Survey Underscores Windows XP's Staying Power
- By Kurt Mackie
- July 31, 2014
Despite years of warnings from Microsoft concerning Windows XP's end-of-life, surprisingly many organizations remain stuck on the operating system.
That's the upshot of a recent survey by Adaptiva, a Bellevue, Wash.-based Microsoft partner. Adaptiva provides Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) add-ins for large-scale IT operations, including OS patching and migrations, so it had an interest in the survey results.
The survey was a small one, polling over 100 attendees of Microsoft's TechEd North America event in May. However, the results, published Wednesday, suggest that IT pros may have been caught flat-footed when it came to migrating client machines off XP. Adaptiva found that 53 percent of respondents were running some form of XP as late as May, and only 25 percent thought that doing so was a security concern.
"I was surprised that of the most well-connected of all computer people, 53 percent of them still were under some sort of rock," commented Deepak Kumar, Adaptiva's founder and chief technology officer, in a Tuesday phone interview. Prior to founding Adaptiva, Kumar was one of the designers of Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager product.
It was also surprising to Kumar that 17 percent of the respondents said that they were moving to Windows 8 or to an environment with both Windows 7 and Windows 8, as that estimate seemed higher than in other surveys.
Microsoft ended support for XP on April 8, noting that the OS was unsupported and potentially insecure to use, a message it had been broadcasting for years. Nonetheless, XP continues to be used to this day. It was the No. 2 operating system in June analyses by StatCounter and Net Applications. Those analyses are based on general Web traffic, so it likely does not reflect pure corporate use rates of Windows XP. Gartner Inc. estimated back in April that about a third of enterprises had "more than 10 percent of their systems remaining on XP."
Obstacles to moving off XP, according to Adaptiva's survey, included application compatibility issues (29 percent), time considerations (15 percent), cost (4 percent) and user training (2 percent). Challenges included "getting the task sequence right" (31 percent), the deployment of Preboot Execution Environment (PXE) servers in remote locations (28 percent), wide area network (WAN) bandwidth issues (27 percent) and remote storage issues (19 percent).
Of those issues, Kumar said that application compatibility was an expected dilemma.
"It's pretty normal for a complex organization and company -- financial and manufacturing -- to have up to 5,000 of these applications," he said. "So that, of course, is the first challenge. The second challenge is it takes too long. And then the third was technology challenges. ... They were roughly divided between deploying PXE and ... WAN bandwidth."
PXE is a protocol that allows a client machine to boot off a network image, "so PXE is the technology used for kicking off a migration," Kumar explained. Client machines typically will have PXE 2.1 on them. The problem for IT pros is more on the server side when attempting a large OS migration.
"The problem is the server side infrastructure," Kumar said. "It requires a server at every location and a lot of network configuration changes are required. So, deploying PXE services across an entire global network is a very time-consuming, fragile and expensive operation."
Adaptiva had one customer claim that it would take five years to deploy PXE across their 30,000 locations because of the network configuration changes involved, Kumar said. He added that Adaptiva's OneSite product is designed to address such large migration issues. It uses a peer-to-peer PXE delivery method that doesn't require any server infrastructure or router configuration changes.
Kumar also said he was surprised by the survey's finding that 81 percent of respondents did not consider cloud services to have an impact on upgrades, patch management or OS migrations. Adaptiva's technology provides "cloud-like approaches" that makes it less expensive to use bandwidth in far-flung locations for such IT operations, he claimed.
Adaptiva's survey was skewed toward users of Microsoft's SCCM products. About 66 percent were using SCCM 2012.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.