BMW Shares Tips from Its Drive to Windows 7

German car giant BMW, in the midst of a massive migration from Windows XP to Windows 7, shares five key upgrade tips for enterprises. Here's their advice on preparing for a smooth journey.

If you're looking for someone who has road tested Windows 7, pull up next to BMW IT executive Bernhard Huber.

Huber started testing Windows 7 in its beta phase about a year ago and continued putting it front of BMW users through an internal pilot program that grew as Windows 7 reached its RC (release candidate) and RTM (release to manufacturing) milestones.

As 2009 came to a close, the German car giant had close to 500 users running Windows 7 on their PCs. Huber, BMW's Head of IT Workplace Systems, now has his sights set on having 5,000 more Windows 7 users set up by October and the rest of BMW's 85,000 employees by late 2011.

BMW Headquarters
BMW corporate headquarters in Munich, Germany. The auto maker plans to have 5,000 of its users running Windows 7 by October.

Being an early adopter and migrating that many people from eight-year-old Windows XP to Windows 7 is a monumental task, but one that many enterprises now face . At BMW, Huber is taking a deliberate and systematic approach to Windows 7 deployments, rolling it out in phases. Here are his five upgrade tips for enterprises.

1. Make application compatibility the first priority. Your first step should be to figure out which applications to run natively on Windows 7, which to run using the Application Toolkit and which to run using technologies such as App-V or Med-V, Huber says. App-V and Med-V are two virtualization technologies included in MDOP (Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack), Microsoft's desktop software suite for SA (software assurance) customers designed to help manage enterprise IT environments.

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2. Use SCCM (System Center Configuration Manager) for image creation and deployment. SCCM is Microsoft's systems software for managing groups of Windows PCs, and in addition to aiding with operating system deployment, SCCM provides remote control, patch management, software distribution, and hardware and software inventory. Huber says this tool worked well in BMW's experience.

3. Start with basic group policy settings but then update. After basic policies are set, Huber underscores that enterprise IT managers can update group policies (rules administered by IT about what users can and can't do on a company's network) easier through another MDOP technology called AGPM (Advanced Group Policy Management). AGPM allows IT managers to develop, review, and modify group policies without affecting employee desktops.

4. Work with ISVs early and often. For the most critical application compatibility, Huber says to get in contact with the ISV (independent software provider) at the beginning of the planning phase and express the necessity that their applications be compatible with Windows 7.

5. Align Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 deployment timing. Microsoft has been extolling the "better together" benefits of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. Huber says that deploying Windows Server 2008 R2 will help his company leverage "the full potential of Windows 7." Two desirable networking features for Huber that require both Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 are DirectAccess, a networking tool that eliminates the need for a VPN (virtual private network), and BranchCache, which speeds up networks in remote offices by caching files locally.

Shane O'Neill is a senior writer at CIO.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/smoneill. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter at twitter.com/CIOonline.

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