Applied Materials provides equipment, services, and software to enable the manufacture of advanced semiconductor, flat-panel display, and solar photovoltaic products. Its technologies help make innovations like smartphones, flat-screen TVs, and solar panels more affordable and accessible to consumers and businesses around the world. The company’s fundamental vision is to turn today’s innovations into the industries of tomorrow.
Applied Materials is as committed to using leading-edge technologies as it is to creating them. “We want to provide our employees with reliable, high-performing environments so that they can work as productively as possible,” says James Van Ryn, Windows Systems Engineer at Applied Materials.
The company had about 18,000 computers running the Windows XP Service Pack 3 operating system. “For the most part, the operating system worked great. But we began to encounter stability issues that we couldn’t eliminate even after rebuilding images or replacing drivers,” says Van Ryn.
While the IT team was grappling with how to improve reliability, the company decided to embark on a major hardware refresh project. “Our senior managers were adamant that the new hardware not be deployed with an older operating system. They wanted to modernize our client infrastructure and give employees a solution that they could really get excited about,” says Patrick Healy, Systems Management Engineer at Applied Materials.
Based upon research that the IT team did on the upcoming Windows 7 Enterprise operating system, Applied Materials believed that Windows 7 could provide the stability that the company needed as well as productivity enhancements that would boost employee satisfaction and make it easier for workers to do their jobs. “We tested Windows 7 and it lived up to our expectations. It is very reliable, starts up faster than Windows XP, and has a lot of features that make it really simple to navigate. For instance, Windows Search is phenomenal. I can find just about anything I need very quickly,” says Van Ryn.
Applied Materials decided to upgrade to Windows 7 and, initially, had hoped to begin deploying the newer operating system in November 2010. That was changed to January 2011 to accommodate the transition to the new hardware. “Even though that bought us a few more months, people at all levels of the company were eager to start using Windows 7. We were under a lot of pressure to make sure the Windows 7 deployment could begin as soon as we got approval and that it would go smoothly,” notes Van Ryn.
The pressure to begin deployment was intensified by the knowledge that some of the company’s key applications couldn’t run on Windows 7 because they required the Windows Internet Explorer 6 browser. As Van Ryn explains, “In 2010, we gave employees the opportunity to upgrade to Internet Explorer 8 on their Windows XP–based computers. But some applications that depend on Internet Explorer 6 didn’t work with Internet Explorer 8. As a result, about 75 percent of our users decided to remain on Internet Explorer 6.” This would not be an option with Windows 7. Because Windows 7 has Internet Explorer 8 as part of its base image, and only one version of Internet Explorer can be installed natively, web-based applications that require Internet Explorer 6 would not run on computers running Windows 7.
“After an initial test pilot deployment of Windows 7 computers, we began to realize that we had a great deal of compatibility issues, but we were just as concerned about unknown Internet Explorer 6 and Windows XP application compatibility issues,” says Healy. Applied Materials has thousands of unique applications, most of which are owned and supported by business groups that are located around the world. The IT team had no way to determine whether those applications would work with Windows 7.
Applied Materials needed to find a streamlined solution for running any older applications that required Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6 on computers running Windows 7.
Applied Materials thought that, by using virtualization technology, it could address its compatibility challenges. It explored several solutions, including Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) 1.0. MED-V, part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, is used to run older applications in a virtual Windows XP environment on a desktop running Windows 7. “MED-V 1.0 looked promising, but because it required additional infrastructure, we weren’t able to move forward with it,” says Van Ryn. “By October 2010, with the Windows 7 kickoff date fast approaching, we were getting anxious that we wouldn’t find a suitable solution in time.”
Then, in early November 2010, when the Applied Materials IT team met with Microsoft, it learned about the upcoming MED-V 2.0. MED-V 2.0 provides the same ability as MED-V 1.0 to run incompatible applications on Windows 7 but does not require any additional infrastructure.
“MED-V 2.0 was exactly what we were looking for, and we found out about it just in time,” says Healy. “Luckily, our Microsoft representative was able to get us into the Technology Adoption Program (TAP) for MED-V 2.0 right away. That helped us fast-track our implementation.”
Within a week of joining the TAP, Applied Materials created and tested its beta image of MED-V 2.0. By the first week in December 2010, Applied Materials was ready with its release candidate image, which it then used as its production image. “The fact that we didn’t need to build a separate infrastructure for MED-V 2.0 was key. It enabled us to shorten our development time. All we had to do was build a functioning image and we were ready to go,” Healy notes. “We created, tested, and deployed our MED-V 2.0 image in less than a month. Without the Microsoft TAP, that wouldn’t have happened. The TAP was a super accelerator.”
