Carnival Cruise Lines offers fun, memorable vacation experiences to more than 4 million travelers each year. With land-based offices and 23 ships and multiple ports of call around the world, the company’s distributed IT environment is also uniquely
structured and can be difficult to manage. In April 2011, Carnival implemented Microsoft System Center 2012 Configuration Manager in its land-based offices and plans to expand the deployment companywide by the end of 2012. With more than 6,300 of its 12,500
client devices managed by using System Center 2012 Configuration Manager, Carnival has already noted a significant improvement in IT health, has gained detailed role-based client computer access, and has simplified IT management. The company also has implemented
a self-service model for employees to install approved software—without requiring assistance from help-desk personnel.
Carnival Cruise Lines is prominent in the global travel industry—one of the most popular cruise lines—serving more than 4 million travelers each year. Carnival has 23 ships in its expanding fleet, which sail on 3- to 18-day excursions to multiple ports
of call around the globe.
The company has a uniquely structured, distributed IT environment with more than 12,500 client devices to manage. To coordinate all IT tasks, Carnival has a central IT department and data center located at its headquarters in Miami, Florida. It has additional
infrastructure on each of its ships, at permanent ports of call, and at temporary ports of call. The IT environment on each ship is connected to the central IT department in Miami through satellite links, but is also designed in such a way that if a satellite
link is down and a ship is disconnected from the main data center, it can operate independently. For instance, each ship has a separate Active Directory domain. An IT manager is also on each ship to handle everything from client-side administration tasks to
At its ports of call, Carnival has direct connectivity back to the main data center in Miami. However, the ships also visit embarkation ports where the company does not have permanent locations and, therefore, no infrastructure. When ships visit those ports,
employees use portable computers to complete the embarkation process for travelers. “Where we don’t have any infrastructure, agents use portable computers that connect through a wireless network connection to the ship in order to complete the embarkation process,”
says Thomas DeLuca, Supervisor of End-User Engineering at Carnival Cruise Lines.
||We have seen a tremendous increase in client computer health since moving to System Center 2012 Configuration Manager.
| Thomas DeLuca
Supervisor of End-User Engineering, Carnival Cruise Lines
Because of the nature of its IT environment—a distributed model with various connectivity options to ship data centers and the main data center—the IT department at Carnival pays careful attention to system health and tries to ensure that all devices are current
with software and critical security updates. The company has used Microsoft products and technologies for its systems management solution for years, starting with Microsoft Systems Management Server 2003 and then moving to Microsoft System Center Configuration
Manager 2007. “Using systems management solutions from Microsoft has helped us tremendously in managing our unique environment,” says DeLuca. “That said, we are always seeking opportunities to improve how we manage systems.”
One of the challenges at Carnival was managing client device health in its distributed environment, specifically when there were issues on computers with Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), a set of extensions that enables computers to be managed through
scripting languages and a required component for systems management. “On those computers where there was an issue with WMI, computers would simply not receive required software and security updates,” says DeLuca. “After we found that a computer wasn’t receiving
updates, the IT department would have to troubleshoot and repair the client, which often required manual steps and disrupted users with unplanned computer reboots. Until it was repaired, the computer was at risk of not having necessary updates.”
Carnival had only a manual process for updating its 25 stand-alone Remote Installation Services (RIS) points, an issue that it needed to address before it could upgrade from the Windows XP operating system to Windows 7 Enterprise at those 25 points—23 ships
and two remote offices. The company used Remote Installation Services and Windows Deployment Services to deploy operating system images to its ships, but it was a manual task to copy software to computers on each of the ships through a satellite link. “It
is an incredibly tedious task to manually copy operating system images, drivers, and software to 23 ships over a satellite link,” says DeLuca. In addition, Carnival also had to manually deploy operating systems at several of its embarkation ports, which are
designated as secondary sites within its Active Directory Domain Services directory and, therefore, unable to receive automatic updates.
Carnival also struggled to manage its distributed environment with a delegated security model, specifically on each of its ships. “We delegate our software collections from a central location to each ship; IT managers on each ship help troubleshoot issues,”
DeLuca says. “But we only want the ship-board IT managers to access and manage the systems on that ship.” At the same time, because a configuration management IT team is responsible for deploying updates to the entire company, the company needed to give them
broader systems access across the environment. “We wanted the ability to create a deployment package to a specific set of computers, have that deployment visible to the central IT team, and then set specific security options for ship-board IT managers—that
was a challenge for us,” says DeLuca.
In March 2011, Carnival Cruise Lines participated in a Microsoft Technology Adoption Program (TAP) to update its client management solution to Microsoft System Center 2012 Configuration Manager. The company had previously participated in a TAP when it
upgraded from Microsoft Systems Management Server 2003 to System Center Configuration Manager 2007. Based on that experience, it was eager to participate in the TAP for System Center 2012 Configuration Manager.
“We had seen the benefits of participating in these programs with the help of Microsoft Services and were excited to participate,” says John Ashmore, Manager of IT Infrastructure Engineering at Carnival Cruise Lines. As part of the TAP, the company learned
about features and enhancements available in System Center 2012 Configuration Manager, participated in one-on-one planning sessions with a representative from the TAP product group, and gained hands-on experience for how it could use Configuration Manager
to address the challenges with its uniquely structured environment.
||By using Configuration Manager, we can specify which systems that IT personnel can access.
| Thomas DeLuca
Supervisor of End-User Engineering, Carnival Cruise Lines
After a limited pilot deployment to a small lab environment, Carnival started deploying the beta version of Configuration Manager to a production environment in April 2011. It started with its main office in Miami, Florida, and then deployed the release candidate
to other offices, some of its home port locations, and to a simulated ship environment—to a total of 3,000 devices. By March 2012, the company was managing more than 6,300 of its 12,500 devices with Configuration Manager, including 800 servers, with plans
to roll out the systems management solution to all its ships, including a new ship under construction, by the middle of 2012.
