly, and securely deploy and manage the resources that our employees need.”Benefits
By using Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization and Application Virtualization, Sporton International accelerated deployment of Windows 7 and made desktop computers much more stable while reducing the burden on the help desk. The IT team gained tighter management over its desktop environment, simplified application upgrades, and drastically cut application deployment time.
“Without MED-V, we wouldn’t be able to deploy Windows 7 enterprisewide. Now, we don’t have to worry whether an older application is compatible with Windows 7. We just run it with MED-V and it works,” says Feng.
Sped Enterprisewide Deployment of Windows 7
||Because virtual applications are streamed to the desktop computer … users could get up and running on Office 2010 in just one to two minutes. Installing the Office suite would have taken at least 10 minutes.
IT Director, Sporton International
With MED-V, Sporton has accelerated deployment of Windows 7. Now, 66 percent of the company’s computers run Windows 7—double the number that ran the operating system before Sporton used MED-V. And as soon as Sporton upgrades its remaining hardware, it will deploy Windows 7 to all the computers.
“Before we used MED-V, our Windows 7 deployment was held up; we couldn’t provision it to users who require older applications. Now we can easily deploy applications that require Windows XP or Internet Explorer 6 on computers running Windows 7. Those applications are no longer a barrier to Windows 7 deployments,” says Feng. “MED-V is the best solution for accelerating rollouts of Windows 7.”
Because Sporton does not have to test older applications to determine whether they will run properly with Windows 7, it saves about 400 hours that would have been spent on compatibility testing. “If we think an application might not work with Windows 7, we just put it in the MED-V image,” Feng says.
If people who did not originally require MED-V begin to use an application that is incompatible with Windows 7, Sporton IT staff can easily remedy the situation. “Even if employees don’t need to run older applications now, there is always the chance that they will need to at a later date. By using MED-V and System Center Configuration Manager, we’ll be able to instantly deploy and easily manage those older applications,” says Feng.Improved Stability, Reduced Help-Desk Calls and Resolution Times by 80 Percent
Sporton has enhanced desktop reliability. “Moving more computers to Windows 7 has helped make our infrastructure much more stable. By using User Account Control, we reduced the chances of malware corrupting employee devices. Even people who run Windows XP in MED-V have fewer issues because they perform the vast majority of their work in the highly secure Windows 7 environment. System-related help-desk calls have decreased by at least 80 percent since we rolled out Windows 7,” says Feng.
The company gained similar improvements with application-related help-desk inquiries by using App-V. “Instead of having to manually troubleshoot—and uninstall and reinstall—applications, our IT personnel can remove virtualized applications from the user’s computer cache and instantly refresh them. Instead of taking 10 minutes to uninstall an application, it takes just seconds. This has helped reduce the time that our team spends on overall application-related issues by up to 80 percent,” says Feng.
The IT staff no longer has to troubleshoot failed installations because they don’t fail anymore. According to Feng, “By using App-V to isolate applications, we eliminate the chance of conflicts. We’re pretty much guaranteed to have no failures so we can deploy virtual applications without worry.”Tighter Management of Desktop Environment
By using App-V and the AppLocker feature in Windows 7, Sporton gained better management of its application environment. “We use AppLocker to prevent employees from installing IT-managed applications on their own and App-V to control who uses those applications by virtualizing them and using Active Directory services to manage application access,” says Feng.
It is much easier for Sporton to manage licenses. “If an employee is not using an application, we just remove the user’s rights in Active Directory and, if needed, assign the application to another worker. This is particularly helpful for applications that people only use occasionally. Because it is so easy to remove and redeploy applications, we can use App-V to optimize licenses,” notes Feng.Eased Application Upgrades, Accelerated Deployment by Up to 90 Percent
Managing application upgrades is easier, as was evident during the company’s transition from Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2003 to Office Professional 2010. Sporton used App-V to virtualize Office 2010 and deploy it to computers running the Office 2003 suite. “Because we can run different versions of the same application side by side, our employees could evaluate and get familiar with Office 2010 while still using Office 2003. By using App-V, we accelerated our upgrade to Office 2010 and made it a much easier transition for our employees,” says Feng.
With App-V, Sporton was able to speed deployment and upgrade applications much more efficiently. The company saved time by not having to remove Office 2003 in order to run Office 2010 and by streaming the application. “Because virtual applications are streamed to the desktop computer—and only the code needed to get the application running is sent—users could get up and running on Office 2010 in just one to two minutes. Installing the Office suite would have taken at least 10 minutes,” says Feng. 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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