Expert opinion: Another OS, another migration

This article was originally published on Technology.Info.
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Rumours are rife that Windows 9 (codenamed Threshold) is scheduled for launch in April 2015. If true, this operating system (OS) will come in less than 18 months after the launch of Windows 8.1.

The whispers come at a time when many enterprises are scrambling to transition to Windows 7 from Windows XP; and some businesses are potentially underway in their Windows 8/8.1 projects. OS migrations are among the most costly, stressful, time intensive and manpower heavy projects for IT departments. What does this increasingly shortened software lifecycle mean for businesses?

The fact is that IT organisations are reaching a crisis point. While business-level executives may not recognise it, every time a new application, OS upgrade, or even bug fix is introduced into the corporate environment, a complex series of what Flexera calls ‘application readiness’ best-practice steps need to occur to ensure the software will function properly.

IT must identify where the app will be deployed and by whom. To avoid wasted effort, IT must rationalise the application estate and migrate only those apps that are actually being used. The application has to be tested to ensure compatibility with the environment, and it must conform to the company’s standards (for example many organisations strip out Solitaire and other games that come with the OS, which requires an internal process and effort). If problems are found with the application, IT must fix them and then ‘repackage’ the application before delivering it to the deployment system or to the enterprise app store.

But the effort involved gets more complicated still, because IT environments are becoming ever more complicated. Most organisations run applications now in virtual, cloud and mobile environments as well as on traditional desktop computers. Those application readiness best-practices now must ensure that new OS, applications, and patches will work on employees’ desktop and devices, on web-based apps and in virtual containers.

With each new environment, the complexity of ensuring application readiness multiplies exponentially. On average, almost one-third (30 per cent) of an organisation’s applications require upgrades and migrations every year. This means that IT teams must be in a state of continual readiness to identify, rationalise, test & assess compatibility, and fix about a third of their software estate on a yearly basis.

And this is why IT Departments are behind schedule. The old patchwork of tactical tools and processes that used to suffice to prepare applications for deployment no longer work so well. The entire organisation suffers, because it’s the IT backlog that now dictates when strategic apps make it to the end users, rather than when the business actually needs them.

Our research backs this up. According to the 2013 Application Usage Management Study on organisational readiness for massive software migrations, prepared by IDC and Flexera, continual software migrations are now the "new normal" - and CIOs aren't equipped to handle it.

According to the study, OS migrations and virtualisation projects are in full swing, even while new OS releases and technologies (for example, mobile) are being contemplated for adoption.

Despite the growth and continual nature of these massive software migrations, many respondents in the survey admitted they have not implemented automation around their application readiness processes to ensure employees are getting the applications they need, when they need them.

Adopting application readiness best practices and technology that automate the processes for fast, efficient and effective migration planning, testing, remediation and repackaging is the only way for IT to ensure that the application estate is future proof. Applications must be ready, up-to-date and available to users when they need them. Without a thorough rethinking of your application readiness process to ensure anytime, “package once, deploy anywhere” capabilities, software transitions of any kind will become increasingly difficult and significantly impact enterprises’ business performance and, ultimately, the bottom line.

Vincent Smyth is senior vice president for EMEA at Flexera Software and believes thatOS migrations are among the most costly, stressful, time-intensive and manpower-heavy projects for any IT department.

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