May 16, 2011
Cruise Operator Facilitates Companywide Operating System Upgrade with Virtualization
MED-V virtualization tool used to ease compatibility issues during migration to Windows 7.
Cruise Operator Facilitates Companywide Operating System Upgrade with Virtualization
A spirit of innovation has driven Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. to the top of the cruise vacation industry. It also drove the company to embark on a companywide upgrade to the Windows 7 Enterprise operating system. The project was at risk, however, because some key business applications that rely on the Windows Internet Explorer 6 browser couldn’t run on Windows 7, which has Internet Explorer 8 as part of its base image. By using Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V), Royal Caribbean found it could run applications that require Internet Explorer 6 in a virtual Windows XP environment on Windows 7–based desktops. With this solution, the company can now proceed with its Windows 7 rollout and upgrade applications when it makes most business sense. IT staffers avoid spending weeks remediating application compatibility issues and gain simplified desktop computer troubleshooting.
Founded in 1968, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. has grown into the second largest cruise company, operating five cruise brands, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Pullmantur, Azamara Club Cruises, and CDF Croisières de France. Headquartered in Miami, Florida, the company reported U.S.$5.89 billion in revenue in 2009. Its commitment to innovation extends to information technology. Evidence of IT can be seen shipboard—for instance, with bow-to-stern wireless networks, interactive digital signage, and real-time restaurant availability tracking on recently launched ships—as well as shore side, where IT is used to help guests plan cruise activities in advance of their trip, and employees rely on the latest technologies to perform daily business operations.
The IT staff at Royal Caribbean supports about 6,000 employees and more than 5,500 desktop and laptop computers, all of which were running either the Windows XP Service Pack (SP) 2 or SP 3 operating system. Although Windows XP had served them well in the past, some employees—in particular, those who were more tech-savvy and at senior levels in the organization—wanted a more modern solution. “Our executives wanted their computers to perform faster. They wanted quicker PC start times and more seamless sleep functionality,” says Alex Ramos, Senior Manager, IT Operations at Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
Additionally, the IT team wanted a better way to manage and secure employees’ computers. “We gave our laptop users administrator rights so that they could have more flexibility over their devices, but that made the devices susceptible to malware from software downloads,” notes Jose Grullon, Senior IT Project Manager at Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
To address these issues, in May 2010, Royal Caribbean decided to upgrade all of its computers to the Windows 7 Enterprise operating system. “Windows 7 provides the improved performance and manageability that we need. It starts faster than Windows XP and is easy to bring out of hibernation and back to current state. We also liked the idea of centralizing security through BitLocker drive encryption and using the User Account Control feature to decrease the chance that employees will inadvertently download software that corrupts their computers,” says Jean Claude Akin, Software Engineer, Systems Certification at Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
Royal Caribbean wanted to begin the upgrade as quickly as possible to accommodate demand from senior-level employees. There was one problem, however, and it was significant. Several of the company’s key applications—including software from JD Edwards, Siebel, and Hyperion—depend on 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 Windows 7 devices. The implications of not being able to run these applications were far-reaching because several thousand workers use them.
Although a newer version of the JD Edwards software is compatible with Internet Explorer 8—and the company had budgeted for the upgrade—IT staff would not have the resources or time to be able to deploy the upgraded package until the second or third quarter of 2011. “We wanted to move employees’ computers to Windows 7 so that they could benefit from its security and performance improvements. But if we couldn’t run these older business-critical applications that required Internet Explorer 6 on Windows 7, we would have to keep about 2,000 of our users on Windows XP,” Ramos says.
* MED-V helps ensure that we can move forward with an enterprisewide rollout of Windows 7 without getting sidetracked by application compatibility issues. *
Senior Manager, IT Operations, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
The company had considered using the Windows XP Mode feature in Windows 7, which would enable users to run Windows XP–based applications, but quickly realized that it was not suitable. “Windows XP Mode is designed for small businesses rather than enterprises. It doesn’t have the usability and management capabilities that we need, and it would have required us to use an image that wasn’t certified for our environment,” says Ramos.
In June 2010, to help get its Windows 7 upgrade off to a strong start, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. engaged Sogeti, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner. “We wanted Sogeti to educate us about how to get the most value from the new operating system. When we told the consultants about our application compatibility challenges, they recommended evaluating Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization [MED-V]. It was immediately apparent that MED-V could help us address our problems,” says Grullon.
MED-V, part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (a suite of technologies available as a subscription for Software Assurance customers), is used to run older applications in a virtual Windows XP environment on a Windows 7–based desktop. Royal Caribbean did a proof-of-concept project with MED-V in July 2010 and implemented it the following month. In September 2010, when the company’s IT staffers needed to begin deploying Windows 7 Enterprise to director-level employees and above, they were ready with the MED-V solution.
Royal Caribbean deployed the MED-V client with the Windows 7 image using the company’s existing management tools. As of December 2010, Royal Caribbean had installed MED-V and Windows 7 on about 525 computers. According to Akin, “The feedback from employees was positive, but printing and saving files with MED-V weren’t as seamless as we would have liked. Luckily, we found out about an upcoming release of a newer MED-V. We realized right away that, with its enhanced integration with Windows 7 and easier printing and document management, the latest MED-V had exactly the capabilities we needed.”
