Enterprises eyeball new Windows server, Win 7 with care

IT pros using Windows XP are in no rush to upgrade to Windows 7, while Vista users are more eager. And despite Windows Server 2008 R2's compelling features, adoption will be slow.

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Microsoft's newest operating systems, Microsoft Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, have received good initial buzz and offer some important new features. And IT shops that skipped over Vista have some pent-up demand for the new OSes. But expect Windows shops to take their traditionally careful approach to migrating their enterprise servers and desktops.

For more on Windows Server 2008 R2:
What Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 can do for your business

What administrators can expect from Windows Server 2008 R2

Live migration will debut in Windows Server 2008 R2 

Microsoft released both products to manufacturing earlier this week. General availability for Windows 7 is expected for October 22. Windows Server 2008 R2 will be available on or before that date, Microsoft said.

Several IT shops running Windows XP in their enterprises report that they are in no rush to upgrade to Windows 7, while Vista users are a bit more eager. And despite some compelling features in Windows Server 2008 R2, adoption will also be slow.

Douglas Spindler, president of the Orinda, Calif.-based user group Pacific IT Professionals, said no one in the 4,600 member group expressed interest in upgrading to Windows Server 2008 R2 immediately. He predicts a year lag time for R2 adoption.

"I know of no one who is planning on upgrading as soon as R2 comes out, and it's a shame too, because R2 has tons of features IT pros will want," Spindler said. "Problem is, Microsoft has done such a poor job of letting IT pros know what the features are and how they will benefit from implementing them, so they don't know what they are missing."

R2 adoption to surpass Windows 7

Though its name would suggest otherwise, Windows Server 2008 R2 is an entirely new OS, and not an upgrade from the 2008 release. Some important new features in the enterprise version of R2 include better management tools, such as Active Directory Administration Center; features for remote employees and branch offices such as DirectAccess and BranchCache; improved power efficiency via the Power Management tool; and more features in Hyper-V, such as live migration.

I know of no one who is planning on upgrading as soon as R2 comes out.
Douglas Spindler.
presidentPacific IT Professionals

Still, many shops will wait until Microsoft releases the first service pack before they upgrade, and by then the features in R2 will be established, Spindler said.

"For years, the people I associate with have referred to any dot-zero release by Microsoft as the beta or alpha version," said Rick Keefer, a senior systems architect at Total Computer Solutions Inc. "Some noncritical servers will be upgraded just as a test bed."

While Windows Server 2008 R2 adoption won't be immediate, it will probably be faster than Windows 7 uptake, especially in XP shops, according to Michael Cherry, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash., consulting firm.

"The server side is likely in better shape, in that Windows Server 2008 did not seem to suffer from the same perceptions as Windows Vista, and organizations likely have fewer servers than desktops to upgrade," Cherry said. "And the new features, including Hyper-V Live Migration, should drive upgrades."

"Some organizations will decide to deploy Windows Server first, and then Windows 7," Cherry said. "Even if they do not begin a mass deployment or upgrade project with Windows 7, they may OK it for new PCs and, rather than downgrading new PCs, have them delivered with Windows 7."

Windows 7 adoption plans mixed

Rick J. Scherer, a systems administrator with the San Diego Data Processing Corporation, upgraded to Windows Server 2008 six months ago, but his client desktops are XP, and he has no immediate plans to move to Windows 7. "Perhaps during a future desktop refresh, we will look at including Windows 7 as part of the process, but this would be roughly eight to 14 months after the initial release, Scherer said.

But the shops that moved to Vista are likely to move to Windows 7 faster; Microsoft has addressed problems that made up the bulk of user grievances, according to Cherry. "Many users -- both consumers and organizations -- have likely deferred new purchases, creating a bit of a potential backlog," Cherry said. "But on the other hand, some customers could still be resistant and wait to see if [Windows 7] lives up to reports. Some will wait for Windows 7 SP1, and some customers will not have the budget to upgrade at this time."

At the same time, Windows 7 includes several features that could help it overcome adoption barriers, according to Pacific IT Professionals' Spindler. Features such as better security, legacy software compatibility, and drivers that work with almost all hardware made within the past two or three years. It is also 64-bit, which will allow for better RAM usage, and the power-efficiency features in Windows 7 will give laptop users 20% to 30% longer battery life compared with XP or Vista, he said.

"Microsoft was brilliant by releasing betas and RC1 [Release Candidate 1], which gave IT pros and programmers the ability to test the compatibility of Win 7 prior to release, which have been few or minor," Spindler said. "I have not found a compelling reason not to upgrade as soon as it comes out and my clients are already working on deployment plans."

He added, "For those who have not upgraded to Office 2007, it's a win-win upgrading to Windows 7 and Office 2007 at the same time."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer.

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