Carnival uses the built-in client check feature in Configuration Manager to ensure that the Configuration Manager client is always healthy and available. By using the feature, Carnival can automatically check clients on a daily basis and ensure that required
components like WMI are working. Even if a computer is disconnected from Configuration Manager, the client check feature detects and automatically repairs any components that are not functioning properly. “Now, everything is checked and repaired on a daily
basis and we are more confident that all of our systems are available and current with the latest software and security updates,” explains DeLuca.
To address its need for a more streamlined approach to operating system deployments on its ships, Carnival takes advantage of enhancements in Configuration Manager to replicate driver packages and operating system images to multiple distribution points.
“It’s very easy now to create task sequences for our images and send replicates out to any of our ships when we deploy operating systems,” says Ashmore. “We also use asset intelligence enhancements to get a comprehensive view of the hardware and software that
is deployed to collections of computers in order to proactively determine where we might have incompatibility issues and resolve those issues prior to deployment.”
At its port locations that were previously designated as secondary sites in its Active Directory domains, Carnival collapsed its Active Directory hierarchy and promoted the sites to primary sites. “We can now use Configuration Manager to deploy operating
systems and updated software to temporary port locations from a central location,” says DeLuca.
Carnival takes advantage of role-based access in Configuration Manager to specifically manage which IT administrators have access to which systems. Carnival has assigned more than one dozen roles—such as the Application Deployment Manager role, the Application
Administrator role, and the Remote Tools Operator role—to various IT administrators. Based on their assigned roles, IT administrators can only perform relevant tasks and cannot inadvertently make changes to systems for which they are not responsible. In addition,
IT administrators can access tasks in Configuration Manager through a console that includes an enhanced user interface where tasks are logically grouped.
Carnival also enabled the Application Catalog, a feature in System Center 2012 Configuration Manager that provides employees with the ability to install authorized software through a self-service, web-based interface. “Employees can browse through available
software in our portfolio of more than 200 applications and obtain software they’re authorized to use without calling the help desk for assistance and at a time when it is convenient for them,” says Ashmore.
Nearly halfway through its deployment of Configuration Manager, Carnival is already looking to the future and evaluating how to expand its use of the solution. For instance, the company realizes that “consumerization of IT”—or the ability for employees to
access corporate resources on both corporate-owned and personal assets—is a reality that it will need to address. “We do not support a consumerization model today, but we will in the future,” says DeLuca. “By using System Center 2012 Configuration Manager,
we will be better positioned to manage all our mobile, physical, and virtual environments, including consumer devices.”
||It’s very easy now to create task sequences for our images and send replicates out to any of our ships when we deploy operating systems.
| John Ashmore
Manager of IT Infrastructure Engineering, Carnival Cruise Lines
As a result of implementing System Center 2012 Configuration Manager, Carnival Cruise Lines has improved the health of its IT environment, gained the detailed,role-based control it needed, and streamlined IT management of its complex distributed environment.
In addition to facilitating easier system management for its IT personnel, Carnival also improved the user experience for employees by offering them the ability to install software themselves.
Improved IT System Health
By using Configuration Manager, Carnival reports an increase in IT system health. In particular, the company is assured that its computers are available and ready to receive software or security updates. IT administrators do not have to worry about system
issues that might otherwise prevent a computer from receiving required updates. “We have seen a tremendous increase in computer health since moving to System Center 2012 Configuration Manager,” says DeLuca. “By using the built-in client check feature, we can
ensure that if there is a problem with the client computer, it is automatically repaired on a daily basis, so that it is always ready to receive updates.”
Carnival now has the detailed management it needs to ensure that IT administrators have access only to the relevant systems for which they are responsible and can perform only tasks that are pertinent to their specific IT role. “By using Configuration
Manager, we can specify which systems that IT personnel can access,” says DeLuca. “For instance, personnel who work in the central IT department have enterprisewide access, while IT personnel on a ship can only access computers that are on their ship. This
helps us maintain a compliant, secure environment.”
Improved Employee Experience
Carnival now has a self-service model for software deployment that improves the end-user experience and frees up IT personnel time. Employees can access the web-based Application Catalog in Configuration Manager themselves, at a time that is most convenient
for them and locate the approved software they need.
“Previously, installing software on a client computer could take up to one hour, when considering that the employees had to call the help desk, maybe wait on hold for several minutes, explain to the help desk agent what software they needed, and then wait
for the software to come to their machine before it could be installed,” says DeLuca. “Now, employees access the Application Catalog, find the authorized software they need and click ‘Install.’ The system immediately detects any client requirements, downloads
and installs the requirements, and then installs the software. Essentially, requesting software is an almost instantaneous process with Configuration Manager.”
Streamlined IT Management
Carnival has streamlined its systems management even despite its unique IT environment, using a distributed model that includes the main office, ships, home ports, and ports of call, but with coordination from a central location. Thanks to the enhanced
user interface, Carnival can organize administrative tasks by business role, which ensures that only relevant features are visible for any role. “We can use the monitoring features in the interface console to see a near real-time view of what is happening
in our environment,” says DeLuca. “We can be more proactive with how we manage our IT environment, ensure that computers are ready for updates, and more easily prepare for operating system deployments. We have streamlined how we manage our environment with
Configuration Manager and will continue to make improvements as we expand our deployment.”
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