Royal Caribbean joined the Technology Adoption Program (TAP) for the newer MED-V to speed its implementation. “We were eager to deploy MED-V so that we could move ahead with our rollout of Windows 7, and working closely with the Microsoft team enabled us to accelerate our deployment,” Grullon says.
Through the TAP, Royal Caribbean was exposed to MED-V enhancements that made the product even more attractive. Akin notes, “MED-V is simple to use and fast. Its performance is great, and because it doesn’t require a separate server infrastructure, it can be quickly and easily deployed. And, it enables us to easily redirect a wider variety of web applications by using wildcards and special characters.”
The company tested the newer MED-V with an initial group of 20 employees in December 2010. Based on its success, in January 2011 it began the process of including MED-V in all Windows 7 deployments. Royal Caribbean will upgrade earlier MED-V installations on an as-needed basis.
Before the IT staff deploys Windows 7 to employees, it meets with them to determine if they use any applications that may require Internet Explorer 6. If they do, the IT staff enables the MED-V client. If they don’t, the MED-V client is disabled—but it can be easily invoked when needed. The company expects to install Windows 7 on all 5,500 desktop and laptop computers used by shore-side North American employees by the end of 2011. It also hopes to deliver the operating system to 1,700 computers that are used by international employees during the same period. Shipboard computers are targeted to receive Windows 7 in 2012.
By using Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. can deploy the Windows 7 Enterprise operating system on all company computers without worrying about whether its key applications will still run. It can remediate compatibility issues related to the Internet Explorer 6 browser in just minutes, give business groups more flexibility in determining when they will upgrade applications to the newer operating system, and more easily troubleshoot computing problems. According to Ramos, “MED-V has been invaluable to our Windows 7 upgrade. We couldn’t have proceeded without it.”
Enables Enterprisewide Upgrade to Windows 7
Because it can run essential Internet Explorer 6–based applications on Windows 7, Royal Caribbean was able to move forward with a companywide rollout. “Without MED-V, we would have had to put a large portion of our Windows 7 deployment on hold. MED-V gave us the tools—and the peace of mind—we needed to forge ahead,” Grullon says.
* MED-V is simple to use and fast. Its performance is great, and because it doesn’t require a separate server infrastructure, it can be quickly and easily deployed. *
Jean Claude Akin
Software Engineer, Systems Certification, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
Ramos adds, “The beauty of using MED-V is that we can give Windows 7 to all employees without worrying that, down the road, they’ll run into problems. Whatever web application compatibility issues they may encounter can easily be addressed with MED-V.”
If people who have MED-V disabled on their computer begin using an application that Royal Caribbean hadn’t known was incompatible with Windows 7, or if they change job functions and then require JD Edwards or Hyperion software, for example, the company’s help desk can turn on MED-V for them. “It’s very easy to invoke the client so workers can immediately begin using the older applications,” says Akin.
Avoids Lengthy Remediation; Allows Flexible Application Upgrade Schedule
By using MED-V, Royal Caribbean avoids the time-consuming tasks that would have been required to remediate incompatibility issues. “Without MED-V, it could easily take weeks to find a fix for a web application that won’t run in Windows 7. We’d have to track down the application owner and subject-matter expert, and research resolution scenarios with the vendor—and even then there may not have been a way to make it work,” Grullon says. “With MED-V, we can resolve Internet Explorer 6/Windows 7 compatibility issues in minutes. We just add the web address to our list of URLs that are accessible through MED-V, and it’s done.”
Ramos stresses that its goal is to eliminate tasks that would divert time and resources from the rollout. He says, “Our focus is not about how to remediate everything. It’s about ensuring that we don’t get mired down in remediations. MED-V helps ensure that we can move forward with an enterprise wide rollout of Windows 7 without getting sidetracked by application compatibility issues.”
By using MED-V, Royal Caribbean also gains the flexibility to upgrade applications when it makes the most sense for the business. “Because we can run the older applications our employees need on Windows 7, we aren’t under pressure to update applications that we don’t have the time or resources to do. For instance, we can use MED-V to help us bridge the gap until we’re slated to upgrade from our existing JD Edwards product to the Internet Explorer 8–based version,” Grullon says.
Adds Carlos Arribas, Windows 7 Project Technical Leads at Royal Caribbean, “By using MED-V, we can move our enterprise into the future while also carrying our past.”
One MED-V benefit that Royal Caribbean hadn’t expected is how it helps IT staff troubleshoot computer issues. “When you install a new operating system, there is a tendency to blame application-related problems on the upgrade. MED-V helps us quickly determine if the issue is with the application or the operating system,” Grullon explains.
The IT staff can tell an application owner whose software is running directly on Windows 7 and is experiencing problems to enable MED-V and run the application in Windows XP instead. “If the problems still exist, then we know the cause is within the application,” Grullon notes.
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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Posted by Staff at May 16, 2011 02:31 PM