Microsoft has configured its upgrade process to allow certain users to upgrade their own machines at their own pace when going from Windows XP/Office 2003 to Vista/Office 2007. But once on the new platform, Microsoft uses a forced SMS (Systems Management Server) 2003 upgrade process to make sure that users on Vista stay current with new builds. “The nice thing is that we can use the same WIM library for both operations,” Lewis says.
Gut check: software compatibility
That’s a rosy picture Microsoft paints for its own wares, but even with this brace of new deployment tools, Vista’s radically redesigned new innards will still have a significant impact on mission-critical line-of-business apps.
“Software remediation is definitely the most important upgrade step across all our customers. It really drives the rest of the rollout process,” Avanade’s LeSueur says. “Our own internal rollout, for example, … we’re halfway through, but our accounting department will have to come last because one of their critical software applications is going to need more time to become fully Vista-compliant.”
Figuring out what’s running on the network — including a full software and hardware portfolio — will be the most crucial prep step for every enterprise Vista rollout. Fortunately, much of this can be accomplished with existing desktop management tools.
“[Vista has] been a great business driver for us,” says Tony Thomas, senior product manager at Numara, the software company behind Track-It, a popular desktop management and asset management platform. “In fact, we’re creating a customer Web portal specific to Vista deployments, including the steps you should take, the features we do and don’t offer, and the ability to ask questions. We want to help them as much as possible with this process, and our software puts us in a unique position to do that.”
In addition to the portal, Thomas says Track-It has received new features specific to the Vista predeployment process. “We’ve added reports designed specifically to let our customers see what machines are equipped to run Vista and what their overall software portfolio looks like,” he says. “The intention for us is to facilitate the planning as much as we can, then facilitate the rollout, and finally give them the tools they need to measure ROI.”
Click for larger view.
A key worry that many InfoWorld readers have expressed in terms of software compatibility rests with desktop anti-virus. With the redesigned Vista kernel, existing Windows XP anti-virus packages won’t run on Vista. This situation has folks with hundreds or thousands of anti-virus client licenses concerned about how upgrading will affect their budgets. Fortunately, anti-virus vendors are taking the sensible approach.