Addressing Windows 7 Application Compatibility


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As many learned from the switch from XP to Vista, business applications that are customized to work in a particular OS aren’t necessarily going to work smoothly in a new one. DLLs, Registry settings, and function calls that differ even slightly from the old OS can cause applications to freeze or shut down. Naturally, this leads
to a drop in productivity as end-user frustration levels rise, helpdesk calls increase, and business suffers.

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Addressing Windows 7 Application Compatibility

  1. 1. W h i t e PaP e r Addressing WindoWs 7 ApplicAtion compAtibility IntroductIon list of enterprise concerns when considering a Windows Most large companies don’t roll out a brand new 7 upgrade, according to IDC. In this paper, we’ll discuss technology as soon as it’s released. Upgrade and the different software compatibility options available to migration projects can be huge, especially for complex, companies that are working on a Windows 7 migration, distributed workplaces that employ numerous custom and show how Dell can help IT organizations throughout applications. the process. Microsoft Windows operating systems are no exception. Inventory and assessment As many learned from the switch from XP to Vista, The first step in any operating system upgrade is to business applications that are customized to work in a gain a full understanding of the application library particular OS aren’t necessarily going to work smoothly under management. This isn’t always a simple task. In in a new one. DLLs, Registry settings, and function a well-run environment that follows best practices, the calls that differ even slightly from the old OS can cause IT department is in charge of rolling out and managing applications to freeze or shut down. Naturally, this leads all software tools, but expedience often trumps best to a drop in productivity as end-user frustration levels practices. In many cases, individual departments and rise, helpdesk calls increase, and business suffers. user groups purchase, download, and install their own applications on an ad-hoc basis. Even if the company Even companies that stuck with Windows XP are sets standards and policies, a branch office may deviate realizing that they can’t avoid an upgrade indefinitely. In without sending up any ‘red’ flags unless and until a fact, Gartner recently listed Windows 7 on its “IT market thorough audit is conducted. And in this economy, clock,” a conceptual clock face that represents different who’s volunteering to set up an audit? The prevailing phases in a technology’s market lifecycle (November model is, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Unfortunately, that 2009). According to the research firm, Windows 7 makes the job of assessing and documenting all current will move from emerging and adolescent status to applications more difficult. ‘early mainstream’ in less than two years. Because of this, writes vice president and Gartner fellow Brian So first, scan the network and discover all of the Gammage, IT organizations “must decide by the first applications in the environment. The scan should quarter of 2010 when and how they plan to deploy” the capture all executable (.exe) files and filter those through new OS. a database that can identify which represent installable, licensable applications. Dell maintains a database of over IDC, for its part, expects around 20 percent of 90 million executables for this purpose. Less-thorough enterprises to adopt Windows 7 within the first 12 scans are likely to miss key applications that your months of its release, and another 40 percent to business needs to operate, or include files that are not upgrade within 12 to 48 months. If you’re concerned truly applications and thus provide a misleading picture. about staying ahead of the competition and phasing An incomplete list is almost certain to lead to surprise in powerful new technology that can offer significant delays and business disruption during your rollout. benefits to your IT and business operations, now is the time to start working on a migration strategy. In the resulting list, you will likely find a host of software items that aren’t used for work purposes, and those can Major OS upgrades impact corporate infrastructure, be eliminated off the bat. You should also identify and computing hardware, software, workflow processes, remove any duplicate applications, redundant software and end-users, but application compatibility tops the (where, for example, two departments are using two © Copyright 200 Ziff Davis enterprise
