April 8, 2014.

Ring a bell? No? Really? That is a date that will have to ring a bell. You are either on the ah don’t worry I’ve got my things sorted, or it will send a shiver down your spine.
Have been lying under a rock or went on a travel to the end of the universe? Well this 2014 april day is the day that Microsoft will end support (to be precise End of extended support) for Windows XP. See this nice matrix that Microsoft have up their site: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/lifecycle.

Ah but that is no problem for us because we have a perfect running system and never had to worry about Microsoft support. Okay, well congratulations on your perfect operating environment. But it will grind to a halting stop. Why? As you probably need applications on there, and the suppliers of those will also stop (or already stopped) support for their products on Windows XP. And if that doesn’t get you started what do you think about: attacks to vulnerabilities. You got a bunch of Cyber attackers waiting around and they will be able to target vulnerabilities in Windows XP without fear these flaws will be patched. And there will not be anything you can do to protect yourself besides upgrading to a newer operating system.

[Edit] Okay apparently not anything. Your not completly on your own. Microsoft announced on 15 january 2014 it will extend it’s antimalware support of Windows XP through 14th july 2015 (http://blogs.technet.com/b/mmpc/archive/2014/01/15/microsoft-antimalware-support-for-windows-xp.aspx). This means anti malware signatures and engine updates for the essentials suite. The EOL of Windows XP still stays on the 8 april 2014. If you have essentials in your environment you will have some support, but keep in mind this doesn’t fix vulnerabilities in the OS itself. The effectiveness of anti malware/virus protection or what ever solutions are limited on an out dated OS. You maybe have a little more protection then nothing, but be aware that this doesn’t give a false oh I’m okay. The urge to move from Windows XP still exists.
[/Edit]

What are your upgrade/migration paths?

Got your attention? Well there is still some time to get your plans and start moving. To help you get started I will highlight some of the paths you can explore to get that pesky Windows XP out of there.

– Assess. Check your environment, what is out there? Check what applications you have, requirements, what hardware there is, how your distribution is done are there any central management solutions out there?
Involve your users. This is key! These are to ones that are using the environment, these are the ones that will use the target environment, these know their applications. These are also the ones that test and accept the new environment. Don’t got them in your project? Well you are bound to fail. Go back a few steps and include those users!
Tools, use the assessment tools out there. You got the Microsoft assessment and planning toolkit, Flexera or AppDNA for example. Use System Center Configuration Manager for deployment, well use it to gather the information from your clients. At this time you should have a good starting point on what is in your environment. Check with your suppliers of applications what is their support with newer OS versions, do you need a new version no problem. Add it to your new deployment and migrate the data as described by these suppliers. Make sure you start collecting your application installation disks plus any necessary product keys. Check with your business what there plans are, are you currently in a fat client environment, maybe this is the time to move to a VDI or hybrid environment (I would say the perfect time, but this is up to your organization).

– Pick a new OS version. You got a picture of your environment, what is lying around and how your suppliers support is for new OS’ses. Take your pick. Part of making your migration plan is to pick a new OS, as this influences the way to go. As the most Windows XP users will want to go to a newer version of Windows, decide on going to Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1. You will have to do a new install as there is no direct upgrade path. You will have to take care of the personal settings currently on the system. There is no direct interchangeability between the Windows XP user settings and Windows 7 for example. You probably have a good view of your application support, check which OS has to most support. And for Windows 7 be aware that mainstream support will also stop in 2015, is Windows 8.x a better option when your application suppliers support these.

