Migrations to Windows 7 and 8, virtualisation and beyond

Some are referring to Windows XP being on a death watch. With support for Windows XP due to expire in two years, Windows 7 migration is now high on the priority list of many enterprises for 2012. Some are considering Windows 8 migrations...

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Some are referring to Windows XP being on a death watch. With support for Windows XP due to expire in two years, Windows 7 migration is now high on the priority list of many enterprises for 2012. Some are considering Windows 8 migrations too.

These software transitions are difficult, time consuming and complex activities, and enterprises have no choice, but to embrace their inevitability. Moreover, it is clear that given the rapid evolution of technology, the lifecycle of operating systems will get even shorter in the future, resulting in accelerating migration challenges.

While it is easy to proclaim that IT departments must be adept at making these software transitions - after all they have undertaken these exercises in the past - deploying a new operating system is complex and requires extensive planning. The new operating system is itself only a small portion of the overall process. Migration involves taking into account hardware and software considerations, application compatibility and potential conflicts between the new operating system and software already installed and much more.

Moreover, given the significant planning and effort involved in migrating to a new operating system, many enterprises are wisely considering other initiatives, such as application virtualisation and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) that require similar amounts of planning and are adding to the software migration difficulty. But in doing so, they can gain economies of scale.

Finally, it’s important to remember that IT departments are under the strain of continual software deployments beyond major operating system upgrades. New software acquisitions, software updates, bug fixes and patches, for instance, mean that teams are continually deploying new applications - and with each effort they must plan, test, fix, package and hand off those applications for deployment.

IT organisations are stretched to the limit - and as consumerisation of IT, the desktop transformation and user-centric computing, take firm hold - they know that responsiveness is key. Major operating system migrations and the significant effort involved, mean organisations must implement best practice processes to ensure they are continually ready to deploy new applications when and where they are needed. Application Readiness is the new standard addressing these migration concerns.

Application readiness best practices for Windows 7 and 8 migrations

To successfully migrate to Windows 7 or 8, and undertake any successful application deployment, IT must undertake the following six best practices measures - identify, rationalise, assess compatibility, plan, fix and package and deploy. We will examine each:

  • Identify - The first step requires obtaining an accurate view of the applications that are deployed across the organisation. This is a good time to look at the application inventory and take stock of what is actually being used, as opposed to what is deployed. When organisations undertake a major migration like Windows 7 or 8 - every app they port to that new environment requires time and effort - and therefore costs company. Reducing the number of applications that must be migrated, and the cost per migrated application is an important goal. So, companies are wise to inventory their applications and understand their use.
  • Rationalise - Once inventory is complete, IT should verify the need to continue to support the applications or to consolidate applications to a reduced number of products and versions, excluding from the migration process those that are not used. This will not only save time and cost around the migration, but it will enable the company to reduce wasted IT spend on application licenses that are not being used.
  • Assess compatibility - An essential step in any Windows 7 or 8 migration is an assessment of application suitability, as not all applications owned will work in these new environments. Without automation, it’s difficult to quickly know which applications will have compatibility issues, and thus which will require additional time to migrate.

    If an enterprise is or wants to virtualise its applications, and is considering rolling out a Windows 7 or 8 application as part of a larger VDI initiative, compatibility assessment must extend past simple application compatibility. It must also include an assessment of end user-compatibility. IT must have a high level of confidence that the user will have a good experience with the virtualised Windows app in the new operating system, otherwise the virtualised deployment will fail. To do so, organisations must collect in-depth information on each users’ application usage such as CPU performance, online/offline access, input/output and memory utilisation, to reveal virtualisation suitability and the complexity of virtualising that application. From there, IT should generate a suitability assessment, ranking devices and users based on virtualisation suitability into low-, medium- and high-complexity groups based on usage patterns and environmental conditions. Only those users assessed to have a high level of suitability should be deployed on the virtualised Windows 7 or 8 application.

  • Plan - The work completed in the Rationalise and Assess Compatibility phases arms IT management with a list of rationalised applications and the details of compatibility issues that need to be addressed. With this information IT will have a clear view of the magnitude of the project enabling them to accurately calculate costs and duration timeframes. The migration of the operating system itself represents only a small portion of the overall Windows 7 or 8 migration effort. Enterprises must also consider hardware requirements, software requirements, potential conflicts between the operating system and software, as referenced above.

    Planning also entails expecting unexpected costs. Hardware refresh cycles are a good way to gradually undertake Windows 7 or 8 rollout and to make sure that the enterprise is right-sizing the hardware required for the new migration. Insufficient hardware is a major cause of problems in operating system migrations. So enterprises should ensure they have sufficient horsepower to run the new operating system and applications - on-premises and in virtualised environments.

    Once completed, enterprises will have a good idea as to what actions to take to ensure smooth migration to Windows 7 or 8. They will also have a good understanding as to whether other initiatives, such as VDI, should be undertaken as part of this migration effort.

  • Fix and package - As organisations prepare to deploy in the Windows 7 and 8 environments they will need to convert applications to the required format. Application fixing and format conversion can be a time-consuming, manual process, so utilising technology to automate this and leverage investment in packaged applications can yield considerable savings, and ensure a consistent approach to Application Readiness.

  • Deploy - Now IT can hand off the packaged Windows 7 and 8 applications to the deployment system for delivery to end users. To further cut costs, create efficiencies and deliver a better user experience, more organisations are looking to create App Portals for self service - giving users an iTunes-like enterprise App Store to access approved applications. If the App Portal is linked to an Application Readiness solution, the process for populating the storefront with packaged applications, and making them available to users with requisite access rights can be simple. Moreover, if the App Portal is tied on the back end to an Enterprise License Optimisation system, IT can create a seamless Windows App Store experience for end users while still maintaining continual software compliance, financial accountability and control.

Migrating to Windows 7 or 8 is a significant event within the enterprise, and requires ample planning and strategy. But there’s more... there’s always more. And that’s the lesson for IT.

Migrations don’t happen in a vacuum - they occur at the same time IT must manage deployment of new applications, software updates, bug fixes and patches. And those occur at the same time that new technologies and trends, like the cloud, virtualisation and consumerisation of IT disrupt migration strategies.

To ensure readiness to deploy in the face of this constant barrage of change - smart organisations are implementing Application Readiness best practice processes, supported by solutions and tools that can streamline and automate those best practices.

Posted by Vincent Smyth, General Manager EMEA, Flexera Software

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