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Microsoft expands Vista migration tools lineup

Convincing IT shops to migrate to Vista quickly will be no small feat. For those who are ready, Microsoft has a passel of tools to help make the move easier.

Moving an enterprise to a new operating system is a nontrivial task, so Microsoft is trying to make the process less daunting for IT administrators.

The company this week rolled out a boatload of migration tools. Overall, the free tools should help pinpoint potential hardware and identify application and licensing incompatibilities with the Vista operating system.

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For example, Hardware Assessment 1.0 connects to PCs over a network, inventories hardware and device compatibility with Vista and produces a report including upgrade recommendations for each PC.

Also included in the lineup are the full versions of Volume Activation Management Tool 2.0, Key Management Service for Windows Server 2003 and Virtual PC 2007.

Virtual PC 2007 allows multiple operating systems to run on the same physical machine, including Vista as a host or guest operating system. Volume Activation 2.0 lets IT managers automate and centrally manage Vista license activation using a Multiple Activation Key that requires a one-time communication with Microsoft; while Key Management Service allows IT managers to run the activation service in their own environment without communicating with Microsoft servers. Microsoft requires that each Vista license activated under KMS be reactivated every six months.

"It's a way for us to prove that the user is really an employee and the copy hasn't been pirated," said Manu Namboodiri, senior product manager in the Windows Client group at Microsoft.

With the exception of Virtual PC 2007, the hardware and licensing deployment tools are available for download, along with Business Desktop Deployment (BDD) 2007 and the Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) 5.0, at Microsoft's Desktop Deployment Center. Each tool will continue to be offered as individual downloads from their respective sites as well. Microsoft released BDD 2007 and ACT 5.0 last month.

One feature in ACT 5.0 is a database that lets IT managers and vendors rate application compatibility with Vista and recommend a remediation. The value of such a tool is that IT mangers can rate application compatibility just like readers rate books on Amazon, said Bernie Klinder, a consultant for Blue Chip Consulting Group in Broadview Heights, Ohio.

"A vendor may say their application works great with Vista and an IT person can plug in and say 'No, it doesn't, and here are the issues we had with it and this is how you have to remediate," Klinder said.

IT managers can use ACT 5.0 to monitor what's happening on a selected group of machines running Vista and gather that information in a central database. The database can then produce a report on problems those machines are encountering.

"Right now, people are not even ready to fix any problems. They're just trying to figure out how huge of a testing issue Vista is going to be and scale that testing down to something they can manage," said Stephen Kleynhans, vice president at Gartner Inc., the Stamford, Conn.-based consulting firm. "And they might have to test thousands of applications," he said.

"A tool like ACT will let you scale this down into something manageable," Kleynhans said.

BDD 2007 also makes deployment easier through the ability to create a single image for all operating system deployments. Since it was released in January of this year, 60,000 users have downloaded the BDD 2007 set of tools and guides, Namboodiri said.

Unlike traditional OS deployments in which IT administrators must physically perform upgrades, BDD 2007 allows one image to be created, edited and sent out to the machines without staff having to touch that machine.

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