by Shane O'Neill

Windows 7 Migration Moment of Truth: Three Ways to Get Ready

Aug 26, 2010
Data Center

A Gartner report warns companies about the financial dangers of delaying Windows 7 migrations.

It’s time to put some money aside for Windows 7 migrations or run the risk of not upgrading in time to meet the end-of-support deadline for Windows XP in four years, according to a new report from Gartner Research.

The crux of the problem, according to the report written by Charles Smulders and Stephen Kleynhans, is that companies are underestimating the burden that upgrades from Windows XP to Windows 7 will have on budgets and resources in the 2011 – 2012 timeframe. Additionally, the demand for highly qualified workers skilled in Windows 7 migrations will surpass the available supply, leading to even higher service rates.

As a result, companies will need to find extra funds or redirect funds away from other projects to complete Windows 7 migrations on time, the Gartner report states.

“Corporate IT departments typically prefer to migrate PC operating systems via hardware attrition,” writes Smulders, managing vice president at Gartner. “Microsoft will support Windows XP for four more years. With most migrations not starting until the fourth quarter of 2010 at the earliest, and PC hardware replacement cycles typically running at four to five years, most organizations will not be able to migrate to Windows 7 through usual planned hardware refresh before support for Windows XP ends.”

[ For complete coverage on Microsoft’s new Windows 7 operating system — including hands-on reviews, video tutorials and advice on enterprise rollouts — see’s Windows 7 Bible. ]

Expect the cost of IT labor to increase during 2011 and 2012 as demand for Windows 7 migration services increase. Gartner estimates that the proportion of the budget spent on PCs will “need to increase between 20 percent as a best-case scenario and 60 percent at worst.” These cost hikes will likely continue in 2013 as companies realize that they are behind in their migrations, according to the report.

Here are three suggestions from Gartner for companies looking to speed up Windows migrations in 2011 and 2012.

Upgrade Installed PCs

Using existing PCs will reduce the capital costs of migration, but will not reduce the labor costs of migration. Assuming a 10,000 PC environment where all PCs are upgraded, the migration cost per PC will be between $1,274 and $2,069, depending on how well-managed the environment is. This assumes that 25 percent of the machines will need a hardware upgrade to run the OS.

While the capital costs are reduced in this case, upgrading an installed PC simply postpones the inevitable PC replacement for two to three years, writes Gartner. Users will need to be migrated twice, rather than once, during a four-year period.

Accelerate PC Replacement Plans

Buying new PCs with the OS upgrade guarantees that machines have a full set of compatible drivers and a BIOS (basic input/output system). This will also ensure that machines will have a long operational life with the new OS, which will pay back the costs of the migration, writes Gartner.

Again assuming a 10,000 PC environment where all PCs are replaced, Gartner estimates that the migration cost per PC will be between $1,205 and $1,999, depending on how well-managed the environment is. While the overall cost to migrate is lower than other scenarios, the down side is that the capital costs account for about 60 percent of the total replacement cost, so the capital budget will be larger in a PC replacement case than in an upgrade case.

Try Desktop Virtualization

For workers in data-entry roles — which account for about 15 percent of the population in a typical company — migrating from a PC to a HVD (hosted virtual desktop) environment is an alternative to PC

migrations, according to the Gartner report.

This approach could potentially speed up deployment because it is one image deployed centrally. On the other hand, an HVD does not necessarily solve budget problems. To run an HVD a company needs data center and network infrastructure, which costs money to operate. Also, it does not solve the IT support staff issue because staffers will be needed to execute the HVD rollout.

Shane O’Neill covers Microsoft, Windows, Operating Systems, Productivity Apps and Online Services for Follow Shane on Twitter @smoneill. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Shane at