– Virtual Desktops. You will have a picture of your business strategy and your current vs future hardware and application support. This is probably a good time to start thinking about VD as your target. [Edit] To clearify a bit on the ways to deliver a VD (as the comments show this was needed); Depending on the type of users in your organizations landscape, this can be either a shared, a one-to-one or a hybrid virtual desktop environment. What is the difference? A shared VD is actually a desktop that is being shared by serveral user on one server (with same Server OS install base, same resources). Where an one-to-one is a desktop where one user connects. And yes these desktops also run on a shared hypervisor host, but seperated from the other user desktops. Changes to the desktops don’t influence the other users. In most organization it will either be a large portion of shared, or hybrid shared with a small portion of one-to-one. But here you again must decide what is best for your organization. There is no one size fits all organizations, there is an design choice that can be easily expanded to an other solution when needed. [/Edit] Is your hardware still able to support Windows 7 and Windows 8, the need for VD is a little lesser. But when you will have to invest a lot in new hardware a VD is the perfect place to go to. It will make a central managed environment with upgrade methods for future OS life cycles.

– Legacy Applications. There may be a custom application that won’t work on newer versions of Windows. Okay, but here we also have options other then leaving Windows XP out there. There is application virtualization for example. Sandbox this application in a previous Windows support mode. ThinApp or App-v for example. No application virtualization initiatives yet? There is also a some virtualization support in Windows 7 as are there ways to run virtual machines on your desktop. A virtualization feature called Windows XP Mode is included in Windows 7 Professional as are VMware workstation or such as available. Just run your legacy application in the Windows XP VM and work on a plan to replace these later on.

– Persona migration. Users of Windows XP will have set there applications and workspace to their needs. Preferably they want a seamless move to a new OS with the possibility to retain these settings. As we got the support for applications, we need to think about a way to get those settings to the new OS. What options do we have here? We can virtualize the profile via RES Workspace Manager for example. This decouples (or abstract) the profile and settings from the Windows profile (which has changed from XP to 7, so again no direct way). Deploy at the current Windows XP base and gather the settings needed. When going to Windows 7/8 these settings we be applied there as well. There is a little catch to this method (and to be clear for all migration options), non of the solutions are publishing settings from application that changed over time. Your Office 2003 settings will not be straight applied on Office 2010, some conversions will be needed.
An other option is to use Windows Easy Transfer to transfer your settings from XP to Windows 7. Use your network or a USB hard disk to save the settings and sneaker migrate them to the new system. 32-bit to 64-bit will be harder to migrate, but there there will be some backup restore options. And other option is to use the layer management upgrade approach.

– Design with workspace layers. Make your design one that will be easily upgraded in the future. OS Life Cycles will be shorter, Windows 9 is already rumored to be released in 2015. By treating your OS as one of your workspace layers, you will be able to easier to migrate in the future. These layers will be transported, migrated and recovered more easier. Loose your corporate notebook, well here is a VD image with your persona, data and application layers restored from a previous (central) point. And off you go! Decouple those layers and these are easier managed. What are workspace layers? You got your hardware layer, driver layer, base image (OS) layer, one or more application layers and the user layer. Your corporate data will be in several layers, but if you have good insights and a working data management (not often seen to be honest) you can even have a data layer. With these layers you can have different owners, managers and responsibilities (IT vs User vs Business).

– Desktop Layer management. VMware Horizon Mirage is a layered image management solution that separates the desktop into logical layers that are owned and managed by either the IT organization or the end user (persona/applications). You can update the IT-managed layers while maintaining end-user files and personalization. With the centralized management provided by Horizon Mirage, you can perform all of the snapshot, migration, and recovery tasks remotely. This will significant reduce the manual migration process steps and accelerate the migration project. This significantly decreases IT costs. When setup and captured correctly this is the preferred tool to do a online and seemless migration of Windows XP to Windows 7.

– But my business wants to go even further and include all those buzzwords like BYOD, mobility and such. Yup, and why are your still stuck with Windows XP? Take the simple approach, first get your infrastructure up to the right OS and running. Take one step at a time instead of a giant leap. Yes, of course you will have to design with the future in mind (VDI with workspaces will open the environment to mobility) but you first have to get this big change a successful one. Let the infrastructure sink in, get your issues out. And let the organization get used to this change. After this, and design in mind, it should be a nice easy project to add mobility to your upgraded environment.

—-

For those on Windows XP. It was time to act, and there is still time to act. But you will have to do this now!

Else it is Tick Tick Boom! (just to get some more earworm out of my head)

– Happy migration!

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