Windows XP part 1: Ready to drive without the 3rd wheel?

By : |April 8, 2014 0

INDIA: It does not matter whether it was almost your family member in a way. And it does not leave you any less cold-footed even if you knew that someday soon the dog would have to be put to sleep.

Software tends to take the affection, complacence, habit-frozen-familiarity etc of that pet Beetle or Bruno people just can’t imagine their lives without. By the same bond, creeps in that taken-for-granted oblivion. You may feel it is going to be here and around for good, but then April knocks and you know you can’t fool yourself any more.

Ever seen (or been) that car owner who suddenly feels out-of-kilter when the manufacturer informs of ceasing all accessory, service parts and support for a particular brand?

Many in the industry are standing amidst that exact befuddled porch, wondering what to do next- wave their car goodbye or go brave like a Harley Davidson biker? In either case, there is some oil that will leak and you better know your way around a spanner.

Riding a bicycle on two wheels, on your own

That comforting confidence of having an extra pair of wheels or hand of support behind you often runs into a big bump. It doesn’t matter when your cycle-teacher warns you about ‘now you are going solo’, there is still that moment of panic that waves at you when you turn your back.

Now shouldn’t it be a thing of common sense then not to turn your back and keep pedaling?

Like Dipankar Sengupta, Senior Technical Director, National Informatics Centre, Accounts Informatics Division, Govt of India, who is busy with his team drawing a plan to migrate systems to Windows 7 or Windows 8. Advisories have already been sent to all ministries and departments to upgrade their systems accordingly.

“Yes we are also seized of the matter,” he shares, “Windows XP is at the end of its life cycle and we have over 9000 clients which are on XP which would have to be migrated to a newer O/S.

Most of the hardware with Windows XP is also at the end of its life cycle and as per Govt. of India policy will come under obsolete policy and would have to be replaced. We see most systems being phased out over the next six months with newer systems which would obviously come with the latest o/s on it.

Michael Silver, vice president and analyst at Gartner, reckons that the number of organizations still using Windows XP is fairly large. “Really, almost every organization will have some XP left – there’s lots of Windows 95 running in hospitals, for example.”

He estimates that on an overall note as support ends, 20-25 per cent of enterprise systems will still run XP and that one third of enterprises will have more than 10 per cent of their systems remaining on XP.
Nonetheless, leaving Windows XP unsupported will expose organizations to a growing, and continued support from Microsoft will be costly, Silver cautions.

Unless of course organizations come out of ‘we will cross the bridge when’ mentality. Also it won’t be adequate to escort just the high horses to stables. Windows XP also brings a queer mix of consumer-as-well-as-enterprise-oriented problems. Remember that thing called BYOD?

Newsflash: you cannot rest back assuming all your license, transition and support IT is fixed by the IT team. Specially, when an employee could be swinging in an XP-run device right behind your IT manager’s back.

That’s possibly why Silver specifically recommends enterprises to reduce user rights on the machines, restrict the PC to run only “known good” applications, and minimize web browsing and email use on the PCs.

It may also be prudent to move critical applications and users to server-based computing. Where users or applications can’t be moved for regular use due to licensing, cost, or capacity issues, have the applications installed for server access in case of emergency, he suggests.

In short, be ready for that non-descript face in the crowd who inadvertently puts an unpatched Windows XP machine on the network and starts a hairball of bigger problems.

Head-in-the-sands optimism? Time out

For CIOs support is often the pill that comes as part of any software-popsicle bundle. From negotiating and picking the best deal, the arm-wringing-for-least-hurtful rates to ensuring AMCs and support staff delivery runs smooth and as expected, CIOs are well-versed with the whole service enchilada.

Most of them would be already cognizant and rightly-postured for all key decisions and problems that must be addressed before beginning a migration to a later version of Windows or another OS. That includes three key areas – rollover to the new generation, compatibility-checks and putting the right staplers on every desk.

Let’s pick the migration bit first.

I feel no need to rush but every enterprise need to have a clear roadmap for migration, as Krishnan Kutty, DGM IT, Gammon India sees it.

His formula incidentally also encompasses taking stock of the incidental hardware and integration issues that will come along.

“Starting from building an inventory to analyzing and preparing dependency list is key to success. It may be possible that somebody at some location may be using software which may not be compatible with the new upgrade. Some enterprises may be having certain legacy applications which are kept alive for reference/audit purpose. Organisations having systems that directly interface with the systems of other external entities like suppliers, bankers etc need to have a focused plan to test the compatibility. So to avoid surprises, it is essential that a proper inventory is prepared in advance. This also helps in getting realistic budget allocations.”

While most applications now support Windows 7, it’s possible an organization has very old applications or versions that don’t. Silver underlines application testing as a red flag of paramount concern.

That segues into the big question next – deciding whether to deploy Windows 7 or Windows 8?

A migration to Windows 7 will likely be faster, but one to Windows 8 will have more longevity. Now, Windows 7 support ends in January 2020, less than six years away, and organizations that are so late on Windows XP should not get into the same situation with end of Windows 7 support in Silver’s assessment.

For many, the best alternative would be to deploy Windows 7 for the most critical users and applications now and working to be able to start deploying Windows 8 starting early in 2015.

It is also necessary to run a pilot with select users to gauge any potential disruption especially where the application landscape is complex. The rollout task, as Nair aptly describes, will be challenging when the organization has high influence of ‘shadow IT’.

Another key issue to be considered while migrating from XP is the system requirements. Many of the PCs may require RAM and HDD upgrades. Post upgrade performance issues are another breed of challenges that may crop up.

Nair reminds here about the oft-forgotten area of user training for the new to-do list.

“It is equally important as I’m sure the new interface would take some time for the users to adapt. This means the internal support mechanism needs to be geared up to take the additional load of support calls.”

The D-Day is here.

You can still choose to let the car stay in your porch. As to whether you can manage to drive it on the tar out there or fix its rare parts yourself while you keep avoiding those flat tyres is something that will tell a lot about your own in-house-skills. DIY king or not, you still have to check one more thing in your tool box – the safety manual.

Over to the next part.

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