Apollo Group is a pioneer in adult education and online learning. The IT department needed a better tool to manage more than 35,000 computers worldwide. It is deploying Microsoft System Center 2012 Configuration Manager globally by June 2012.
Apollo Group expects to save US$250,000 annually in software costs and to reduce by 50 percent the amount of IT staff required to configure the desktop, saving a further $100,000 annually. IT staff can use Configuration Manager to support virtualized applications
hosted at the universities so they can reduce local servers by 50 percent and avoid $1.2 million in future hardware costs. With Configuration Manager, IT staff will replace several management tools with one, simplifying their work while ensuring an optimal
computing experience for staff and students and eliminating disruptions due to manual deployments.
John Sperling, founder of the Apollo Group, recognized an important change in employment demographics in the United States. Beginning in the 1970s, instead of seeking lifelong employment with a single employer, people began pursuing careers with multiple
companies. Sperling founded the University of Phoenix as a response to the education needs of this new workforce. Today, the University of Phoenix operates more than 300 campuses across the United States.
Over the years, Apollo Group has developed nearly 100 business-critical, proprietary educational applications and added other subsidiaries—Apollo Global, College for Financial Planning and Institute for Professional Development—to establish itself as a leading
provider of higher education programs for 450,000 people worldwide. Today, Apollo Group is in a growth phase; it has established a data center in London that supports an infrastructure of 1,200 desktops at 50 campuses across the United Kingdom, and it is in
the midst of establishing new learning institutions in Mexico, Chile, and India.
Goal to Modernize IT Environment
To provide an optimal support system for its global learning environments, Apollo Group has been modernizing and streamlining its global IT infrastructure for the past four years. It maintains a corporate network for employees and a network for students, which
includes 8,500 PCs in computer labs across the United States. Both networks are managed from a data center at the company’s headquarters in Phoenix. However, most University of Phoenix brick-and-mortar universities across the United States have two servers―one
for the corporate environment and one for the student environment―to house local applications.
In 2010, the IT staff completed a rollout of the Windows 7 operating system to its 35,000 client computers worldwide. The company is progressing with a Citrix-based virtualization project for 22,000 of its desktops, augmented with a Microsoft Application
Virtualization (App-V) solution to host and stream virtualized application packages to client computers, which is supported by two servers running Microsoft Application Virtualization Management Server. These initiatives went a long way toward simplifying
the company’s desktop environment and helping IT staff to ensure the health of the company’s PCs and the proprietary applications that employees and students rely on.
Client Management Challenges
||We can see uses for Configuration Manager everywhere, and we are rolling out the solution to all 35,000 desktops as fast as we can.
| Claudiu Budurlean
Director of Client Computing Architecture, Apollo Group
“We had a newly centralized, standardized, and virtualized desktop infrastructure to deliver applications to our constituents, however, it threw into relief the serious shortcomings of our remote client management tool,” says Claudiu Budurlean, Director of
Client Computing Architecture at Apollo Group. “Client computing is all about delivering the best possible PC experience to our staff and students but the tool we had kept letting us down, negating all the good work we had done.”
Apollo Group had been using a desktop management tool from Symantec called Altiris to assess and inventory computers and to deploy software upgrades, operating systems, and applications. This solution required 250 servers in US university locations, with
another 50 in London, and 10 administrators to run it all. Even with that many IT staffers, Apollo Group was frequently unable to meet the company’s service level agreements for software updates. “We couldn’t rely on the tool to deliver the applications the
business needed,” says Budurlean. “Recently, we deployed a new HR solution, and we had to manually install the client component on 22,000 PCs across the company. This was expensive, time-consuming, and disruptive for our employees.”
IT staff used Altiris to provision and manage student computers, which meant that students also faced similar service disruptions and called the help desk in great numbers to complain about the slow manual software installations in computer labs. The solution
did not provide management capabilities for the mobile devices that Apollo Group supported for its employees: BlackBerry devices and iPhones. “We had staff that wanted to bring Windows 7 phones or Android phones to use for work, and we couldn’t accommodate
them,” says Budurlean. “We also wanted to give employees self-serve access to core approved applications in our definitive media library [DML], which is a central repository for all applications for desktops. We had the library but not the ability to centrally
deploy the applications. Employees still had to open a ticket, and we still had to manually install the application.”
