Windows 7 Arrives for Large Enterprise Customers – What Is Your Migration Plan?

The day that many of us have been waiting for has come: the official launch of Microsoft Windows 7 and general availability (GA) for consumer customers. What this means is that PC manufacturers like Dell can begin shipping systems with Windows 7 on them. Of course, large corporations and other enterprises have had beta programs in place for some time now so last week's announcement was very much focused on consumers' use of Windows 7. Microsoft hosted events in New York and elsewhere, and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer himself spent more than five minutes with Matt Lauer on The Today Show touting the benefits of Windows 7, but again heavily focused on consumers. In my view, Windows 7 is a given for consumers as almost all PCs will ship with it.

What I want to talk about today is why large companies should look at Windows 7. The enterprise is where the real decision is to be made and I think there are good reasons for corporations to begin the switch.

Dell recently did a survey of Federal IT decision-makers with the 1105 Government Information Group about their Windows 7 adoption. It’s not surprising that 72 percent reported their organizations did not adopt Windows Vista. Many of those organizations are likely running Windows XP and some may even be running Windows 2000.

Forrester Research published a report of their own recently, “Windows 7 Commercial Adoption Outlook,” that provides quite a few tips for migrating to the new OS. The report points out that about 79 percent of PCs used by small-to-medium businesses are still running Windows XP; that is in-line with our research in the federal space.

There have been a great number of comparisons of the new OS to Windows Vista as well as Windows XP. Many are suggesting that Windows 7 is very similar to XP so I'm sure many CIOs in large enterprises are wondering why make the switch at all. After all, no one in IT gets promoted for forcing an OS switch on their company’s workforce.

I think we all know how the current economic situation has led to a very frugal approach to IT spending. However, keeping laptops and desktops in circulation for more than four years can lead to higher maintenance and energy costs, and can reduce employee productivity. According to IDC, IT organizations may be incurring operating costs as much as 20.5 percent higher than necessary to acquire, manage and decommission their desktop and notebook PC equipment when comparing tightly managed three-year life cycles with less systematic, longer-span life cycle management strategies.

Also, J. Gold Associates says that keeping a laptop in circulation for years four and five can cost organizations $9,600 in lost end-user productivity and the cost to fix a laptop not under warranty can reach $1,425.

To provide evidence of lost employee productivity, Dell commissioned a performance study that compares current Latitude laptops products to similar models that are three and four years old. Examples of the results include:

  • The battery life of a Latitude E4300 laptop running Windows 7 is up to 85 percent longer than a Latitude D620, a 3-year-old system, running Windows XP;
  • The Latitude E6400 running Windows 7 offers up to 63 percent better performance than a Latitude D620 running Windows XP;
  •  With a Dell Latitude E6400 laptop you can reduce boot time by up to 29 percent compared to a previous generation Latitude laptop.

(Details on all of these claims are available in the footnotes here.)

So, aside from all the cost, performance and enhanced features of Windows 7 as a motivator to migrate, there's also the news that Microsoft has finally announced an end-date to the support they'll offer for Windows XP. According to the Microsoft Support site, Windows XP will enter its “extended support’ phase on July 7, 2010 with extended support ultimately ending in April 2014. While that seems a long way off, many analyst firms are urging large enterprises to begin their migration planning now as it takes time to assess your applications and determine what your roll-out plan is. So, it seems that migration isn’t so much of a “will we” question, but more of a “when will we” question.

Dell recently announced Dell’s a Windows 7 Readiness Assessment to identify application compatibility, hardware compatibility and migration readiness and to provide the recommendations needed to help make your transition to Windows 7 as smooth as possible. But applications are but one part of the migration process. We're making available to you a webcast entitled "Preparing for Windows 7 Migration" that discusses just how a corporation conduct such a significant migration. Here are a few other issues that need IT staffs need to consider:

  • Determining application compatibility including your Web applications;
  • What new system imaging and deployment technologies are there to consider;
  • Deciding how new virtualization technologies should be leveraged;
  • Determining whether to deploy 32-bit or 64-bit versions of the OS;
  • Dealing with extensive amounts of user data that will need to be migrated;
  • Handling a more distributed workforce with a larger number of devices;
  • Training both IT and end-users

We'd be eager to hear your thoughts on your organization. What are your migration plans? Do you plan to do a wholesale of all your clients at one time or stagger it out? What's the primary operating system you'll be migrating from? Do our numbers above match with your environment?

About the Author: Bruce Eric