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Windows XP migration tools cut albatross from IT's neck

Dell Software releases new upgrade to KACE K2000 to enable IT to better automate tasks and migrate off of Windows XP more quickly.

Windows XP migration tools offer IT administrators who are scrambling to migrate by April's end-of-life date a way to meet their project goals.

Symantec, Microsoft, Kaseya and many other vendors offer deployment and lifecycle endpoint management products to help Windows XP migrations, but it's an update from Dell Software that looks to automate the process in bulk.

Dell Inc. upgraded its KACE K2000 Deployment Appliance v3.6 to provide multicasting and task engine features. Multicasting allows an organization's image to be deployed to multiple Windows endpoints simultaneously, while the task engine helps automate tasks 24/7 so IT admins can run installations and tasks unattended. The automation also provides a benefit to end users -- less downtime and less lost productivity during the migration process.

Dell's multicasting feature supports up to 250 machines simultaneously. However, not every environment can support that many devices. IT pros have to look at their own bandwidth and decide how many they can support at once.

"Multicasting was the one thing that [Dell] needed to do," said Steve Brasen, managing research director at Enterprise Management Associates Inc. in Boulder, Colo. "It was a hole their competitors zinged them on. There's little competition for the capabilities of [Dell's] product set."

Dell's upgrade comes as Windows XP migration deployment tools have become increasingly important to organizations as the end of Microsoft support for Windows XP looms.

Symantec's Ghost Solution Suite includes imaging, enterprise deployment and lifecycle endpoint management products, while products such as Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager and Kaseya Desktop Migration promise to ease the migration process.

Will KACE K2000 reduce migration time?

IT pros who have tested KACE K2000 hope the new features reduce migration time, but some hesitate to say to how much time it will save overall.

"We can use the multicasting feature to do 30 machines at a time," said Jon Scott, a desktop administrator at Salem Health, an organization that provides patient care to the Willamette Valley area in Oregon. The healthcare provider supports 4,000 endpoints and needs to migrate them from Windows XP. Salem Health is using the K2000 to get Windows XP off of 1,500 Windows XP kiosks, which are used for clinical staffers to access patients' electronic medical records.

Salem Health also uses the KACE K1000 appliance to help manage software inventory and licenses, as well as to determine what software packages are running in different departments and groups. The K2000 deploys the images and right software to each device.

Ron Falkoff, a systems analyst at the Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School, has tested the task engine. The St. Louis-based private school previously used the KACE appliance to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7, and it is now testing Windows 8.1.

With the new K2000 v3.6, Falkoff said he expects the task engine to "shave off time for imaging" during the summer, when he and his staff reimage all the student laptops. Falkoff said he hopes it will save at least 10% to 25% of his group's time. Although Falkoff has not taken advantage of the multicasting feature yet, he plans to do so when he has to deploy multiple images to different student laptops.

While the new updates reduce the time for a Windows migration, Scott suggested future versions should limit what each group has access to. For example, it would be nice to have separate logins for staffers who may be responsible for only imaging and others who are desktop administrators, he said.

"I have a lot of test images, and if I don't keep an eye on them, I will find them [deployed] in the environment," Scott explained.

Dell also said it plans to update its user interface over the next year, making it easier to use and more customizable.

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