EasyJet has refreshed PCs and migrated to Windows 7 to improve efficiency and tackle staff dissatisfaction with their IT equipment.
Many businesses are migrating away from Windows XP as the operating system approaches end-of-life in terms of Microsoft support. But EasyJet's migration was driven by the need to run IT systems more efficiently.
Staff at the airline were struggling with IT problems on their XP-based PCs, which prevented them from quickly and easily completing day-to-day work.
“We started migrating from XP in April 2011 and spent the first half of 2012 rolling out the new platform,” said Andy Caddy, CTO of EasyJet.
Significantly, EasyJet's roll-out coincided with industry hype around staff using their own devices – bring your own devices, or BYOD – and the growing maturity of desktop virtualisation, to provide greater desktop IT flexibility.
Replacing EasyJet's IT infrastructure
Microsoft specialist consultant Avanade was used to design a new IT infrastructure, and will be used for third-line support.
Through this refresh, EasyJet has updated its Microsoft software stack, including updating its Exchange Server to version 2010 and rolling out new managed Windows 7 desktops and wireless connectivity for laptops.
EasyJet replaced 60% of its desktop hardware with Lenovo PCs running Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010.
While some IT departments consider desktop virtualisation as the way forward for managed desktops, Caddy said the approach was not a good fit at EasyJet.
“I still think VDI [virtual desktop infrastructure] is good for some things, but some airline applications are quite old," he said.
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"We had to work quite hard to get going on Windows 7, but the right manageability means all our remote PCs are now supported. We wanted to give people the best experience.”
Caddy said a handful of applications were problematic when run on Windows 7. However, the airline avoided having to rewrite code applications to support Windows, and was able to overcome compatibility issues by running these applications either in virtualised PC environments or in Windows compatibility mode.
EasyJet also had choices in terms of using desktop cloud services, especially given it already uses Microsoft Azure in areas of its IT infrastructure.
Caddy said cloud computing for the desktop did not make sense for EasyJet. “A single supplier makes a lot of sense for a low-cost airline as it is easier to support. We looked at different email solutions and found a cloud–based Exchange service. But for desktop applications, it made sense to stick with Microsoft.”
BYOD was another of the challenges EasyJet faced during the project. “As we progressed through the project, there was hype around BYOD. We made sure email access works on devices,” said Caddy.