Windows 7 Corporate Rollouts Could Come in Pieces

Enterprises are likely to move to Windows 7 on a piecemeal basis as they replace PCs rather than doing expensive mass migrations, says analyst.

Corporate users are more likely to move to Windows 7 on a piecemeal basis as they replace PCs rather than looking for big budget outlays to cover mass migration, says analyst Michael Cherry.

Cherry, the vice president of research for Windows at independent research firm Directions on Microsoft, says barring the current economic climate users would be casting an eye at Microsoft's new operating system, available this fall after many bypassed Vista.

Slideshow: What we love/hate about Windows 7/Windows Server 2008 R2

"If all things were equal there would be pent up demand," he said. "But I think organizations need to evaluate this and at the end of the day part of that evaluation will have to be stack ranking Windows 7 against other IT needs they have and deciding what is the best way to do this."

He also said users should include evaluation of the numerous licensing options and early-bird discounts as part of their decision process. Those options include new downgrade rights and Software Assurance options for volume licensing customers that include access to other software like the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack.

Cherry Thursday also laid out during a telebriefing some of the feature and functional considerations that might tip companies toward evaluations and adoption of Windows 7.

Cherry, along with colleagues Paul DeGroot and Matt Rosoff, plan to offer an expansive enterprise look at Windows 7 in a report that will publish in September titled, "Windows 7: An OS for Businesses."

Thursday, Cherry was bullish on Windows 7, saying it solves numerous issues that kept users away from Vista.

"Many organizations will find value in Windows 7," said Cherry, who classifies the OS as an interim release because it does not have any architectural or foundational difference when compared to Vista. "That is actually a very, very good thing."

Cherry says Windows 7 instead is the recovery from Vista's stumble, improving application compatibility, driver support, and features such as User Account Control, BitLocker and power management.

"In general there has been some effort to trim down some of the operating paths and code paths and dependencies in the product and that should make it a better performing and more stable OS," he said.

Also, additions such as DirectAccess, Branch Cache and XP Mode are laudable new features, he said.

But he said those features come with their own considerations. DirectAccess requires IPSec and IPv6 and will take some configuration and decision making before it can be rolled out effectively. Branch cache features have the ability to save network bandwidth and improve performance, but they are limited to Windows 7 Enterprise and Ultimate versions (as is DirectAccess). XP Mode requires users to maintain two operating systems and run specialized virtualization optimization chips that many current laptops running within corporations do not have.

Cherry says one of the logical places to start with the Windows 7 client is actually on the server side with Windows Server 2008 R2. The client and the server work in tandem on many features including DirectAccess, Branch Cache and the wildly popular PowerShell scripting.

"If you want those benefits you should do the server upgrades first and get the infrastructure in place," said Cherry. "Then you upgrade the clients and start to use the integrated features." He said users should be cautious on the server side and consider what client platforms they need to support.

On top of all the technical and architectural issues, Cherry says licensing is a bit more complex with Windows 7.

"There are so many permutations; where you are coming from, what you have, where you want to end up."

He says Microsoft has a bunch of offers on the table and it might benefit some users to snap those up now in order to save money.

"Microsoft has tons of weird options out there with different expiration dates," he says.

Those include offers include discounts on Windows 7 Professional upgrades for volume licensing customers or deals to extend purchase options on Software Assurance. Cherry says the full slate of options is laid out in his upcoming report.

This story, "Windows 7 Corporate Rollouts Could Come in Pieces" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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