Windows 7 is on a (slow) roll

Enterprise IT wants Windows 7. It's just not in a hurry to get it.

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At WorleyParsons, some deployments have been held up by an old accounting application that requires Internet Explorer 6, which isn't supported in Windows 7. To get around that, Calvert is using Citrix's XenApp to deliver the application to desktops that have migrated to Windows 7 until the company can get off the software.

"The Web browser space is the biggest area of pain for the enterprise," says Gross. "The number of people still using IE 6 is mind boggling."

Hardware issues

A need for more powerful hardware delayed Qualcomm Inc.'s Windows 7 rollout. It started deployments in 2009, but management's decision to move all users to the 64-bit version of Windows 7 slowed the migration process because two-thirds of the company's 27,000 personal computers weren't beefy enough to run it. "This has required a number of upgrades to our user base," says Matt Clark, senior director of IT.

On the plus side, the failure rate of the new machines, configured with extra memory and solid state disks, has "decreased tremendously," resulting in a reduction in support costs. With 50% of users now on board, Clark expects to finish up by the middle of next year.

What types of desktops/machines will your organization run Windows 7 on?

[Select all that apply]

New desktop PCs or laptops bought specifically for this upgrade - 77%

PCs purchased within the last year - 62%

PCs between 1 and 2 years old - 55%
PCs between 2 and 3 years old - 35%
PCs more than 3 years old - 13%

Source: Computerworld online survey; 210 respondents

While most survey respondents say they plan to deploy Windows 7 on new hardware, fewer say they will deploy it on existing computers. But at ModusLink more than 70% of migrations to the 32-bit version have been upgrades on computers that are three or four years old -- and that hasn't been a bad thing. "We're getting better performance on the same hardware," says Sebastiano.

Caesar's has delayed precisely because it wants to avoid upgrading existing hardware. Wilby says the migration process from XP to 7 involves manually unloading and reloading each user's data -- a labor-intensive process. "We are moving in Windows 7 through attrition on new purchases," he says, and Caesar's is in the middle of an assessment to see if it can use desktop virtualization for machines that won't be replaced with new machines running Windows 7 before Microsoft ends support for XP. If a PC cannot be virtualized, and is not due for replacement, only then will Caesar's consider upgrading it to Windows 7, he says.

Motivating forces: Security is key

Although IT organizations aren't all finding the benefits of Windows 7 compelling enough to move quickly, most say the operating system has much to recommend it.

Sebastiano boils it down to three key benefits: Speed, stability and security. While the first two are great for users, they won't drive the deployment decision at ModusLink. In fact, many end users don't even think about the benefits. "There hasn't been a lot of wow factor from the user base," he says.

Norbert Cointepoix
Axium Healthcare Pharmacy put its Windows 7 plans on hold more than a year ago after discovering that several major applications didn't support it, says Norbert Cointepoix, senior director of IT. He says it will be 2013 before his company is off Windows XP entirely.

But in businesses where security and data control are paramount, new security features have pushed Windows 7 migration higher on the agenda. Some 33% of survey respondents cite security as a key reason for migrating.

The CIO for a large US-based entertainment company, who spoke on condition that he not be named, says BitLocker disk drive encryption, included in Windows 7, has vastly improved boot times. Previously, the company was using a whole-disk encryption product that had slowed boot times on XP machines to 7 minutes. Now machines are up and running within 1 or 2 minutes. "It's a significant improvement," he says.

Despite this benefit, most of his company's nearly 10,000 users remain on Windows XP. About half should be Windows 7 before the end of 2012, with the rest following before the 2014 final XP support deadline, he says.

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