Decision Maker

Why Enterprises Shouldn't Shy Away from Deploying Multiple Windows OSes

A little more than three months have passed since Microsoft released Windows 8, and in talking with dozens of corporate customers, the verdict is: "No, thanks."

Unlike Windows Vista, however, this give-it-a-pass attitude doesn't seem to be reflective of a poor perception of the quality or readiness of the OS. At most, folks are still skittish about the so-called "Metro-style desktop." However, as I've written before (see my IT Decision Maker blog post, "Windows 8: What Microsoft Isn't Telling You"), everyone seems to like it fine in the context of a "dashboard" rather than an "alternate desktop." No, the corporate attitude of "we'll skip this release" seems solely a reflection of modern IT realities. Businesses just aren't going to jump on every new OS version that comes down the line. Most companies have their Windows 7 deployment plans well underway, if not complete, and they're just not interested in making room for Windows 8.

Traditional Windows Upgrade Patterns
I think that might be a bit misguided -- and it might be a strategy born in a world that no longer exists. In that world, more than two decades ago, most corporations deployed Windows 95 pretty widely because it was the first new version of Windows in a long time (and due to the fact it was far superior to the Windows 3.11 it replaced).

Windows 98 got a pretty good uptake too, and used more or less the same management and deployment techniques. Corporations took a pass on Windows Millennium Edition.

Plenty of companies moved to Windows 2000 Workstation when it was released. Most companies were comfortable running mixed environments at the time. They weren't necessarily thrilled about it, but it happened, and they got by. Sure, some companies went as homogenous as possible, usually with the NT-track OSes, but not all.

Then along came Windows XP or, as I like to call it, "the beginning of the end." At least it was the beginning of the end in terms of how IT did business to that point. With Windows XP, businesses had around five years to get comfortable with the OS. Five years is enough time to cycle through all of the client hardware in your environment, too, as even the oldest computer would be fully depreciated by that time. At long last, pretty much everyone could have a homogenous client environment.

Consequently, many companies skipped Windows Vista, which further solidified Windows XP. They liked Windows XP, for the most part. It worked. Most companies only started moving to Windows 7 when it became really, really obvious that Microsoft would no longer extend the Windows XP support lifecycle and something had to be done.

Rethinking Desktop Homogeneity
Now, it seems that every company believes it must have one true version of Windows on the client. No mixed versioning. Windows 7 or bust -- no mixing in Windows 8... except maybe on IT staff machines, and maybe for a few influential executives who just get what they want.

Now, I totally get the benefits of a homogenous client environment. I do.

But who's kidding who? We live in an age where we're more heterogeneous than ever. Why not just accept the fact that we can manage multiple client OS versions -- or at least we should be able to -- and use this as a reason to bring those skills and techniques up to speed? We don't freak out about multiple server OS versions in the datacenter -- I have clients running nearly every version of SQL Server that's been released in the past decade, on a smorgasbord of Windows OS versions. They're fine.

So maybe, just maybe, we should let some Windows 8 sneak into our environments for regular users. Start getting adept at having the right tools, and the right knowledge, to manage it alongside Windows 7. And Windows XP. And whatever else walks in the door.

About the Author

Don Jones is a 12-year industry veteran, author of more than 45 technology books and an in-demand speaker at industry events worldwide. His broad technological background, combined with his years of managerial-level business experience, make him a sought-after consultant by companies that want to better align their technology resources to their business direction. Jones is a contributor to TechNet Magazine and Redmond, and writes a blog at ConcentratedTech.com.

comments powered by Disqus

Reader Comments:

Fri, Jan 11, 2013

And exactly WHAT may I ask, is your business case for doing this? As far as the multiple SQL server clients issue. Are you sure they are fine? This article seems to be full of sloppy thinking, over simplification and over generalization.

Wed, Jan 9, 2013 Dwight M. Dawkins Memphis, TN

There is one major issue that I believe hasn't gotten enough attention yet. It is not that so many places are either migrating to Windows 7 (or have not even started yet), but so many places have yet to deal with the compatibility issues of their applications leaving Windows XP. When these companies have finally crossed the UAC divide introduced with Vista (kicking and screaming the whole way), Windows 8 will likely be a better fit. Whether the preference is Windows 7 or 8, too many places have yet to confront the application legacy of letting Windows XP stay in use for so long. Windows 8 implementation may suffer from a basic case of bad timing.

Tue, Jan 8, 2013 Chuck Miller Lincoln, Massachusetts

I do not know any IT Directors who upgrade operating systems just because there is a new one available. I also don't know anyone who bases their decision to upgrade solely on Desktop Homogeneity. I support an enterprise that is dependent upon many different applications and never have I encountered a time when all of my software vendors were compliant with a new O/S in a timely fashion. I do not get measured by how many desktops are running Microsoft's latest operating system, but I do get measured by how many people are able to do their jobs with the tools I have placed on their desks.

Sun, Jan 6, 2013

You are giving us more work with these crazy ideas.

Add Your Comment Now:

Your Name:(optional)
Your Email:(optional)
Your Location:(optional)
Comment:
Please type the letters/numbers you see above

Redmond Tech Watch

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.