  2. 2. W h i t e PaP e r different accounting tools to accomplish the same Experts estimate this will be the case for some 50 task), and any out-of-date software that is ready for percent of enterprise apps. retirement. Removing these stragglers and standardizing the application library ahead of time will make the • ‘Red’ applications are, as mentioned earlier, transition to Windows 7 smoother. fundamentally incompatible with Windows 7. These have to be retired and replaced, rewritten (if they When you have a final list of which business units are were developed in-house), upgraded to a compatible using which applications, you know exactly what has to version, migrated to run in a virtual OS environment, be restored after the new OS is loaded. The next step is or packaged for an application streaming solution. figuring out whether these applications will run under This can be the case with as many as 20 percent of a Windows 7. company’s business applications. compatIbIlIty testIng remedIatIon optIons There are some testing tools that may automate the Microsoft provides various products that enable you to process determining application compatibility, and run incompatible applications in virtual environments on these can help in planning and scoping. These tools can Windows 7. These are known as XP Mode and Microsoft provide a high-level estimate of how many applications Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V). Another will need to be remediated. But for best results, a real- technology, called Microsoft Application Virtualization world installation test—using the application and a (App-V), can also help remediate some compatibility production-ready image of the company environment, issues, but it’s not designed specifically for that purpose. running on Windows 7 and adhering to all group (We’ll discuss this at greater length below.) policies—is the right way to determine compatibility. It is important to remember that while the application itself These technologies can keep a migration from grinding may run in Windows 7, often the custom application to a halt by providing a stopgap measure for ‘yellow’ package MSIs will require remediation. applications while they’re being fixed, and for ‘red’ applications while you’re considering retirement/ If this process is done correctly, it will yield results that replacement options. It’s important to note that these categorize applications in one of three status ‘colors:’ features are not permanent solutions, but they can work in the short term, as mentioned, as part of a phased • ‘Green’ application packages run natively in migration strategy. In the long term, though, companies Windows 7 without any need for intervention. should plan to upgrade their applications to versions Experts estimate that some 30 to 35 percent that will take full advantage of their more-powerful of enterprise applications will end up with this hardware and Windows 7’s performance enhancements. classification. Another important consideration is that these • ‘Yellow’ application packages will work in Windows 7 virtualization technologies require that virtualization after some form of remediation or repackaging. For support be built into the processor. These solutions example, the install process may attempt to access also have implications in terms of how applications and parts of the system Registry that are off-limits or patches are distributed to PCs. For example, XP Mode slightly different in Windows 7, and an adjustment to and MED-V contain a legacy XP image that must be the packaging layer can redirect those instructions. kept up to date. As such, even the stopgap measures The same applies if the application requires a DLL may require upgrades to existing PCs and management (Dynamic Link Library) that isn’t native to Windows infrastructure. Regardless, you may want to consider it 7. A remediation plan can include that DLL in the a necessary expenditure. The Gartner report mentioned corporate image and thus restore functionality. earlier includes application virtualization on its ‘clock,’ © Copyright 200 Ziff Davis enterprise 2
  3. 3. W h i t e PaP e r because many companies are expected to phase it in to consoles, and it works only with installations of fewer help with their Windows 7 migrations. As such, Gartner than 5,000 nodes. If your company has more than that, recommends establishing a virtualization deployment you’d need to run an additional instance of MED-V and plan by the first quarter of 2010, too. duplicate your management tasks on each. Xp mode As with XP Mode, you will see a performance impact Windows 7 includes a virtual XP environment, which to the PCs running MED-V. Patching and distributing enables users to run incompatible applications on a applications to the XP virtual machine may also require virtual machine-within-a-machine. This resides on each special processes or updates to your PC management PC and runs with near transparency in the background. tools. As such, MED-V is also just an interim solution Windows XP Mode comes as a separate download and while you work through compatibility issues with the works only with Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate, and ‘red’ applications and create an app environment that Enterprise editions. embraces Windows 7. On the plus side, this feature enables your legacy applIcatIon vIrtualIzatIon applications to work. It is a feasible choice—especially App-V involves hosting an application centrally, with for smaller firms—to buy time while resolving issues with each user PC accessing it as a virtual service. This way, the ‘red’ applications. On the downside, it requires local the application does not reside on the endpoint PC. installation on each system, and virtualization support on Virtualized applications may be a smart idea for some the chipset. Experts estimate that running applications companies, from a business and operational efficiency in XP Mode also causes a performance degradation—to sense, but App-V is not meant to serve as a compatibil- the