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Windows 7 migration options for enterprise VARs

There are lots of one-shot tools available for migrating Windows XP machines to Windows 7, but options for your enterprise customers are somewhat fewer and further between. Learn about some

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of the most useful and capable options in today's enterprise market to improve your VAR portfolio.

Before laying out a short list of XP-to-Windows 7 migration tools for enterprise environments, let's explore what distinguishes enterprise tools from the available one-shot operations. Solution providers should recognize that enterprises generally have a lot more on the line when it comes to migration.

This means that there isn't much room for error when maintaining a working desktop environment for large numbers of users and the size of the typical application library to which enterprises must retain productive access before, during and after the migration process.

The biggest issues for most enterprises -- and the biggest consumer of manpower, programming resources and planning activity for a large-scale Windows XP-to-Windows 7 migration -- come from the large libraries of applications that enterprises typically maintain for their user bases. The difference between application libraries in most desktops and enterprises is volume. Most desktops have fewer than 200 applications installed, and enterprise application libraries contain from 1,000 to as many as 5,000 items, all of which run on some desktop somewhere within their networks.

Dealing with applications as part of the migration process means, first and foremost, identifying which items can withstand the migration process and which ones will need some form of remediation. This is the case especially for mission-critical, homegrown or custom-built desktop applications. Remediation often involves substantial programming time and effort to keep what runs under Windows XP going under Windows 7. It can also mean crafting usable workarounds such as Windows XP mode-based environments, where no amount of programming effort can bring older code bases up to snuff for native Windows 7 use.

These application issues can become a major stumbling block to successful migration, and that's why analytical capabilities and automated remediation are so important. Table 1 includes products with these capabilities, but it's up to you to have a strong understanding of your customer's environment and identify potential sticking points as comprehensively as possible.

Don't forget that analysis and remediation are only the first steps. Testing and deployment must come next. These often involve different tools. As a result, some of the items in the following table must be viewed as complementary rather than as competitive. Price estimates are ballpark and depend on the total number of seats and other licensing considerations. In general, the more seats, the lower the per-seat price.

Table 1: A Short List of Enterprise XP-to-7 Windows Migration Tools

Vendor

Name

Type

Cost

Notes

App-DNA

AppTitude

analysis and remediation

$25 to $50 per seat

  • no automated deployment
  • highly accurate automated analysis and remediation
  • add-on services available
  • serious channel opportunities and programs available

Dell

KACE Kbox

deployment only

$13 to $45 per seat

  • highly automated for deployment
  • depends on image construction
  • no built-in remediation
  • channel opportunities available through Dell

Laplink Software Inc.

PCmover Enterprise

setup and deploy

$10 and up per seat

  • services add-on available
  • various channel opportunities may be available, depending on location)
  • zero touch capability
  • try before buying.

Microsoft

WAIK and MDOP

set-up and deploy

Free; Microsoft Partners and Enterprise licenses obtain access to MDOP through their licensing agreements. WAIK is a freely available download from Microsoft.

  • services add-ons available
  • lots of channel value-add opportunities
  • modest automation support

Prowess

Smart
Deploy

virtual machine (VM) packaging and OS deployment

$2,000 per application;
Prowess also offers enterprise-class licenses that will support an unlimited number of applications, where a special runtime envelope that integrates with Windows 7 and provides legacy OS support is created for each application in need of such handling.

  • hardware free imaging technology
  • smart packaging of virtual environments to remediate API or runtime issues for applications
  • highly secure deployment technologies
  • strong channel partnering opportunities

Zinstall

Enterprise Server

VM packaging and OS deployment

$100 and up per seat

  • server-based deployment technology
  • builds VMs to create XP-compatible runtime packages
  • preserves previous XP environment intact
  • enterprise console manages sources and targets
  • direct and indirect partnering opportunities availablefrom Zinstall or through Lifeboat Distribution

All of the vendors in Table 1recognize the importance of the channel in assisting enterprise desktop migrations, so all offer varying levels of support and incentives to develop and maintain ongoing channel partnerships. They also offer some form of direct partnering opportunities -- Prowess and Zinstall in particular -- and some distributor based programs as well.

This is a case where the service add-on potential is enormous simply because migration technology requires so much service and support as projects are scoped out, developed, implemented and deployed. Several of the companies in Table 1 mentioned projects with hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in value-added sales and service opportunities. With Windows 7 now in so many enterprise plans, this is indeed a golden opportunity.

When is it time to upgrade?
Deciding when to upgrade is a big question for many enterprises and organizations. And the most mundane of circumstances often drive it.

Vendors are starting to balk at the idea of taking a machine with Windows 7 pre-installed on it, wiping that image and replacing it with Windows XP. Because of this, a leading motivator for solution providers is making use of systems that ship with a pre-installed operating system without the need to rebuild the machine to customer specifications. Then, too, there are lots of compelling technical reasons for companies to ponder and actually upgrade, including improved security, a reduced system footprint -- compared to Vista, anyway -- better support for modern peripheral devices such as Solid-state drives as well as improved remote access and management utilities.

Once your customer is willing to migrate, you may be brought in to help members of the IT staff to keep doing their jobs while the migration is underway. VARs that partner with enterprise customers for a migration project will be more likely to deliver a successful experience -- and migration -- if they understand and appreciate their routines and objectives as well as the tools and technologies they'll use to deploy new Windows 7 desktops.

About the expert Ed Tittel is an IT expert who has written or contributed to more than 100 computing books, including MCSE Windows XP Professional Exam Cram 2 (Exam Cram 70-270). Tittel's most recent projects focus on Windows 7 in commercial production.


This was first published in February 2011

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