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Homegrown upgrade study proves a valuable guide

One organization's months of research into the most efficient way to migrate from one Windows system to another could benefit others facing the same decision.

special-reportEditor's note: IT analysts at Partners Healthcare System Inc. shared their insights with on a recent internal study about how and when it will migrate from Windows 2000. Watch for coverage when Partners makes its final decision.

Research analysts at Boston-based Partners Healthcare System Inc. recently wrapped up an internal study of its operating system needs, and they made their final recommendations to corporate executives last week. The study team's findings offer a valuable guide to other IT professionals who are faced with a similar task.

Following are some observations and recommendations of William Henderson and James Marra, two of the health care provider's senior research analysts.

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The time is now. If you're not thinking about OS lifecycle issues, you'd better start. And while you're at it, push Microsoft about them. "Microsoft will drive your upgrade policy and your use of their product," Marra said.

Here's one example: Microsoft's new enterprise license agreements no longer include a client access license (CAL) for SQL Server. In 2000, Microsoft decided to remove the SQL Server CAL from such agreements. Today, those customers instead get a Sharepoint CAL and have to buy SQL Server separately.

Make realistic assumptions. If you don't plan, you will get surprised. "One of our planning assumptions is that we take the [release] dates that Microsoft gives us and make an educated guess as to what a realistic implementation date is for us," Marra said.

Business needs come first. Your business needs will change and that will affect how you approach your operating system support. What drove Partners to a homogeneous environment was that IT executives thought that having the one platform would make it easier to support everyone.

But Partners business has changed a lot in five years. Today, physicians in their own practice need to run Partners applications. They may be on XP. Patients may use the Partners Web site to perform various tasks. Now Partners has the cost of managing those users and the cost associated with a forklift upgrade, Marra said.

Today a completely homogeneous computing environment may be impossible at Partners, but it could work for a different business. "Your changing business needs will meet changing reality and your OS strategy must reflect that," Marra said.

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