In January 2011, Applied Materials began deploying Windows 7 on new computers. As of February 2011, it had deployed about 1,200 portable computers with Windows 7. Applied Materials expects to replace its approximately 18,000 computers with the new devices and complete its companywide Windows 7 deployment by mid to late 2012. The IT team is making MED-V 2.0 available to anyone who has an application that won’t run on Windows 7. Users have the option to install the MED-V workspace by using Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 R2. About 200 workers had installed MED-V by February 2011. Applied Materials is also providing regional support for language packs so that employees around the world can easily use MED-V to run their older Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6–based applications. The company installed Windows XP language packs—including Korean, Chinese, and Japanese—inside the MED-V workspace.
Used App-V to Virtualize Microsoft Office
Applied Materials also uses Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V), which, like MED-V, is part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack. App-V transforms traditional applications into virtualized, network-available services that run on a computer’s cache without actually being installed on the operating system and without conflicting with other applications. Applied Materials began using App-V in September 2009 to virtualize Microsoft Office Professional 2007 so that employees—who had Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2003 installed on their computers—could have the option of using the upgraded product. “We didn’t have the time or resources needed to upgrade everyone to Office 2007. By using App-V, we could run both versions of the product side by side,” Van Ryn says. Approximately 3,000 employees used a virtual instance of Office Professional 2007 on computers running Windows XP.
As part of its client modernization effort, Applied Materials is planning to implement Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite by June 2011. Because Office 2003 isn’t supported in Business Productivity Online Standard Suite, Applied Materials will need to upgrade its employees to Office 2010 before it begins using the suite. Employees that haven’t yet been provided with new computers will be upgraded to Microsoft Office 2010 and receive the option to install a virtual instance of Office 2003 either through App-V or MED-V.
By using Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization, Applied Materials was able to begin its enterprisewide rollout of Windows 7 while ensuring a smooth migration and eliminating concern about unforeseen application compatibility issues. Employees have not been subject to downtime due to lengthy remediation, and IT staff can implement long-term compatibility resolutions when it makes the most sense. By using MED-V and App-V, Applied Materials eases the transformation of its client computing environment.
“MED-V was essential to our rollout of Windows 7. Now everyone has the tools needed to get their jobs done, regardless of what operating system or Internet Explorer browser their applications require,” says Van Ryn.
Easy Upgrade to Windows 7, Safety Net for Unforeseen Compatibility Issues
Because it can run applications that require Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6 on computers running Windows 7, Applied Materials was able to proceed with its deployment of Windows 7. “MED-V made it possible for us to meet our Windows 7 deployment kickoff in a way that no other solution could,” says Healy.
By using MED-V, the company was able to alleviate the pressure around ensuring a smooth rollout of Windows 7. “Even though there are so many unknowns about whether applications used in our company are compatible with Windows 7, we aren’t stressing about that anymore. With MED-V, we can address compatibility issues that we don’t even know exist. If an application runs on Windows XP or Internet Explorer 6, it can run on Windows 7. It’s that simple and that monumental,” says Van Ryn.
Avoids Remediation Downtime and Urgency
Before using MED-V, if an employee called the help desk because a key application would not run in Windows 7, the IT staff would have spent a lot of time and resources trying to get the application working in a non-supported environment. “It would have taken at least a week for us to identify and implement a resolution, such as working with the vendor to determine whether the application could be upgraded or moving it to a Microsoft SharePoint site,” Healy notes. “By using MED-V, we avoid that week of user downtime for every application that isn’t compatible. We just deploy the MED-V client and the employee can be up and running in less than an hour. MED-V is the easiest and fastest solution for getting employees with older applications running on Window 7.”
Van Ryn adds, “By using MED-V, we can deploy Windows 7 without bringing employees’ work to a halt because of incompatibility. Now we have the luxury of waiting until we have the resources to work on a permanent fix.”
Applied Materials notes that MED-V is easy to maintain. “If there are problems with the virtual operating system, we don’t have to spend time reimaging Windows XP. We just reset it to a known good state and employees can immediately begin working,” says Healy. “That is really important because we didn’t want our Windows 7 compatibility solution to negatively affect employee productivity or require more IT resources and time to support.”
Facilitates Modernization of Client Infrastructure
Applied Materials is using Microsoft virtualization technologies to support the next generation of its client computing environment. It took advantage of MED-V to pave the way for its Windows 7 upgrade and used App-V to run Office 2010—which is required for Business Productivity Online Standard Suite—on the same computers as Office 2003.
“Windows 7 and Business Productivity Online Standard Suite are the foundations of our modernization effort. By using MED-V and App-V, we were able to meet our deadlines for migrating to the new solutions, achieving a smooth transition,” concludes Van Ryn.
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.
Tags: Hyper-V, Server Virtualization