4-page Case Study
Posted: 10/10/2011
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Merck Global Life Sciences Firm Upgrades Operating System, Improves Mobility

The Merck Group, an international pharmaceutical and chemical company headquartered in Darmstadt, Germany, maintains 39,000 PCs across 67 countries. It wanted to address a variety of mobile issues and find better tools for encrypting data. The company also sought to improve PC performance and to streamline PC manageability. Following the success of a year-long pilot program with the Windows 7 Enterprise operating system, Merck deployed Windows 7 to 14,000 PCs and plans to have the entire PC infrastructure upgraded by April 2014. The company employs features of Windows 7 to manage what software runs on employee PCs, to monitor PC events, and to encrypt data. By implementing Windows 7, Merck benefits from a high-performance operating system, improved manageability and security of its PC infrastructure, and enhanced features for mobile employees.

Situation
Headquartered in Darmstadt, Germany, The Merck Group is a global pharmaceutical and chemical company with total revenues of U.S.$13.2 billion in 2010. With roots that date to 1668, when Friedrich Jacob Merck acquired the Engel-Apotheke (Angel Pharmacy), the company is the oldest of its kind in the world. Merck manufactures pharmaceuticals in the realm of oncology, neurodegenerative diseases, fertility, endocrinology, and cardiometabolic care—among others. It offers a wide range of specialty chemicals that range from liquid crystals used in consumer electronics to pigments used in automotive coatings. It also produces consumer healthcare products, including vitamin and mineral supplements.

“I’m pretty sure that the computer displays you have before you now are made of Merck liquid crystals,” says Olivier Dury, Senior Manager for E-Workplace Team at The Merck Group. “And Magnum, an ice cream brand made in Europe, uses golden pigments made by Merck. In the pharmaceutical world, Merck provides highly sophisticated solutions, including drugs for the treatment of diabetes and cancer.”

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* The Windows 7 upgrade has been a great success story for Merck. From an IT perspective, there’s less overhead. It takes less time to install. It costs less. Employees love it. *

Olivier Dury
Senior Manager for E-Workplace Team, The Merck Group

*
In 2010, Merck acquired Millipore Corporation, an international biosciences company known for its micrometer pore-sized filters used in the production of medicinal products such as vaccines, allergenics, and gene therapy. With the acquisition of Millipore, Merck grew from 33,000 employees to 40,000 employees in 67 countries. The company’s IT professionals manage 39,000 PCs, which are divided equally between desktop PCs and portable computers.

Since 2005, the Merck workforce has been using the Windows XP operating system. The company’s most important line-of-business applications encompass tools for enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), manufacturing, and financial management. For the past five years, the company has been in the process of standardizing its IT infrastructure, which has multiple variations because of acquisitions. “Each time Merck acquires a company, we inherit a different, exotic environment,” says Dury. “It can be very difficult to get the budget mechanisms in place and the infrastructure under control.”

Fifty-one percent of employees—including the Merck sales force—work remotely almost all of time. The company had been using network connectivity solutions that users found cumbersome. “One of the difficulties with mobile connectivity is that our platform is highly secure,” says Dury. “The Merck endpoint is a fortress—the company network is so strongly protected that mobile employees had a great deal of difficulty accessing the resources they needed when they were on the road.”

The company wanted to address other issues that users of portable computers were experiencing. For example, when sales staff members needed to produce a report from the field, they were obliged to switch between telephone connectivity and virtual private network (VPN) connectivity. They had to enter different credentials for each system, use hardware tokens, and enter PIN codes. Employees also had problems with offline folders. “Windows XP has a very nice feature in which it detects whether your portable computer has connectivity—for example, on a home Wi-Fi network,” says Dury. “If it has connectivity, it attempts to synchronize the files on your computer, but it fails because you haven’t connected to the VPN.”

