Microsoft does the softsell on Windows 7 to enterprises

Microsoft Corp. today touted the experience of enterprises that have already started to deploy its coming operating system, Windows 7.

The software maker also released a study it commissioned to Forrester Consulting, an arm of analyst firm Forrester Research Inc., that looks at the coming needs of large enterprises -- needs that Microsoft believes Windows 7's new features can address.

The software maker also talked up two closely related products that it hopes will lure enterprises to move to Windows 7 sooner as well as ease their migration pain.

Windows 7 was made available to Microsoft's 51 million enterprise licensing customers at the beginning of this month. While there are few realistic alternatives to Windows in the minds of most large enterprises, Microsoft is still keen on getting them to upgrade to Windows 7 -- and Windows Server 2008 R2 -- as soon as possible, to minimize the number that fall off the lucrative enterprise agreement/Software Assurance track, and upsell them on new optional features.

Enterprise agreements are Microsoft's most profitable license as they require customers to buy additional Software Assurance contracts that cost almost as much as the EA itself. The cherry on top of all this are the Client Access Licenses (CALs) for Windows Server that let PCs use various Windows features that work only in conjunction with Windows Server.

Microsoft argues that companies that spend money to deploy Windows 7 now can save money in the long run. In cases studies provided by Microsoft, three companies that have already started deploying Windows 7, said the operating system is:

* A big jump up from Windows XP. Of the city of Miami's 2,500 employees, two-thirds were still running Microsoft's 8-year-old operating system (the rest are on Vista). Rather than continuing with its rolling four- to five-year hardware refresh cycle, the city plans to get Windows 7 on 10% of its PCs by the end of next month and provide new and in-place upgrades for remaining users within two years, according to a case study provided by Microsoft. Windows 7 features, such as ease of managing and deploying operating system images, will lower IT management costs by $89 per PC per year, the city says. The city also has 100 branch offices and expects Windows 7's BranchCache feature to help it save $14 per PC per year in network bandwidth costs. BranchCache, which caches content on branch servers while still managing it centrally, is a feature that works only in conjunction with Windows Server 2008 R2.

* Lets PCs use less power. Through Group Policy features available in Windows 7, IT administrators can set rules to power-down machines at night but wake them if necessary. The city of Miami predicts it will save $54 per PC per year from lower energy costs. U.K.-based financial services firm Baker Tilly said it can save about $28 per PC per year from reduced power consumption.

* Easier for IT to manage. Dutch technology integrator (and close Microsoft partner) Getronics projects it will save $107 per PC per year on IT labor costs on PCs running Windows 7, giving it financial payback within six months. Windows 7's ease of use will also give end users an estimated 20 extra hours a year in productivity, according to Getronics. Getronics expects to deploy Windows 7 on 1,000 PCs by year's end, and to the rest of the company's 14,100 employees by the end of 2011.

The Forrester study, meanwhile, found that three out of five employees work outside of their company's headquarters. Those companies have an average of 174 branch offices. That, Microsoft argues, can be addressed by Windows 7's BranchCache feature.

The survey of 318 IT professionals, of whom 78% oversaw 500 PCs or more, also found that 10% of help desk calls are related to the virtual private network. Microsoft notes that Windows 7 offers its own VPN alternative called DirectAccess, which, along with BranchCache, works only in conjunction with Windows Server 2008 R2.

The survey also found that one-third of companies track USB thumb drive usage. Windows 7 lets IT managers encrypt and manage the contents of removable flash drives with a feature called BitLocker-To-Go.

Tools to ease migration pain

The software maker also said that Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010 has been released and is available for free download. The software helps enterprises roll out the Windows client as well as Windows Server operating systems, especially when used in conjunction with Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager software.

Finally, the company said that its Windows 7-compatible Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) 2009 R2 will arrive in late October, around the time of Windows 7's general availability. MDOP is a key sweetener for enterprises to take the bitter taste out of paying Software Assurance. It provides features such as application virtualization, PC asset management and group policy software.

The only component of MDOP 2009 R2 that won't be upgraded immediately to Windows 7 compatibility is MED-V. Introduced earlier this year, MED-V offers server-based application virtualization, primarily so IT managers can enable users to run applications written for older versions of Windows.

MED-V 1.0 will be made compatible with Windows 7 in the first quarter of next year, according to Gavriella Schuster, senior director of Windows product management.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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