Case Study: Co-operative Group migrates to Windows 7 on XenApp using App-DNA

The Co-operative Group is planning to deploy Windows 7 desktop application virtualisation and hot desking in its new head office to reduce carbon emissions

The Co-operative Group is planning to deploy Windows 7 desktop application virtualisation and hot desking in its new head office to reduce carbon emissions.

The new Manchester site, scheduled to open in August 2012, will house 2,734 desks for 3,500 people.

Ian Cawson, technical architect, the Co-operative Group, said, "Two years ago we began looking at how we could make the desktop green." Power and efficiency are key requirements for meeting the Breeam building standard, which assesses the environmental performance of a building.

The head office relocation ties in with the IT department's strategy to migrate from Windows XP to Windows 7. The majority of users will be offered thin-client access to Windows 7. Laptop users be given a Bitlocker secured laptop and encrypted USB memory sticks.

The new architecture will mean that staff can work more productively from any location, and systems will be agile and scalable to cope with business growth. It is expected that the Co-operative Group will save more than £1.5 million a year on simplified desktop maintenance and support, a further £500,000 a year on reduced energy costs and will be on track to meet its commitment to a 35% reduction in the group's carbon footprint by 2017.

"Being a green company, we have already done the easy options," said Cawson. Reducing fat clients by 90% in its new head office will help the Co-operative Group to meet the government's 2017 emissions targets.


Fate determined the road to virtualisation, when a datacentre fire in 2008 led to the Co-operative Group deploying server virtualisation. "80% of our servers are now virtualised and we now have virtualise first mindset," said Cawson.

The group assessed various desktop virtualisation platforms for the head office, including SunRay, Citrix, VMWare and an offering from Hewlett-Packard. Cawson chose Citrix. "We looked at the market and built a business case," he said. "We were already using Citrix XenApp and the environment offered strong deduplication and storage features."

Desktop virtualisation enables IT departments to be more efficient. Cawson said, "In the past we had reactive desktop security."

Application migration

With 1,400 applications such as multiple versions of Microsoft Office and Adobe software, the Co-operative Group needed to rationalise applications on the desktop. AppTitude from application compatibility management company App-DNA was used to determine which applications could be migrated to XenApps to run in a virtual Windows 7 environment on top of Windows Server 2008.

The Co-operative Group used App-DNA to determine how successfully the Windows XP applications would migrate to the new VDI architecture and to predict the effort needed to complete the migration. App-DNA tested the applications for compatibility with the Citrix XenApp and Microsoft App-V platforms.

Cawson said, "From the detailed analysis AppTitude generates, we determined best practice and applied the right resources to package and remediate the applications."

Rather than set a goal for the number of applications across the business to virtualise, Cawson has been led by the business.

"We showed the business the applications that were out of support and [worked] with them to determine if they were still useful." About 200 applications have been run through AppTitude and have received business sign-off, while 60 were removed.

Given the volume of applications to process, Cawson has set simple metrics to determine whether to invest time in migrating a problem application. "If user acceptance testing shows a problem and AppTitude gives us an indication of where the problem has occurred, we will spend up to 48 hours investigating it." If the application is still causing problems, Cawson runs it as a fat client.

Strategic Technologies and Solutions, an application migration specialist, joined the Co-operative team to provide advice and support on the platform and assist with the migration and delivery of the applications and users.

From his previous experience of application migration projects, Cawson did not want to lose control over the migration, by using an off-site provider. He said, "With the transition to the new head office, we wanted to build in-house experience and use Strategic to gain expertise."

Cawson estimates that less than 5% of applications will need to run as fat clients.

The Co-operative Group merged with United Co-operatives in 2007.

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