Planning for Windows 7 migration

Early user feedback on the quality and performance of Windows 7 is generally positive, and research suggests that adoption plans may be affected more by the recession than by the merits of the product.

According to a recent survey of 618 CDW Customer Advisory Board (CAB) members prior to its launch, 83 per cent of those who installed the Windows 7 beta are at least somewhat satisfied with the new OS. Potential users who have tested a pre-release version are looking forward to what they see as performance and security improvements, as well as improved desktop search tools, overall ease of use and a productivity-boosting new user interface.

About one-quarter of the respondents anticipate making the transition within 12 months and about half report no current plans to migrate, some noting they may even wait until Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) no longer supports their current OS. By comparison, when Vista launched in November 2006 the CDW Windows Vista Tracking Poll found that 20% of organizations planned to deploy it within the first 12 months.

For those considering migration to Windows 7, the tug-of-war between short-term economic prudence and long-term improved system performance can be a dilemma. But these companies should have an adoption plan in place that addresses the infrastructure, enterprise application and personnel requirements associated with the market’s shift to this new operating system. In short, it is time to plan for a managed and optimized desktop implementation which will help reduce operational costs.

Plan from the Bottom Up

Proper planning for Windows 7 adoption starts with a thorough audit of your Windows-based devices. In most cases, machines purchased within the past three years and currently running Windows XP or Vista will support Windows 7. Also, similar to the Vista launch, Microsoft has a free upgrade program attached to qualifying, new desktops and notebooks through their hardware partners. With any rebate program, certain terms and conditions apply, but it is worth exploring.

Additionally, review all of your Microsoft licensing agreements before locking down your migration plans. Some businesses may need to revise their licensing before moving to Windows 7, although that should not be a barrier to adoption. Look to optimize and more effectively manage your environment with products like Microsoft’s Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) and Systems Center. This may allow you to further reduce licensing costs. In fact, Microsoft licensing specialists, often found at third-party solutions providers, may be able to help you develop a licensing strategy that reduces these long-term costs.

Beyond licensing, consider important issues such as support and integration requirements for your Windows based systems and applications — and how they will change as the newer Windows operating systems mature and XP fades. According to CDW’s CAB survey, 78% of respondents indicated they will not move immediately to Windows 7 because their current OS meets their organization’s needs, which no doubt is true in that even quite old XP based systems still function adequately for many users.

However, it is risky for a business to delay upgrades until the current OS shows convincing signs of inadequacy. Organizations of all sizes that still rely primarily on Windows XP may not realize that Microsoft no longer provides security patches or fixes and has reduced ISV application support for XP.

Finally, detail the hardware requirements for running Windows 7 and your critical applications at an optimum level before beginning your migration. During the transition from Windows XP to Vista, many businesses experienced performance issues because they overlooked the configuration requirements for running Vista at full capacity.

Migrating with desktop/notebook refreshes improves the opportunity for success in this regard, but don’t forget to consider the additional impact of your commonly used third-party applications and remember that off-the-shelf hardware configurations typically consider only the core operating system and Windows applications.

Apply All the Necessary ToolsWhile investigating your system requirements, also keep tabs on which of your organization’s applications are Windows 7 compatible. Though CDW’s CAB survey respondents indicate that more than 80% of their applications run on Windows 7, about one-third reported that some of their third-party applications didn’t run on it during their testing. Commonly mentioned applications that are not yet compatible included various VPN and security applications, as well as proprietary third-party software.

The most common strategy to address such incompatibility and is through a licensing agreement allowing Windows XP to run virtually in Windows 7. Businesses can also examine whether the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) for Software Assurance is a viable add-on. Among many features, MDOP contains:

Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V), which resolves application-to-application conflicts by isolating the applications from each other, enabling them to run as network services

Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V), which resolves application-to-OS conflicts by building on top of a virtual PC to run two operating systems on one device, adding virtual image delivery, policy-based provisioning and centralized management

Before experiencing all that the new OS has to offer, follow the lead of Thomas Edison who astutely noted, “Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.”

CDW’s Advisory Board is a private, online community of 1,018 IT decision-makers, primarily composed of CDW corporate customers. Community members have the opportunity to participate in 1-3 CDW research activities per week.

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