In addition, mobile employees couldn’t match the clocks on their PCs to the time zone they had traveled to (which made scheduling appointments challenging), and they couldn’t send documents to a printer outside the corporate network. “There were little problems that users couldn’t resolve unless they had elevated privileges,” says Dury.

The company’s PCs also lacked data encryption, which caused concerns that were realized when some portable computers were stolen at one of the affiliate sites. Merck addressed the problem with a third-party encryption tool, but it significantly slowed down the start time. In addition, synchronization between the passwords of the encryption tool and the operating system frequently failed. “We had a lot of hard disks crashing and we were never able to recover them,” says Dury.

In recent years, the company started to get reports from its IT professionals that PC performance was diminishing. Merck wanted to provide its employees with a better user experience, and it sought a better approach for managing its PC infrastructure. “In terms of performance, it appeared that we really had to do something,” says Dury.

Solution
As a customer with a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, which includes Microsoft Software Assurance, Merck has the right to upgrade to the newest version of the operating system: Windows 7 Enterprise. Software Assurance also provides the company with access to the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, which includes management and virtualization tools that make it easier for IT professionals to streamline deployment and manage the PC infrastructure. “Because we’re renewing our Enterprise Agreement with Microsoft, we have a very flexible and simple budget mechanism to manage the Windows 7 upgrade,” says Dury. “We have a number of companies within Merck, and the Enterprise Agreement gives us a very manageable framework to centrally define our deployment strategy.”

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* It was hard to put a limit on the pilot program because Windows 7 was so popular. Everyone was happy with it. *

Olivier Dury
Senior Manager for E-Workplace Team, The Merck Group

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Introducing Windows 7
Starting in August 2009, Merck asked employees to volunteer for the Windows 7 Early Adoption Program. The company was hoping to get 100 volunteers to sign up for the pilot program. Within a few months, 700 employees had signed up to have the operating system installed on their PCs. The campaign lasted a year. “It was hard to put a limit on the pilot program because Windows 7 was so popular,” says Dury. “Everyone was happy with it.”

Merck turned to France-based Exakis, a member of the Microsoft Partner Network, to design and implement a strategy for fully deploying Windows 7 across the enterprise. Exakis helped the company identify which operating system features made sense to adopt and recommended a phased deployment approach.

After a successful pilot program, Merck invited IT professionals at its affiliate locations to re-image existing hardware with Windows 7. The company has found that smaller locations with less complex IT infrastructures were eager to upgrade to Windows 7 on existing hardware. The larger, more complex facilities preferred to wait until their next scheduled hardware refresh cycle before installing the operating system. “Our guiding principle in deploying Windows 7 is to do it quickly,” says Dury. “Where it’s not practical to upgrade to Windows 7 on existing hardware, we’re taking the approach of installing the operating system as we replace hardware. It’s our policy to replace about one-third of all hardware annually.”

In preparing for the Windows 7 implementation, the company also took advantage of the sequencing capabilities—that is, the ability to define the chain of events (beyond imaging) during the operating system installation—of the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010, a comprehensive set of tools that help automate computer and server deployment. It is using custom deployment tools to manage the imaging.

Preparing Applications
To ready its application portfolio for deployment, Merck employs the Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) 5.0, a lifecycle management tool. The company uses ACT to centrally manage configuration settings, organize application compatibility efforts, and mitigate compatibility issues. “We are using ACT to create a framework around application testing,” says Dury. “It helps clear the way for the operating system deployment.”

The company is packaging applications for use with Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V), a component of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack. Merck employs App-V to decouple applications from the operating system and run them as network services. By creating a virtual IT environment, Merck can dynamically allocate computing resources based on real-time needs. The company is outsourcing the packaging of applications. So far, it has packaged about 3,000 applications, and it has virtualized 100 of those. By October 2011, it expects that four out of five packaged applications will be running in a virtualized environment.

