It was almost a year ago, two years into the lifecycle of Windows Vista, that Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer acknowledged at an industry conference that many enterprises were likely to skip the company’s latest operating system in anticipation of its successor, Windows 7. With the new OS shipping next month, what kind of reception will it get from IT shops? Will they flock to the new operating system after waiting out Vista? Or will they take a more cautious approach? We asked some of our readers about their plans for Windows 7.
Don’t fix what isn’t broken
Cris Gheorghiu works as a technical support analyst providing day-to-day IT support for the Kleinburg, Ont.-based McMichael Canadian Art Collection. The art gallery is a small shop, with about 60 to 70 desktops currently under Gheorghiu’s command.
While the recession was probably the biggest influence in preventing a Vista upgrade over the last year, the fact that XP has remained so stable and the art gallery isn’t a full-fledged Microsoft shop could be a strike against a Windows 7 upgrade in the near future.
“I know Microsoft is pushing collaborative applications with Exchange and if we were really dependant on that, we’d have no choice to upgrade,” he said. “But we’re using IBM Lotus Notes, so we’re still pretty happy with what we have. We don’t need more bells and whistles just to look nice.”
To underscore how happy the art gallery is with their current setup, Gheorghiu recalled how easily its offices handled power problems caused by a group of tornados that ripped through the Greater Toronto Area in August.
“If it was an Exchange server it probably would have been one day’s work to get it running,” he said. “But we only needed to restart our Domino server to get everything back in business.”
Another reason a Windows 7 upgrade in the near future is doubtful, Gheorghiu said, is the indirect costs it will have on the art gallery’s infrastructure. The museum has recently added an environment application that controls the temperature and a building automation system that controls the lights. Both of these applications are untested with Vista and Windows 7 and were developed for Windows Server 2003 and XP.
Maybe next year
Carpenter Canada Co. is in the early stages of Windows 7 testing. “I’ve only been testing it myself for a couple months in my environment … it’s behaving better and a little easier to work with than Vista,” said Wayne Bonaguro, data processing and IT manager of Carpenter’s Western Division in Calgary.
The manufacturing company tested Vista for nearly one year before deciding to pass on it globally, said Bonaguro. “It just wasn’t fitting in with some of the needs, and of course, some of the specialized software that we use wasn’t compatible either,” he said.
Bonaguro is impressed with the new OS. “It appears that it’s going to be a little bit easier to implement [Windows 7] into our environment,” he said.
“The tests I’ve personally conducted using the exact same hardware, Vista to 7, is remarkable. You would think it was actually running on stronger, better, faster hardware and it’s not, so they’ve done a good job,” he said.
The move towards Windows 7 is likely to begin next year, but a rollout in 2009 is highly doubtful, according to Bonaguro.
“We probably won’t begin to roll out anything until 2010. I don’t foresee anything in the last quarter of this year and that has to do with a lot of things, including an overall downturn in the economy slowing down things a little bit,” he said.
A rollout across the Western Canada division would affect roughly 150 desktop environments, leaving out servers and specialized equipment. “I think overall the users will be very pleased with it and are probably looking forward to a change,” said Bonaguro.
Bonaguro still runs Windows 2000 in his environment due to older, dated software. While most users are running XP, some are still using 2000, he said.
A soft upgrade
Avanade Canada is ramping up for its rollout of Windows 7 this year, as part of a global deployment program for the new operating system.
Avanade employees often work remotely at client sites, so the ability to safeguard data and intellectual property is important, said John Policelli, manager of technology infrastructure with Avanade Canada.
“We are deploying Windows 7 internally quite aggressively because of its significant improvements in security and data protection, which are very important to us,” said Policelli.
He said the 150 users will have the option to install Window 7 onto their machines via a soft upgrade.
“The image will be available for employees to upgrade as they please,” said Policelli.
Avanade Canada participated in a production pilot for the then-pre-beta operating system, during which, Policelli said, the usability features were quite popular with employees.
“I would expect that most our technology folks would be interested in upgrading,” he said.
Otherwise employees can use Windows 7 when they get new laptops.
The Canadian unit of the Seattle, Wash.-based company has offices in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto.
When apps are certified
While the Windows 7 operating system does look “promising” to Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, chief information officer Daniela Crivianu-Gaita said the technological complexity of a health-care environment means the 5,000 users will have to continue using XP for the time being.
Sick Kids Hospital manages more than 100 types of software, ranging from business to clinical to productivity applications, making it “a very complex technological environment,” said Crivianu-Gaita.
Basically, the vendors of the software must certify their applications to work with the operating system in use by the hospital, she explained. At present, none of the applications have been certified.
“But we cannot migrate to any operating system until all vendors of our software applications are certifying their applications with that operating system,” she said.
Crivianu-Gaita said the hospital has reached out to the vendors asking them to get their applications certified, some of whom have responded they will definitely start with the certification process and will be complete in about a year. Others, she said, have not come back with a timeline.
In theory, had all applications been certified, Crivianu-Gaita said the rollout would be done by individual department within a very timely schedule in order to standardize as much as possible.
But will our customers?
Software development consultants at ObjectSharp made the jump to Vista, and they’re already migrating to Windows 7. But principal consultant Bruce Johnson said his clients — who develop on the Windows platform — have been more cautious.
“The vast majority of our clients did not perform the upgrade (to Vista),” he wrote in an e-mail interview. “The reason for that was almost universally lack of power on the machines or potential issues with driver compatibility. Two years after its release, the driver problems seem to have gone away. So what our clients are left with is the lack of power. There is no compelling reason to upgrade from XP to Vista when doing so would require additional memory or CPU to run.”
ObjectSharp’s consultants have started the Windows 7 transition for performance reasons; it takes less CPU power and memory to run than Vista. Since those were the major impediments to customer adoption of Vista, that should bode well for Windows 7.
But Johnson said there are other barriers.
There’s no direct upgrade path from XP, so an OS upgrade means having to reinstall applications as well. “For some of our clients, this is a significant deal,” he wrote.
“Developers, in particular, have to reinstall a large number of applications to get back to their starting point and while the are some benefits to Win7, there aren’t enough to make it worth taking the four to eight hours (or longer) to reinstall. At least not yet.”