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Tech-Ed: Windows 7 Migration Masters Are Ready When You Are

The old-fashioned operating system doesn't get the hype it used to. Here at Tech-Ed in Atlanta, all the talk is about mobile operating systems, virtualization and the cloud. And Windows XP continues to cling stubbornly to a ridiculous level of market share for a decade-old OS.

But many, probably most, companies are going to move to Windows 7 eventually, and when they do they'll have plenty of help if they want it. Aaron Suzuki's company, Prowess, makes applications that deploy what some might consider more old-school OSes, from Windows 7 to Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1. And ChangeBASE tests for application compatibility and remedies potential app problems with OS migrations. The companies' products might not be the sexiest stuff at Tech-Ed, but they're still the bread and butter of corporate IT infrastructures (and they actually seem pretty darn useful).

Here for the Long Haul
It's neither unusual nor misguided now to ask how long the fat-client, desktop OS as we know it has to live. Virtualization and cloud computing, along with the appearance of lightweight OSes such as Google's Chrome OS, seem to have Windows down for the count. Chances are, though, it'll be a long count.

It's true that Suzuki doesn't see clients lining up to move to Windows 7. Many will stick with XP, he says, and just pay extra for support when Microsoft finally kills XP support for good in 2014. "I don't think it makes Microsoft very happy or comfortable," Suzuki said at Tech-Ed this week, "but that's the client mentality. People don't have a reason not to deploy [Windows 7], but there are also some barriers. It's not about the software costs. It's about running their business. You don't buy Windows just to be able to have Windows."

The next question is whether companies will buy Windows again at all, but Suzuki suspects that they will -- in time. And, he figures, they'll keep buying it for a while to come. Even hypervisors still rest on a traditional OS, he opines.

"We are very bullish on desktop virtualization," Suzuki told RCP. But he added, "Something has to get a hypervisor there. It's like a key. It has to fit properly for the operating environment to land on whatever it's landing on. The ability to move operating systems from environment to environment [is critical]. I don't know anyone who is in a homogenous environment."

The desktop OS, he figures, isn't going away anytime soon. "That no-operating-system thing is a 30- to 50-year proposition," he said. "Even in that picture of a highly virtualized desktop, that virtual machine has to get from place to place and the hypervisor on the workstation is probably not going to be identical to the hypervisor in your datacenter."

Prowess this week announced enhancements to its flagship SmartDeploy product.

Moving Apps Forward
If the old-school OS is going to continue to exist, then applications are going to have to move in the migration from one version to another. ChangeBASE has users covered there. The U.K. vendor has developed a system for identifying and remedying potential problems with applications in OS migrations.

ChangeBASE's software looks not so much at what applications do as at how they behave with an OS and with each other. Using a knowledge base developed through years of experience, ChangeBASE can reduce the process of testing for and fixing application-compatibility issues from days or weeks to minutes, said Greg Lambert, the company's chief technical architect, at Tech-Ed this week.

"We deal with classes of problems," Lambert said. "We don't deal with applications. [We] ignore the application and look at behaviors. Is this application trying to install to this directory, yes or no? It's like an anti-virus model. There are new updates available."

Solving problems with application compatibility could be a critical step in helping companies move from XP to Windows 7. Lambert says he's seeing movement already, primarily from the companies with the most money and the most risk inherent in their businesses, such as banks. He says he's also seeing a geographical track for Windows 7, starting in the U.K. financial sector and moving to the financial sector on the U.S. east coast, then to the U.S. west coast, Asia and Europe.

"I'm actually seeing the dawn of Windows 7 move across the world," Lambert said.

ChangeBASE announced this week enhancements to its free AOKLite v2.0 product.

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Posted by Lee Pender on May 18, 2011