With Windows XP reaching the end of its life this month, most companies will be migrating to Windows 8.1 and this will become a costly exercise for many, especially when new hardware and applications are needed. But, MICHAEL CHURCH says that virtualization may be a fast and cost-effective alternative.
With Windows XP reaching its end of life this month, and the recent launch of Windows 8.1, many businesses will be considering updating their operating system (OS). For most, this transition presents several possible challenges if businesses take the traditional upgrade route. Time is short and if nothing else, it can take many months to load new software onto hundreds (or thousands) of individual endpoints as organisations spend time and resources to test, integrate and install the new OS. Many user PCs may need to be upgraded or replaced to support new requirements for memory and processing power. Equally, many organisations, such as those in the financial services industry, have a host of legacy applications that may prove to be incompatible with a new operating system – yet vital to particular job roles. Desktop and application virtualisation, combined with application migration software, provide obvious solutions to overcome these challenges – offering a fast, cost-effective rollout without necessarily having to replace existing endpoints. Instead of working through hundreds or thousands of individual PCs, IT can simply install a single image in the datacentre, and then deliver that image across the organisation. Patches and updates benefit similarly from the single, centralised image. And because the operating system runs in the datacentre rather than on the endpoint, there is no need to upgrade user hardware: the same machine that used to run Vista, or even Windows XP, will be more than adequate. The cost of using a centralised desktop virtualisation solution to migrate users to Windows 7 or 8 can save organisations up to 40 percent of costs associated with migration. And simplifying on-going desktop management and updates can lower the total cost of ownership by about 50 percent. Transitioning to Windows 7 or 8.1 may present a compatibility challenge for existing applications integral to the business. Newer versions of Windows may not automatically support all applications required by different workers – especially if they are specialist applications for a particular role or skillset. Application migration software enables businesses to confidently discover, automate, model and manage applications for faster application migration, easier application virtualisation and streamlined application management. Most importantly, it is possible to reduce project risk by gaining clear insight into how applications will function in a new or migrated environment – as well as basing estimates of project time, cost and resources on facts rather than guesses. As consumerisation continues to disrupt the enterprise, adopting desktop and application virtualisation also enables IT to say “yes” to any device. With tablet sales expected to overtake PC sales in the coming year, employees on the go must have the ability to be productive on tablets and smartphones – with seamless access to their data and apps. Further, a complete desktop virtualisation solution is more than just VDI and can provide organisations with the flexibility to mix-and-match delivery scenarios – whether a server-based virtual desktop delivered to a large set of users: a complete personalised Windows desktop for individual or “power” users, or various scenarios in between – all orchestrated from a centrally-managed solution. Faced with an opportunity to re-examine IT strategy, for many businesses it could be time to implement a desktop virtualisation strategy – to manage the Windows XP migration, but equally to move away from the three-year PC refresh cycle and embrace the security, manageability and remote access benefits of hosting Windows apps and publishing desktops with proven technology.
* Michael Church, enterprise manager, Citrix, South Africa
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