One way to avoid replacing end user PCs is to use PC virtualization technologies. Naglich plans to do exactly that at University HealthSystem Consortium. And he's not alone in considering the use of desktop virtualization to ease the transition to Windows 7. Nearly one in five (18 percent) of IT professionals surveyed said they plan to move at least some Windows XP users from traditional Windows PCs to hosted virtual desktops as they migrate to Windows 7.
Naglich is working on a proof of concept for VMware-based desktop virtualization. That should roll out in the next month or two, he says. He hopes that hosted shared desktops will make administration easier and reduce application and hardware conflicts during the transition to Windows 7 by using a few common, centralized system images on back end servers. "For some people, the first Windows 7 they have may be on a virtualized desktop," he says. But he's not ready for a broader rollout. Most of the 275 Windows clients will be upgraded to a local version of Windows 7.
That's smart, because both Windows 7 and desktop virtualization products are still maturing, says Gartner's Silver, adding that what you save on desktops you'll need to invest in back end servers, virtualization software and associated infrastructure. The real benefits come from easier management. The sweet spot for organizations that want to do both at once, he says, is late 2011. By then, he contends, both Windows 7 and desktop virtualization technologies will be more mature.
Why is your organization planning to upgrade?
Skipped Vista, Windows XP is getting old: 64 percent
Need to keep current: 45 percent
We paid for it as part of our enterprise license agreement, might as well upgrade: 24 percent
Need to improve security: 22 percent
We're also adopting other new desktop or server software and might as well get it all done at once: 12 percent
Source: Computerworld online survey; 205 respondents
For existing hardware that meets Windows 7 system requirements, all of the usual upgrade issues apply. "Fresh installs are quick," Sebastiano says. On the other hand, while a Vista upgrade to Windows 7 is fairly straightforward, getting user profiles and settings moved over from XP is more challenging. He's looking at using Laplink Software's PCmover to bring those over.
Application compatibility is another potential issue, particularly for older software. Axium Healthcare Pharmacy, an online specialty pharmacy, is using several internally developed Visual Basic 6 applications that won't run on Windows 7, not even with the XP Mode software. "A lot of ActiveX controls don't play at all," says Norbert Cointepoix, director of IT.