Also, the previous tool created obstacles to the company’s global expansion. Apollo Group needed to bring its acquisitions in Mexico, Chile, and India into the corporate infrastructure, but it needed a more robust central desktop management tool to manage
the additional desktops and applications that came with these entities. The company is expanding its Active Directory Domain Services, the directory service that is an integral feature of the Windows operating system, to accommodate its growing operations,
and it needed a solution that would interoperate well with the domain service. “We needed a robust, flexible, and scalable client management solution that we could use to publish information from different global sites to our expanding Active Directory infrastructure,”
To solve their management needs for virtualized environments and mobile devices in use at the company, IT employees were forced to work with different management tools when they would have preferred to use one. To manage BlackBerry devices and iPhones, IT
staff had to use separate management tools; the McAfee Enterprise Mobility Management tool for the iPhones and the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) for BlackBerries. For managing virtual desktops running Windows XP or Windows 7, they used the Citrix XenDesktop
“It was frustrating that we were forced to spend money on multiple third-party tools,” says Budurlean. “We needed a client management tool we could use to empower staff and students with optimal computing experiences on any computer or device. At the same
time, we wanted to consolidate client management across virtual and physical environments to simplify IT administration and save us time and money.”
Budurlean decided to evaluate Microsoft System Center 2012 Configuration Manager, the latest client management solution from Microsoft. Configuration Manager can be used to administer a range of mobile devices that connect to Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync,
including the Windows Phone 7 and Android-based devices that Apollo Group employees wanted to use at work. It also consolidates all client management tasks across mobile, physical, and virtual environments and simplifies IT administration. In October 2011,
Apollo Group joined the Microsoft System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Community Evaluation Program (CEP) for Production Support. As part of the CEP, Apollo Group worked with ITC InfoTech, a member of the Microsoft Partner Network with six Gold competencies,
to help plan and deploy a pilot implementation of the beta edition of System Center 2012 at Apollo Group. ITC InfoTech had been part of the company’s Windows 7 deployment project.
“System Center was a natural choice for us―it is already part of our Microsoft campus agreement, and the solution would interoperate with our Active Directory infrastructure,” says Budurlean. “Apollo Group has been using Microsoft System Center Configuration
Manager 2007 to update our servers in our data center for many years. It’s easy to see that Microsoft has the best management solution for Windows systems but I was keen to test how the latest version would manage iOS and Android devices and how it would work
in our virtualized environment.”
In August 2011, Apollo Group and ITC InfoTech began a pilot project in its product support and validation lab in Phoenix. The pilot project involved a subset of computers in the production environment, and provided an opportunity to compare Configuration
Manager with the latest version of Altiris, side by side. The teams had both tools update 3,000 clients: within two hours, System Center Configuration Manager had updated 60 percent of the machines, while Altiris had updated one percent. After evaluating System
Center 2012 in the lab’s isolated network environment and with its Active Directory replica, the teams felt confident enough to begin deploying the Configuration Manager Release Candidate 1 to a limited production environment of approximately 7,500 client
||We needed a client management tool we could use to empower staff and students with optimal computing experiences on any computer or device.
| Claudiu Budurlean
Director of Client Computing Architecture, Apollo Group
According to Sreejith Manalil, Senior Consultant on the ITC Infotech team, “The stability and enhanced reliability offered by System Center 2012 Configuration Manager surpassed the features offered by the other desktop management tool in terms of managing heterogeneous
clients. With the availability of the desktop management infrastructure and its relative ease of operation with respect to basic deployment activities, the Apollo client management team can now achieve the company’s deployment and compliance goals in one-tenth
of the time it took previously, and at a fraction of the effort.”
As soon as Configuration Manager Release Candidate 2 came out, Budurlean and his team began deploying the latest version across both corporate and student networks: to date, it has installed the agent software on 13,500 computers. Apollo Group is building
a Configuration Manager hierarchy, with its central administration site in Phoenix and additional primary sites to support client management operations at its subsidiaries, such as the University of Phoenix and the Institute for Professional Development. To
accommodate global expansion, it is replicating this configuration for Apollo Global, the parent company of several international subsidiaries.
“We have a separate Active Directory for Apollo Global and a similar Configuration Manager hierarchy: a central administration site in Phoenix for Apollo Global and primary sites for the international subsidiaries,” says Budurlean. “The flexibility of Configuration
Manager will be a huge benefit as we expand; we can add primary sites and choose system roles that we need for each location.”
Manalil adds: “Many of the new Configuration Manager features—such as the application deployment model, client health monitoring, automatic remediation and automatic deployment rules—simplify the efforts associated with endpoint management drastically, so
the Apollo desktop management team can focus on core functions of improving user experience and customer satisfaction.”
So far, Apollo Group is using Configuration Manager to deploy system updates and new software versions to computers on the corporate and student networks. After its existing security software subscription expires, Budurlean will evaluate using Microsoft
System Center 2012 Endpoint Protection to manage desktop security and compliance from within the Configuration Manager console. The IT team wants to replace the two physical servers at each university site with a single server that will run the Windows Server
2008 R2 operating system with Hyper-V virtualization technology. Then it can segment virtualized corporate and student applications and run them on the same server.