Merck has met with some delays in cases in which third-party vendors are not yet providing support for their applications on the latest operating system. “If we can prove that an application works with Windows 7—even if the vendor won’t support it—we’re upgrading the operating system,” says Dury. “The challenge is that we have a very rich application landscape. We are taking the long approach.”

To address the challenges of deploying to a heterogeneous environment, Merck is requiring that IT professionals throughout the organization request approval in exceptional cases for which they choose to not upgrade the operating system.

Deploying Windows 7 also means upgrading to the Windows Internet Explorer 8 browser. The company has 96 percent of its web-based applications working with that browser. It is now testing and preparing to standardize on the Windows Internet Explorer 9 browser.

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* By using AppLocker, we can make sure that users can’t tamper with their PCs. It is the ultimate tool for pursuing our strategy of standardization. *

Olivier Dury
Senior Manager for E-Workplace Team, The Merck Group

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Deploying Windows 7 Features
By employing AppLocker, a Windows 7 feature, Merck IT professionals centrally manage—through the use of Group Policy—which software is allowed to run on users’ PCs. For example, the company uses the feature to prevent employees from launching any browser but Internet Explorer. This allows the IT department to streamline application delivery and ensure the standardization of endpoints. “By using AppLocker, we can make sure that users can’t tamper with their PCs,” says Dury. “It is the ultimate tool for pursuing our strategy of standardization.”

Merck IT professionals use the Microsoft System Center Desktop Error Monitoring, a component of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, to capture all application and operating system failures in a central location. At this stage, the company is monitoring PC events, detecting trends, and producing reports. “Desktop Error Monitoring has been providing us with a lot of data,” says Dury. “Our intention is to use it to detect endpoint issues before they are visible to the end user.”

It will also use the collected error data to create troubleshooting packs with the Windows Troubleshooting Platform, another Windows 7 feature, which can be employed to automate problem solving for common PC issues that users may encounter. To build the troubleshooting packs, they use Windows PowerShell, a scripting environment built on the Microsoft .NET Framework. The .NET Framework provides a comprehensive programming model and set of application programming interfaces for building applications and services.

Merck is also implementing BitLocker Drive Encryption in Windows 7, which helps keep everything from documents to passwords safer by encrypting the entire drive on which Windows and data reside. Once BitLocker is turned on, any file saved on the drive is encrypted automatically. The company also uses BitLocker To Go to encrypt data on removable storage devices, including USB flash drives.

Managing the Transition
To manage the transition to a new operating system, the company customizes the out-of-the-box Windows 7 support tools. “Users can click the Help button and easily search for the information they need,” says Dury.

Merck is currently studying the impact of having employees bring their own devices—portable computers or smartphones, for example—into the company’s IT infrastructure. Officially, it is not allowed, but in some affiliate offices, employees can get a waiver. The organization is looking into supporting consumer devices with tools including virtual desktops. “We are planning to implement a solution that will not require a waiver,” says Dury. “Employees will be able to use their own devices, but they won’t have full access to the Merck network. To support consultants, we have to go down this path because otherwise it’s a big fuss to get all the paperwork signed.”

As of October 2011, Merck has deployed Windows 7 to 14,000 PCs, and it plans to have implemented the operating system to 20,000 employees by April 2012. The entire PC infrastructure will be upgraded by April 2014. “We have a very good momentum going with the Windows 7 implementation,” says Dury.

Benefits
By deploying Windows 7 Enterprise, Merck benefits from a high-performance, easy-to-use operating system that is popular among employees. IT professionals can more easily manage the PC infrastructure with advanced tools for setting policies and maintaining security. Users of portable computers get the advantage of numerous mobility improvements. “The Windows 7 upgrade has been a great success story for Merck,” says Dury. “From an IT perspective, there’s less overhead. It takes less time to install. It costs less. Employees love it.”

