Insurance company DEVK Group is engaged in a large-scale infrastructure project involving the migration of more than 300 applications to a Microsoft Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 environment. To minimize the risks associated with the migration, DEVK has opted to deploy Citrix AppDNA. Working with sepago, a Citrix Platinum Solution Advisor, DEVK also implemented a new application management solution to simplify quality assurance in the maintenance and on-going development of its software portfolio.
Originally an aid society for German railwaymen, DEVK Group is a welfarefund for Deutsche Bahn-employees. DEVK has stayed true to its guiding principle: to offer affordable insurance products. Since the 1970s, the company’s products and services have been available to the general public and it currently serves more than four million policyholders throughout Germany. For fiscal 2011, DEVK premium receipts were up 2.6 percent year-on-year, selling 1.8 million policies and generating new premium income of 597 million euros.
During 2011 the company’s IT department initiated several complex infrastructure projects. The first was an upgrade of the existing Citrix XenApp infrastructure. The server farm serving the headquarters in Cologne and 19 regional offices will be updated to XenApp 6.5 and Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2. In addition, the remaining legacy PCs will be replaced with thin clients and all applications will be virtualized and migrated to a centralized datacenter. Lastly, all company owned devices will be upgraded from Microsoft Windows XP to Windows 7.
“The migration project posed huge challenges in terms of the applications,” declared Bernd Lier, IT Senior Specialist in the IT Infrastructure Development Department at DEVK. “We needed to move more than 300 of applications to the new platform, including some that were developed in-house. Within the scope of this project we have also set ourselves the goal of virtualizing as many of our applications as possible. In the future, we want applications to be delivered via Microsoft App-V for Servers and Desktops.”
The company’s infrastructure and software teams began the project with a thorough discovery phase. All departments were asked to supply the project team with a list of current applications in use. The project team then worked with various software vendors to determine whether the applications would be suitable for the proposed delivery method and operating systems. At the same time, the project team set up test environments where they could check whether custom-developed applications were capable of running on the new platforms. “All in all, it was an extremely manual and time-consuming exercise that didn’t always meet with success,” reports Lier. “Some software vendors failed to provide all the information we needed. For example, the smaller companies were often unable to tell us whether or not their products could be virtualized with App-V.”
With this challenge in mind, the project leaders began looking for tools to help them tackle this complex migration process. Early trials of freewaretools were disappointing, so DEVK approached sepago, an IT consulting company and Citrix Platinum Solution Advisorto assist them with their infrastructure project. Sepago recommended DEVK use Citrix AppDNA application migration and application management software for the project.
AppDNA is a software platform for application management that brings to light every detail of application behaviour, enabling the automation of compatibility checks. The tool performs in-depth analysis in a matter of minutes, collecting thousands of pieces of information about the installation process, utilization of resources and drivers, and many other features of the application. AppDNA then uses the findings to check compatibility with one or more platforms, such as Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2. At the same time, automated tests can be performed to find out whether the application is suitable for virtualization with technologies such as App-V or for delivery via XenApp. AppDNA also supports web-app testing against specific browser versions, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 and Internet Explorer 9.
“We realized straight away that the Citrix solution met the most important requirements for our migration project,” said Lier. “AppDNA eliminated the need for many time-consuming application tests, and performed a more thorough analysis than was previously possible with manual techniques--so it didn’t take us long to decide touseitfor our project.”
In the weeks that followed, DEVK installed AppDNA and imported the entire application portfolio into the tool for analysis. A script-based method expedited the process of loading the 400 different installation packages. The analysis supplied the project team with comprehensive findings on the compatibility of individual applications, highlighted graphically in red, yellow and green. An application with no serious impediments to migration were indicated in green on the report, while those that revealed compatibility issues were marked in yellow or red, depending on severity. “AppDNA gives you a detailed run-down of incompatibility issues and, where relevant, shows how much effort would be required to resolve the application issues,” explains Marcel Meurer, head of Consulting Services at sepago. “This information is an invaluable aid to drafting the project schedule.”
“For DEVK, the biggest benefit was that we were finally able to present hard facts and figures to management,” stressed Lier. “We no longer had to rely upon gut feelings, but had a really sound basis for developing the project plan.” In phase one, DEVK used AppDNA to identify around 50 applications that could not be migrated to the new system platforms without modifications. In some cases, straightforward configuration changes were all that was needed. In others, simply updating the applications to a later version resolved the problem. In several instances, the IT specialists decided to discontinue support for the applications concerned, most of them legacy 16-bit applications.
That left about 20 applications that required further analysis. For each of these, the project team set up a virtual test environment and made it available to the respective product owner.“ Being able to identify the ‘black sheep’ in our software portfolio early on was a huge advantage in terms of the project schedule,” emphasised Lier. “It gave us time to look more closely at the root causes of incompatibilities, and devise potential solutions.” =
According to Lier, AppDNA also proved a boost to the company’s desktop transformation strategy. “Our goal is to replace as many fat-client PCs as possible with virtual desktops on thin clients during this infrastructure project. AppDNA gave us a very easy way of finding out which of the systems needed a separate Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) desktop for application-related reasons, and where a shared desktop would suffice. So the solution offered us a practical means of delivering virtual desktops flexibly and cost-effectively.”
The IT team at DEVK decided that AppDNA can be useful in other areas, in addition to infrastructure projects. The company is working with sepago to deploy the solution for quality assurance in application management, giving product owners a quick and easy way to vet new applications. Products indicated in red can be rejected before they even reach the packaging stage. “We want to leverage AppDNA to further improve our entire quality assurance process, both by minimizing risks and the time needed to perform assessments,” saidLier. “We’re in the insurance business, after all, and we naturally givea high priority to risk control in application management,” he adds.
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