“The only reason we can move ahead with this project is that Configuration Manager is perfectly at home in a virtualized environment and we can use it to manage the virtual applications,” says Budurlean. “We can see uses for Configuration Manager everywhere,
and we are rolling out the solution to all 35,000 desktops as fast as we can.”
Even in the midst of its global rollout of Configuration Manager, Apollo Group IT staff members are thrilled that they finally have a robust, centralized solution for core desktop management tasks such as application delivery, desktop virtualization,
and device management. The new capabilities in Configuration Manager will make it easier for IT staff to empower employees and students to be productive through optimal working experiences; to consolidate IT client management tools; and to simplify IT administration.
According to Budurlean and his IT team, these new features will help them ensure that the company’s desktop environment meets corporate expectations and strategic goals.
The extraordinary success Apollo Group has experienced so far with Configuration Manager has lit up interest in other Microsoft System Center products. The organization is evaluating other components of System Center, such as Microsoft System Center 2012
– Operation Manager, Microsoft System Center 2012 - Virtual Machine Manager, and Microsoft System Center 2012 - Orchestrator. “We plan to integrate all products together to utilize the enhanced functionalities once the respective evaluations are complete,”
Avoid 1.2 Million in Hardware Costs
Ensure Staff and Students are More Productive
There are several ways that Apollo Group expects to save money when it fully deploys Configuration Manager. First, it will be able to retire Altiris, saving approximately US$250,000 in annual license costs alone. “Because of the simplicity and reliability of
Configuration Manager, I expect to reduce by 50 percent the number of full-time employees that we had to support Altiris,” says Budurlean. “This amounts to approximately $100,000 in IT labor costs that we can redeploy toward more strategically important projects.
And now that we have Configuration Manager with its enhanced application virtualization management capabilities, we can go ahead with our Hyper-V deployment and virtualize applications at the universities. This will reduce by 50 percent the number of servers
we would have had to refresh, saving another $1.2 million in avoided hardware costs.”
For Budurlean, the most compelling benefit of Configuration Manager is how it will help the IT staff to better serve employees and students. With Configuration Manager, the IT staff can accommodate more choice for employees when it comes to their mobile devices,
while ensuring compliance with corporate security policies. Budurlean and his staff will use the tool to provide optimal desktop computing experiences to keep everyone working more productively. “No more manual deployments, no more waves of complaints from
students to the help desk because we are days behind in rolling out an application they need for their courses,” says Budurlean.
Apollo Group intends to port its DML into Configuration Manager and allow self-serve for corporate-approved core applications for employees using the solution’s built-in workflows. “Instead of it taking several days to request and receive an application
from the store, now an employee will be able to download one with a couple of clicks,” says Budurlean.
Unify Management Tools
The IT staff at Apollo Group will be able to replace the Altiris Software Portal, the Application Virtualization Management Servers, and, possibly, the McAfee Enterprise Mobility Management tool with Configuration Manager. This means that IT employees finally
have a tool to manage all client computers and mobile devices across physical and virtual environments, so the company can reap the benefits of its desktop standardization and virtualization programs.
“For us, it’s very important to have a tool that is capable of doing multiple things. We saw a use case scenario for System Center 2012 Configuration Manager in managing Microsoft App-V. Now we can see our entire client infrastructure through a centralized
console,” says Budurlean. “We had the streamlined, standardized desktop infrastructure, but we needed a tool like Configuration Manager, with its centralized management capabilities, to make it work the way we intended.”
Simplify IT Administration
Now, half the number of system administrators will be able to work efficiently to manage the entire Apollo Group desktop computing environment. IT staff members report that the user interface of the Configuration Manager console is much cleaner and more intuitive
than what they’re used to.
“We are expecting a less convoluted configuration process, where we can assign site system roles easily to target computers belonging to specific user groups at any of our global locations,” says Budurlean. “One tool capable of any number of logical segmentations
for policy settings will help us simplify our business processes in general. Finally, we have a desktop configuration tool to support the business. We can’t wait until the rollout is complete!”
Microsoft System Center 2012
Microsoft System Center 2012 helps your organization achieve IT as a service by enabling productive infrastructure, predictable applications, and cloud computing on your terms. With System Center 2012, use a self-service model to deliver flexible and cost-effective
private cloud infrastructure to your business units while capitalizing on existing data center investments. Applications run your business, so System Center 2012 is designed to offer deep application insight combined with a service-centric approach to help
you deliver predictable application services. Finally, by using System Center 2012, you can deliver and consume private and public cloud computing on your terms, with common management experiences across both.
For more information about Microsoft System Center 2012, go to:
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:
For more information about ITC Infotech products and services, visit the website at:
For more information about Apollo Group products and services, call (800) 990-APOL or visit the website at: