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Building a Better PC

AEGON Canada taps Altiris to streamline software deployment and help create a consistent PC environment across the enterprise.

Like many insurers, AEGON Canada (Toronto; $9.2 billion in total assets), a unit of AEGON (The Hague, Netherlands; $321 billion in total assets), had accumulated different operating systems and software over the years. When the insurer decided to move its home office in 2003, the inefficiencies of the disparate computing environment reached critical mass, according to Darren Bennett, manager of IT desktop and network services for the life insurer.

Bennett and his six-person team—which oversaw 900 total machines, including 20 different Dell (Round Rock, Texas) PC models, across the firm's 15 offices—had always built the insurer's computers off of different hard drive setup images and manually installed software from CDs, a process that required significant overtime for IT technicians. To cut the time needed to configure desktops, AEGON Canada had to standardize its desktops and centralize software deployment, Bennett relates. So, in conjunction with its move, the insurer purchased new Dell SX270 PCs and Dell D600 and D610 laptops for 45 percent of its employees.

But Bennett says the task of setting up the new machines, while standardizing all PCs on a single operating system, would have been an overwhelming challenge. "We could not standardize the system in coordination with the move without some sort of management utility," he asserts.

After reviewing five vendors' proposals in late 2003, AEGON Canada selected Altiris' (Lindon, Utah) Client Management Suite, an automated, Web-based console that enables administrators to deploy, manage and troubleshoot systems, and manage hardware and software inventory. In particular, the carrier liked that the program was flexible enough to handle a mass software deployment, whereas the other vendors, which Bennett declines to name, had suggested multiple software packages to fulfill the same task.

In December 2003, Bennett purchased a package from Altiris, which included customization support from Lanworks (Mississauga, Ontario), for $103,577. Altiris and Lanworks conducted a two-week discovery in January 2004 to identify all of the software images AEGON Canada had deployed and determine which applications could be bundled. "We found different revisions of software and software that did the same functions," Bennett relates.

Lanworks helped Bennett's IT team build a new core Microsoft (Redmond, Wash.) Windows XP image, and Altiris helped bundle applications, slashing 50 from the system. "With bundled packages, we could drag and drop applications to build a PC," Bennett says. By January 2004, the Altiris software was installed on the carrier's HP (Palo Alto, Calif.) DL380 server, and AEGON Canada completed its move the next month, leveraging Altiris' Client Management Suite to set up the new computers. "Instead of spending five hours per PC for deployment, by using Altiris, we cut that time down to 45 minutes," explains Bennett. From April to November 2004, Bennett's IT team had standardized the existing PCs in all 15 offices.

AEGON Canada since has pared down its PC environment to three models, using Altiris' solution to build all new PCs. Thanks to the Client Management Suite, in the past year, the carrier has saved $60,000 in overtime for IT staff, according to Bennett. "We subsequently reinvested that labor savings into increasing the front-level service desk customer service," he notes. The Client Management Suite also has improved governance, Bennett adds, because the solution provides an audit trail.

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