Windows 7, Office 2010 Migrations Need Early Planning, Gartner Says

"The big migration" from Windows XP and Office 2003 is coming, according to research firm Gartner, and IT pros should be prepared.

In a webinar last week, Gartner emphasized that PCs worldwide will feel the effects of the mass migration. Moreover, IT pros trying to implement upgrades will be strapped for time, according to Stephen Kleynhans, a research vice president at Gartner.

Microsoft support for XP and Office 2003, including security updates, will expire in April 2014. However, it will be more important for IT organizations to move off XP, Kleynhans said during the webinar. Kleynhans warned that independent software vendors may cut back their support for their XP-based applications even sooner than Microsoft's timeline, so things may be more acute for those organizations requiring ISV support for apps. There's no need for IT professionals to wait for Service Pack 1 of Windows 7 to upgrade, since SP1 was released in February.

The Office 2003 migration will less acute, Kleynhans said.

Windows Migration
Moving to Windows 7 is "inevitable," according to Kleynhans. He said that companies have talked about getting rid of Windows, but about half of the world's applications require that operating system. Substituting browser-based apps isn't an option quite yet, he added.

The XP migration "danger zone" for IT pros will be the year 2013. Organizations that haven't already done preparation work for the migration will start to feel the pressure in 2012, he said. All told, the prep work for a XP migration could take 12 to 18 months.

Kleynhans broke the Windows XP prep work down into three steps:

  1. Information gathering (three months): Take inventory or your organization's applications and peripherals. IT pros can then triage what to fix. Kleynhans said that about one in four applications will have problems moving to Windows 7.

  2. Set up a test lab (minimum six months): Test your apps using test tools.

  3. Pilot (three months): Run alpha and beta tests and check that the infrastructure works.

In addition to addressing application compatibility and driver issues, IT pros will be saddled with the 64-bit question. Some applications just don't like 64-bit, Kleynhans said. If an IT shop has older applications and hardware in place, there will be some issues, he added.

There are three basic ways to accomplish the big migration. Organizations can try "the forklift" approach, which means replacing all operating systems on all PCs. Some IT groups have the ability to do that by pushing a button, but they represent less than 4 percent of companies, Kleynhans said. The next possible approach is "attrition migration," where aging PCs are replaced with new ones running Windows 7 according to a refresh cycle. That's a low-cost option, but the problem with it is that it may take five years to accomplish the full migration. Finally, there's a "hybrid model," in which older machines are replaced while newer ones get in-place upgrades. Kleynhans said about half of companies surveyed by Gartner are taking this hybrid approach.

Migration Solutions
Compatibility problems can be fixed in a few ways. IT pros can perform a shim fix. Kleynhans explained that a shim works by setting switches in the operating system to "cheat" compatibility issues. Shimming is a supported approach in Windows, he added, but it's really just a short-term fix.

Remote Desktop Services can be used if you have the licensing, but some apps may not work, and it only extends support for another year, Kleynhans said. That approach should be used "sparingly."

IT shops could also switch to browser-based apps. Kleynhans cautioned that migration from Internet Explorer 6 to IE 8 is forced when upgrading to Windows 7. Organizations "must put significant time and money on remediation" efforts when moving off IE 6-based Web apps, he added.

To minimize pitfalls, IT organizations should use migration tools. Kleynhans recommended using the free Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit, which he said was a reasonable tool, although it has some limitations. He also recommended two commercially available tools that can do certain levels of remediation, including App-DNA's AppTitude and the ChangeBASE AOK suite. For addressing IE 6 migration issues, Kleynhans said that "there really isn't a lot of strong tools."

Office Migration
Office "15," or the next generation of Microsoft's productivity suite after the current Office 2010 product, is expected to appear sometime in 2013, Kleynhans said. It is possible for Office 2007 users to skip Office 2010, but Kleynhans said that Gartner sees a lot of benefits in that product.

Moving from Office 2003 to Office 2010 is "a major migration" and will be more costly for organizations, Kleynhans said. Office 2007 marked a product shift for Microsoft. It introduced Microsoft's "ribbon" user interface, and it also introduced XML-based file formats. For estimating Office migration costs, Gartner offers a tool, Kleynhans said. He added that the less managed that an IT environment is, the more costly it will be to upgrade Office.

Kleynhans said that Office is heavily used by businesses and that it has essentially "become a platform, like Windows." Organization could move to other productivity suites, such as, but it may take 18 to 20 month in IT prep time for organizations to make the switch, he added.

Office 2010 enables simultaneous collaboration in Word and the use of Web Apps, which are browser-based versions of Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint and Word. While there's a free version of Office Web Apps for consumers that stores documents in Microsoft's cloud using Windows Live SkyDrive, there's no free version for organizations. The paid version of Office Web Apps requires the use of Microsoft SharePoint to enable collaboration, as well as Exchange 2010 for full functionality, Kleynhans explained.

Gartner now offers Kleynhans' March 30 talk, "The Big Migration: Windows 7 and Office 2010," as an on-demand webinar. It can be accessed here (requires sign-up).

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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