Windows 7 alluring, but XP is the migration X factor

Clock ticking on support for corporate shops that bypassed Vista

Users are gearing up

"XP Mode might be the way we get around the fact that some of our institutional apps are behind the technology curve; it could be the answer," says Jeff Allred, manager of network services at the Duke University Cancer Center. He said patch management tools will make it easier to manage two operating systems on a desktop and that XP Mode's administrative considerations are not a showstopper

Allred is in the process of testing Windows 7, which he says is faster, more stable and seems leaner than Vista. "We are much happier with Windows 7 RC than Vista in its full shrink-wrap version," he says.

He said a Vista migration would have meant upgrading 60% of his hardware, something he was not prepared to do. With Windows 7 and its smaller footprint, the majority of his hardware is already compatible.

The same is true for Wesley Stahler, senior system consultant at Ohio State University Medical Center, who is testing Windows 7 from an Asus Eee netbook.

He says the medical center is just now beginning migration discussions to move off XP.

"We have some clinical-based apps that work great on [Internet Explorer] 6, but on IE 8 [with Windows 7] not so much. Those are the thing we will have to look into," he says.

He says XP Mode might help, but "as someone who has to maintain the environment I would prefer not to support two operating systems."

Stahler says there are other features that are enticing or will help save money.

"Right now we are using two different products to do what BitLocker can do, so we could save money and administrative headache," he says. BitLocker is a full-disk encryption feature introduced with Windows Vista and available in Windows 7.

Microsoft's input

For its part, Microsoft is offering its range of migration tools to help with a move to Windows 7.

Microsoft also has added tools to its Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK), specifically to ease the management and deployment of Windows images.

The Windows System Image Manager lets users do low-level customization of an operating system image. The tool works with System Center Configuration Manager, which adds an administrative UI that lets users replicate information across their network. Integration with System Center management tools supports rollouts that scale to enterprise deployments.

Windows 7 also features updates to Microsoft's ImageX command-line tool, which lets users capture, modify and deploy Windows images. The tool is rolled into Configuration Manager and given a GUI interface.

Deployment Image Servicing and Management also is part of WAIK and is used to apply updates and drivers to Windows images.

Microsoft also is updating its User State Migration Toolkit with a new feature for hard-link migration, which keeps desktop data on the machine during the operating system upgrade, cutting deployment time from hours to minutes.

And the forthcoming Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 2010 is an updated version of the Business Desktop Deployment Kit that shipped with Vista. It is now integrated with System Center Configuration Manager and builds off WAIK tools. Microsoft will release version 6.0 of its Application Compatibility Toolkit once Windows 7 ships.

"The capability to centralize and bring into one admin console the ability to customize and deploy an [operating system] with applications and updates is where the Windows division with System Center is a great story," says Jeff Wettlaufer, senior technical product manger for System Center.

Now the only other story left to tell is if Windows 7 will deliver on its promises.

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