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* App-V reduces the cost of packaging applications by 80 percent and makes it easy for users to get the applications they need. *

Olivier Dury
Senior Manager for E-Workplace Team, The Merck Group

*
Improved Performance
Merck conducted tests to compare the startup times of Windows 7 with the previous operating system. It found that for an average portable computer, it takes about one minute for Windows 7 to start, whereas the former operating system required nearly four minutes. “From a performance standpoint, Windows 7 breaks all records,” says Dury. “It’s extremely fast.”

Merck has found that the stability and security of Windows 7 has helped reduce support calls by at least 70 percent. In addition, employees are more efficient because they can take advantage of Windows 7 productivity features including offline synchronization, Windows Search, and data encryption.

The Windows 7 deployment has met with uniform approval from Merck employees. The operating system is stable and easy to operate. “From a user’s perspective, Windows 7 and Internet Explorer 8 are awesome,” says Dury. “They are easy to use and deliver high performance. They just work.”

Increased Manageability and Security
With advanced Group Policy features and other management tools, Merck IT professionals find it easier to negotiate the company’s diverse PC environment. For example, by using AppLocker, Merck is moving closer to its goal of infrastructure standardization. “The advantage of AppLocker is that it’s quite transparent,” says Dury. “If a user is attempting to run a forbidden application, a friendly, explicit, and customizable message is displayed saying that it’s not okay.”

In addition, thanks to App-V, it is easier for employees to run applications regardless of where they are working or what PC they are running. “App-V reduces the cost of packaging applications by 80 percent and makes it easy for users to get the applications they need,” says Dury.

The company also benefits from improved security features in the Internet Explorer browser, and it is taking advantage of data encryption that is tightly integrated, removes the need for third-party software, and does not interfere with PC performance. “BitLocker is a big improvement in data encryption,” says Dury. “We are very happy with it.”

Better Mobility
Users of portable computers are taking advantage of the improved features in Windows 7. Employees can now connect to wireless networks effortlessly through a utility on the taskbar, and the company avoids the cost and complexity of using third-party solutions. In addition, it is now a simple matter to change the clock to reflect a different time zone or send a document to a home printer. Upgrading the operating system has helped improve battery life on portable computers, including on older models. “Windows 7 solves a host of mobility issues,” says Dury. “I travel every week, and I’m very happy about the improvements.”

Windows 7
Works the way you want: Windows 7 will help your organization use information technology to gain a competitive advantage in today’s new world of work. Your people will be able to be more productive anywhere. You will be able to support your mobile workforce with better access to shared data and collaboration tools. And your IT staff will have better tools and technologies for enhanced corporate IT security and data protection, and more efficient deployment and management.

For more information about Windows 7, go to:
www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7

For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
www.microsoft.com

For more information about Exakis products and services, call (33) 04-37-64-28-40 or visit the website at:
www.exakis.com

For more information about The Merck Group products and services, call (49) 6151 72-0 or visit the website at:
www.merck.de

Solution Overview



Organization Size: 40000 employees

Organization Profile

Headquartered in Darmstadt, Germany, and with a history dating to 1668, Merck is an industry leader in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and consumer healthcare products. It has 40,000 employees.


Business Situation

Merck needed better operating system features for its mobile workforce, and it sought to improve data security, performance, and manageability of its entire PC infrastructure.


Solution

The company uses Windows 7 Enterprise features and Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack components—including Microsoft Application Virtualization—to streamline deployment of the operating system.


Benefits

  • Improved performance
  • Increased manageability and security
  • Better mobile access


Software and Services
  • Windows 7 Enterprise
  • Microsoft Application Virtualization
  • Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit 5.0
  • Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010
  • Windows Internet Explorer 8
  • AppLocker
  • BitLocker To Go
  • Windows Troubleshooting Platform
  • Windows BitLocker Drive Encryption
  • Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack
  • Microsoft System Center Desktop Error Monitoring

Vertical Industries
Manufacturing & Resources

Country/Region
Germany

IT Issue
  • Identity, Security and Access Management
  • Personal Productivity

Languages
English

Partner(s)
Exakis

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