BMW Takes a Sharp Turn Toward App Virtualization

Auto maker BMW needed to hit the brakes on the expensive manual labor of installing and supporting software on each desktop. Here's a look at what they've learned about application virtualization so far and what they've saved.

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Thu, May 20, 2010

CIO — When you're auto giant BMW, with 24 production sites in 13 countries, you're going to have your share of important business applications.

1,000 apps to be more precise. Managing and deploying these applications for employees in 250 global locations had become an expensive, time-consuming grind.

Even though most of the application packaging was outsourced to firms in India, time zone differences, extensive compatibility testing and communication delays between India and BMW's German IT team would add two or three days to the application packaging process.

Often, BMW would go through packaging and compatibility testing two or three times for a single application. The whole process, from application request through delivery, could take up to four weeks.

BMW faced another problem: Because the application packaging process consumed so many resources, applications had to meet a minimum-user threshold to qualify for packaging and testing. Yet 40 percent of BMW's applications did not meet this criteria. For those applications, BMW could either pay a partner to send technicians to install the software on employees' computers, or have the employees get administrator rights to install the applications themselves.

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Both of these options were still time-consuming and expensive. Having technicians do software installations cost $54 per visit, with an average of 3,000 technician visits per year. Employees who were granted administrator rights could accidentally expose their computers to software vulnerabilities when downloading applications, or they might install software that conflicts with other applications.

A New Approach: App Virtualization

BMW needed to put a stop to the manual labor of installing and supporting software on each desktop. It sought a solution that would increase the number of applications that could be packaged so they could be centrally managed, and one that would also reduce app compatibility testing. In addition, the solution had to work on Windows 7, because an upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 was underway.

BMW concluded in Dec. 2008 that it could use application virtualization to solve its group packaging and app compatibility problems — and partners and IT staff wouldn't even have to be involved in installations (referred to as zero-touch deployment).

As a Microsoft software assurance customer, BMW had access to MDOP (Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack), a desktop software suite that helps enterprises manage IT environments. MDOP includes App-V, a virtualization tool that changes physical applications into virtual services that can be managed by IT, but are never installed and do not conflict with other applications.

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