tune of 30 percent. ity solution, per se. Another potential drawback is the fact that the IT App-V lets the user work with the centralized application department is now tasked with managing both Windows in a ‘sandbox,’ or safe area that reduces conflict with 7 and the old Windows XP environments. All the other applications and Windows 7. Most of the OS patching and management routines that have been compatibility issues that App-V resolves can also be established previously must be continued—and perhaps addressed in the packaging layer. In other words, this even modified to work with virtual machines—in order solution may help with some ‘yellow’ applications, but to maintain the XP applications, while new routines and often won’t resolve the core compatibility issues with protocols are put in place to manage Windows 7. ‘red’ applications. med-v With a virtualized app, all of the navigation features of Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization provides Windows 7 are functional; IT administrators can enforce a centralized management console that enables policies centrally via Microsoft’s AppLocker feature; and administrators to deploy and control XP Mode on Microsoft’s BranchCache technology enables workers in individual PCs. This option is designed for mid-size distributed locations to access their apps via the WAN, and enterprise installations, where tasks such as without any need for branch servers. virtual image delivery, policy-based provisioning, and centralized management are necessities, not luxuries. This is a fairly complex option, as it involves acquiring and managing a central application hosting server. MED-V lets IT staff perform such tasks as deploying For many companies, though, hosted or virtualized virtual XP-Mode environments to individual end- applications are a smart business move, as they users, customizing the application environment, and cut down on unnecessary license fees, lighten the automating first-time setup. One drawback to MED-V IT burden, and enable the operation to utilize best is that the management layer does not offer the kind practices and policies for all users accessing the of full-featured control as traditional virtual machine application. © Copyright 200 Ziff Davis enterprise
  4. 4. W h i t e PaP e r leveragIng WIndoWs 7 eXpertIse from dell and Dell’s agnostic approach—combined with its Application compatibility is a major concern for expertise with each solution—will help you determine the companies considering a Windows 7 upgrade, and Dell right mix that best meets your needs. delivers the expertise and experience necessary to make the transition smooth. For migration and deployment, Dell offers Automated Deployment services, leveraging light-touch or no-touch Dell’s expert Windows 7 services team can conduct a deployments that automate the migration to Windows Windows 7 Readiness Assessment to determine whether 7 fully via a single process. This same process can be your current hardware will support the new OS, and an utilized for new PC deployments, PC replacements, or Application Compatibility Report (ACR) that inventories in-place OS migrations using existing hardware. Dell’s your business applications and determines whether experienced project managers will guide you, optimizing they’re ready to work with Windows 7. Dell can also people, process, and tools for a successful migration. perform a Software Rationalization Project to discover all of the applications in your environment and identify In addition, Dell offers expert imaging services to which should be retired prior to migration. This saves help design your Windows 7 image to meet your money during migration, and has the added benefit of organization’s requirements. Dell has built thousands of helping you get control over your application library and customer images that work across multiple hardware standards. platforms. Whether you opt to deploy the new OS manually throughout your organization, push out a For applications that, based on the ACR, fall into the standard image over the network, or empower end-users ‘yellow’ category, Dell offers application remediation to guide the upgrade themselves, Dell Services experts services that will repackage and tweak the software will be with you every step of the way. as needed. These modifications can be performed in Dell’s Application Compatibility Factory, where your Dell’s deployment services can also include a thorough company’s unique profile is employed to test and Client Deployment Assessment of the end-to-end remediate apps, ensuring they conform to your specific deployment processes at your company, yielding requirements, certifications, and validations. customized recommendations and options for improving productivity, reducing total cost of ownership, improving If your migration plans include application virtualization, quality, and reducing IT management complexity. Dell can provide the necessary hardware and software in the configuration best suited to your organization. This can incorporate virtualization software tools To learn more about how Dell can help you plan from Microsoft, Citrix, and VMware, via Dell’s own Flex and execute a Windows 7 migration, visit Computing offering. Each virtualized solution brings benefits and challenges to the application environment, © Copyright 200 Ziff Davis enterprise