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A look toward key Windows releases in 2011

First service packs are coming for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. With them comes pressure for enterprises to start their migrations.

Windows IT managers who haven’t yet determined their strategies on issues like operating system upgrades, desktop virtualization and cloud services will have little reason not to do so by year’s end.

Microsoft is giving them plenty of ammunition to aid their decision making, said Rand Morimoto, CEO of Convergent Computing (CCO), an Oakland, Calif.-based IT consulting firm. For example, take Windows Server 2008 Release 2 Service Pack 1 and Windows 7 SP 1, both of whose release-to-manufacturing versions will be ready soon. .

The pressure’s on to patch and update
It’s not that either of these SP1 releases contains earth-shattering new features and functions. Windows 7 SP1 is mainly a roll up of patches and updates. But that’s a good thing for IT managers, Morimoto said.

For one, being able to apply a single package rather than perform each upgrade and patch individually will speed deployment time, he said. “Plus, organizations have found Windows 7 to be very stable. The last thing we needed was for Microsoft to throw something into the service pack that completely changes the product,” he added.

Technology experts predict that 2011 will be a big year for Windows 7 rollouts. In a November 2010 report, Forrester Research Inc. said it expects the percentage of Windows 7 machines to reach 83% worldwide within the year. This is up from 31% of new PCs as of late 2010, according to the report.

Roughly 10% of Convergent’s client base moved to Windows 7 last year. That number ratchets up quickly for the first quarter, with 40% to 50% of customers having started or planning to start their deployments during this timeframe, Morimoto said.

“They’ve done all their application compatibility testing over the last few months, and the rollouts are happening in earnest now,” said Morimoto, adding that this month alone, CCO will be migrating around 100,000 users to Windows 7.

“Quite frankly, I can't imagine an organization on XP having no plan or strategy to be on Windows 7 by the end of this year,” he said.

Having wrapped up an Office 2010 migration in late 2010, the next priority at Cable Television Laboratories Inc. is transitioning users from XP to Windows 7, said Mitchell Ashley, vice president of IT for this Louisville, Colo.-based nonprofit research-and-development consortium of cable operating companies.

“We started with an early adopters program, working with volunteers to shake out compatibility issues and to figure out our training needs before a company-wide rollout,” Ashley said. CableLabs should have the deployment -- which includes hardware upgrades -- completed by the close of the second quarter 2011, he added.

I can't imagine an organization on XP having no plan or strategy to be on Windows 7 by the end of this year.

Rand Morimoto, Convergent Computing

Unlike Windows 7 SP1, Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 has some important new features, namely, Dynamic Memory and RemoteFX. Dynamic Memory is a dynamic-memory adjustor for Hyper-V, while RemoteFX is a graphics-acceleration platform spawned from technology acquired from Calista Technologies. RemoteFX improves video graphics and graphics redraws, which offers needed performance improvements for end users running thin clients.

Into the cloud
When it comes to Windows desktop and server technology, Microsoft has been pretty straightforward on what users can expect to see this year. Microsoft has only just begun to articulate its cloud computing strategy.

Until now, the Microsoft services discussions have largely centered on the Business Productivity Online Standard Suite -- commonly called BPOS -- and now branded Office 365. “This has been about putting Exchange or SharePoint in the cloud, and while that’s alright for some people, it’s not OK for everybody,” Morimoto said. “The majority of companies aren't going to jettison their internal IT and host everything in an external environment.”

With that in mind, he said, IT managers should expect to hear more from Microsoft on how to use its technology in private cloud environments. Till now, it’s missed the mark in communicating how users can rely on Hyper-V and System Center, as well as Windows servers -- in either internal or externally hosted private clouds, he added.

“I don't think that many organizations are truly leveraging the technologies that exist today for building private clouds. Everybody's looking to find that solution they can buy for $10 a month as opposed to taking advantage of what they already own, like Windows 2008 R2, Hyper-V and System Center,” Morimoto said.

Once Microsoft starts talking private cloud opportunities, he said, IT managers will be able to better assess how to move forward.

Beth Schultz
is a longtime IT writer and editor. You can reach her at

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