Dimension Data: Windows 7 has smaller footprint but greater kick

Following a long period of testing and discussion about Windows 7, IT services outfit Dimension Data is now preparing to roll the new operating system out to around 2000 staff and customers by year's end.

According to Dimension Data's national Microsoft practice manager Brian Walshe, Dimension Data's Windows 7 pilot program, involving about 70 staff, had gone well enough for the company to feel confident enough to roll the new OS out to its own staff of 1,100 in Australia and then to a further 1000 employees around the world.

“We have all the infrastructure in place so that as soon as we have got the [RTM] code we'll roll out Windows 7 to all our users,” he said. “We'll also go on to upgrade to Windows Server 2008 R2, because you need it for some Windows 7 features such as Branch Cache and Direct Access.”

While Dimension Data was seeing a strong desire in the market to upgrade to Windows 7, partly driven by enterprise features such as Branch Cache and Direct Access, the real selling point is around the platform itself, Walshe said.

“The basics of Windows 7 itself have got customers very excited,” he said. "The performance and the speed, for a start has impressed virtually everyone that we have spoken to. Firstly the speed to shut down, start up and resume from sleep (which is near instantaneous) and also how quickly it handles tasks.”

Walshe said that the he is even more impressed with the fact that for all the extra performance, the OS did not come with increased hardware requirements.

“In fact, it requires less than the previous Windows operating system which is extremely impressive to us,” he said.

Walshe said that IT departments should have no problem putting forward a business case for upgrading to Windows 7, agreeing with Microsoft Australia Windows commercial group lead, Sarah Vaughan, that the operating system can lead to substantial savings for organisations.

“We've already seen savings internally [through the pilot program]. Features included in the system, like Bit Locker for example, will mean we can move from a third party encryption tool and save thousands of dollars,” Walshe said. “Also, going through Direct Access means we don't need to run Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and firewalls and purchase token keys for everyone which can all add up to be quite expensive.”

Another cost saver is the fact that Windows 7 will allow IT departments to get more performance out of existing hardware, according to Walshe.

“That is certainly something that a lot of our customers are interested in," he said. "With Vista, for instance, most people thought that they would need to do a hardware upgrade to roll Vista out. What we are seeing with Windows 7 is that not only can we roll it out on our existing hardware but we will also get a performance increase from those existing machine. So it is a pretty cheap way for an organisation to get a performance upgrade.”

Walshe points out that the majority of Windows customers still using XP -- a ten year old operating system -- and more than likely using a desktop management environment that is six to seven years old, a mass Windows 7 upgrade is only matter of time.

“Windows 7 will be an agent of change, not just for the desktop operating system but for the way that those desktops are managed. For example, in an XP environment, if we had applications that we wanted to run in that environment that might not have been all that friendly, we would have to remediate it and package it so that it would run on XP,” he said.

“What we will probably do today [with Windows 7] is virtualise those applications and deliver them via a virtualised environment which is significantly easier and cheaper than what we have done in the past.”

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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