With the Windows XP end of life and support slated for April 8, 2014, many IT pros are looking to migrate to a newer operating system. But Windows upgrades can be a time-consuming and expensive process.
Some companies have put off Windows XP migrations because they have an overwhelming number of devices to migrate, and ensuring data integrity is a major concern for IT administrators.
But there are many reasons to upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8 now -- one being that the cost of maintaining a Windows XP PC and supporting XP applications and data has become prohibitive. It costs organizations $870 to maintain a Windows XP PC, compared with $168 for a PC running Windows 7, according to a 2013 white paper published by research firm IDC in Framingham, Mass.
Windows XP migration tools ease OS upgrades
Seattle-based Avanade Inc., a joint venture developed between Accenture and Microsoft, is migrating well over 100,000 desktops for a financial services customer from Windows XP to Windows 7. The massive project is slated to be finished before the end of 2014.
For a consulting organization like Avanade, the big challenge is not technical; it is getting approvals from different business units and the C-level executive team, in addition to gathering all the data required to make recommendations to start the migration. It is an enormous effort that must be well coordinated. One has to balance the customer's tactical needs and overall business strategy, explained Matt Topper, senior director for Avanade's technology infrastructure group.
"Nobody wants to spend money on the desktop operating system. It's a step above repairing office furniture. It's hard to prove to a C-level executive [an upgrade] will add top-line value to the organization," Topper said. "People never realize how complicated and expensive it is to run a well-managed desktop environment and get it right. Folks who do it on the cheap struggle, and have a mess three to five years later."
Microsoft has a few tools to help enterprises with Windows XP migration, including its Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit and the Microsoft User State Migration Tool. Third-party tools such as the Altiris Deployment Solution and Altiris Client Management Suite from Symantec Corp. are also available.
Avanade used its own business intelligence application to analyze and assess the desktop environment, in conjunction with BDNA Corp.'s Data as a Service (DaaS) technology .
Mountain View, Calif.-based BDNA's DaaS tools assess an enterprise's entire environment to aid IT departments in determining which applications, hardware and data must migrate off of Windows XP. The company's Technopedia application is a categorized repository of information that helps evaluate what enterprise software and hardware is in use for an entire organization. The catalog consists of 190,000 to 200,000 software and hardware products. Other tools focus on user files and settings only for migrating to a new OS environment.
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One IT specialist at a government agency who requested anonymity used BDNA's DaaS tool to track inventory of computing assets in his organization and cited the product's ability to provide a catalog showing an inventory of several thousand devices, he said.
"We knew we had a lot of stuff, but specifically, I don't think anyone knew the [devices'] operating systems, serial numbers [and other information]," he said. "Over a period of many years, machines fell off the radar and had not been added to domains. The product found these kinds of [computers] and knew where they were." To date, this government agency is well on its way to Windows 7.
Tools that offer such visibility can help expedite the turnaround for enterprises developing a Windows XP migration plan, cutting the process down from nine months to two weeks in some cases, said Mahesh Kumar, a BDNA spokesman, which is critical as April 2014 inches closer.
"Now the deadline is looming. People are now saying, 'Oh my God. I have to get it done,'" Kumar noted.
For the most part, enterprises view a Windows XP to Windows 7 migration as a safe one. But only 10% to 15% of BDNA's customers have considered moving from Windows XP to Windows 8, Kumar said.
This continues to present a big hurdle for Microsoft, which recently said that Windows 8.1 will be released to general availability on Oct. 18, 2013 -- just shy of the one-year mark for shipping Windows 8.
"[Enterprises] are nowhere near touching Windows 8," said Ryan Reith, program manager at IDC's mobility tracker program. Windows 8 doesn't support all the applications the enterprise needs to function, and it's not just about Word and Excel, Reith added.
The market share for Windows XP on the desktop remains large, second to Windows 7. Windows XP is used by 37.2% of the desktop operating system market, according to NetMarketShare. In comparison, Windows 7 had 44.5%, Windows 8 was 5.4%, Windows Vista had 4.2%, Mac OS X with 6.7% and other older OSes had 2%.