Padgett used the refresh effort as an opportunity to consider a shift to a different platform — Mac or Linux — but decided the compatibility issues were too great and there would be no savings even from the less expensive Linux platform after training and application support costs were factored in.
He also had positive reasons for going to Vista. A big one was Lenovo's (originally IBM's) ThinkVantage software, a suite of deployment and security tools for XP. It turned out these tools caused many of the trouble-ticket reports, especially around connecting to presentation hardware and wireless LANs, but Vista had its own tools for these, so Padgett saw he could remove a source of support calls.
Another incentive to adopt Vista was its built-in performance monitor, which logs all failures into a central location, complete with history, giving his support staff the context needed to diagnose problems that it had not had with its existing help-desk trouble-ticket system.
Not everything in Vista has worked as Padgett would like. He's disabled the User Account Control security system, which makes users confirm any suspicious activity before allowing it, annoying users and causing many to click OK without reading the warnings. Instead, Padgett will continue to use Trend Micro's anti-malware software to protect the PCs. "While UAC would protect against rogue administrator-privileged apps, we couldn't afford to handle the user support [requests it would cause]," he says. Padgett says UAC makes sense in a tightly controlled network environment, where most risks are filtered out before they get to the user, but that's not a realistic state for his network, as it connects to supplier and customer networks beyond Kemet's control.
Although many people have complained that Vista's new security model breaks apps designed to run in administrator mode — not in user mode as Microsoft has been urging since 1999 — this has not caused much of a problem at Kemet. The reason, Padgett says, is that he had already reworked homegrown programs to run in user mode. Today, only five of 50 .Net and FoxPro database applications in use have problems with the new security model, and he expects to have those externally developed apps fixed shortly. Padgett's team has also migrated from Visual Studio 2003 to the 2005 edition, which natively supports the Vista security model.
Ready for Vista after a compatibility delay
As a member of Microsoft's Technology Adoption Program, Gary Wilhelm has been ready for Vista for nearly two years. But only now is he ready to start his Vista rollout at the Englewood Hospital Medical Center in New Jersey, in concert with a hardware refresh. The issue was compatibility: the Encentuate single-sign-on software that the hospital uses was only recently updated to support Vista and is now being tested, notes Wilhelm, the hospital's business and systems financial manager (a combination of CTO and CFO).
Wilhelm's Vista plans were based primarily on a desire to modernize the hospital's systems. Right now, in addition to the bulk of XP installations, there are still Windows 2000, 98, 95, and even 3.1 systems in use. The pre-XP systems will be the first to be replaced with Vista PCs. "Managing two OSes [XP and Vista] will be easier," he says dryly.
But the Vista migration will also bring automatic connection to wireless LANs, without requiring users to reauthenticate as they switch access points — "a pleasant surprise that XP can't do," Wilhelm says. He also likes the new user interface, which he says he quickly learned to prefer over XP's: "It's like watching high-def and trying to go back."