Organizations Ramping Up Windows 10 Plans This Year

Organizations may be starting to plan their operating system migrations to Windows 10, beginning this year.

Such moves can be painful, with IT pros having to assure that applications won't break. Windows 10 also brings Microsoft's Windows-as-a-service update process, generating either enthusiasm or dread. There's every reason to stall, but recently published surveys indicate that organizational plans may be getting underway.

Gartner's Survey
One measure of opinion is a study published in March by research and consulting firm Gartner Inc. It sees the Windows 10 planning happening this year.

By the end of 2017, about 85 percent of organizations will have started Windows 10 deployments, according to Gartner's estimate. The estimate is based on a survey of 1,014 respondents involved with Windows 10 across six countries. The survey was conducted between September and December of last year.

Gartner surveyed organizations of all sizes, but results were skewed slightly toward larger enterprises, explained Meike Escherich, a Gartner principal research analyst. She coauthored the study, "User Survey Analysis: Windows 10 Migration Looks Healthy" with Ranjit Atwal, a research director at Gartner.

Windows migrations are multistep operations consisting of evaluation and testing phases, plus the actual move. For Windows 10, it can take about 21 months or more for an organization to complete all of the steps, which is faster than past Windows migration estimates, according to Gartner.

"On the whole, we're saying for Windows 10: seven months evaluation; 14 months deployment, which makes it a lot faster than the two-and-a-half years we would normally expect for a migration like that," Escherich said, in a phone call on Friday.

Organizations are motivated to make the move to Windows 10 due to the operating system's security improvements (49 percent), as well as its integration with cloud services (38 percent), on top of Windows 7's coming loss of product support in 2020.

IT budget approvals for Windows 10 migrations were assessed as "not straightforward" by Gartner. Windows 10 may also require hardware upgrades in some cases.

"In certain countries and in certain verticals, they find that the hardware they have can't keep up with it [upgrades to Windows 10]," Escherich explained. "So, in the wake of this, we're actually also seeing a slight uptake in hardware purchases."

She added that improved battery lifespans with Windows 10 machines was somewhat of a motivating factor for purchasing new hardware.

"Because of the better [Windows 10] battery experience, we're actually expecting an uptake in purchases for things like hybrids, the ultralight notebooks, [and] tablets maybe for some verticals," she said.

Microsoft's Windows-as-a-service approach, with its faster update and upgrade implications, wasn't seen as a negative factor for Windows 10 migrations per the survey results, according to Escherich. Some organizations viewed it positively.

"If you look at, for example with midsize businesses and small businesses -- the ones that really either don't take tech security very seriously or they don't have the staff to implement large security patches -- they're really keen on this kind of thing, the inbuilt security [in Windows 10] that doesn't require any more action other than downloading the newest OS."

Ivanti Study
Another recent study was carried out by Dimensional Research on behalf of Ivanti, a deployment solutions company formed from the recent merger of LANDesk and Heat Software. According to its survey data, more than a third of Windows 10 migrations will happen next year.

The Ivanti survey found that "37% of IT organizations plan to fully migrate to Windows 10 within the next year, 35% within the next two years, and 14% have not established a migration timeline," according to a summary (PDF).

"The big push is coming," said Nannette Vilushis, manager of product marketing at Ivanti, in a phone interview. "And based on the anecdotal evidence we've got from talking with folks in the field, I think that there's going to be more planning done this year, but more of the actual migration will be in 2018/2019."

The Ivanti study was global survey of 1,876 respondents with day-to-day responsibilities for the management of desktops in some way. The survey also included virtualization architects and help-desk personnel, she explained.

On an anecdotal level, Windows 10 migrations are being conceived as broad projects for organizations because of its Windows-as-a-service model, according to Jon Rolls, vice president of product management at Ivanti.

"The project is not just to get my applications, get my users and get my hardware to Windows 10 -- it's actually to put something in place that can accommodate the continual release-and-upgrade cycle [of Windows 10] as well," Rolls said.

Rolls added that Windows 10 delivered as a service didn't appear to be a deterrent for OS migrations. Instead, the survey results showed that concerns over application compatibility topped the list.

Microsoft has claimed seeing customers achieve "99.9 percent" application compatibility with Windows 10 upgrades, according to Nathan Mercer, a senior marketing manager for Windows Commercial at Microsoft, in a recent online presentation. However, such high notes of optimism didn't seem to be reflected in Gartner's survey results, nor in Ivanti's study.

IT pros may be looking at Windows 10 upgrades as an "opportunity to get other things done," according to Vilushis. Security improvements, in particular, are a motivating factor. A Windows 10 migration might be the occasion for a number of actions, such as:

  • Removing admin rights
  • Preventing user-initiated apps from running or being installed
  • Adding the ability to track user logon times and application-use times
  • Tracking the use of administrator privileges
  • Tailoring the Windows Start menus for each user
  • Customizing desktops

"They're also starting to look at OneDrive for Business -- how to adopt it and how to control it," she added.

As for how organizations planned to execute their OS migrations, the survey found that reimaging was the plan of 52 percent of the respondents. Hardware migrations, in which the OS gets upgraded as new desktops get deployed, was the plan of 49 percent. The third-place choice, at 44 percent, was to perform centrally managed in-place migrations using systems management software, such as System Center Configuration Manager or LANDesk. There were 25 percent in the survey that indicated they planned to use desktop virtualization to accomplish the upgrades.

Some organizations even planned to let end users themselves perform in-place upgrades to Windows 10.

"That showed up on the survey at 14 percent -- 'users can upgrade themselves when they like,'" Vilushis said.

The idea of just buying new Windows 10 hardware as Windows 7 falls out of support has some drawbacks as a strategy for organizations, given Microsoft's Windows-as-a-service release approach, according to Rolls.

"We have heard this a lot from customers -- they'll say, 'No, we'll just order new hardware with Windows 10 as it expires and that's how we'll get there,' which is, for most organizations, going to be a flawed strategy for a couple of reasons," he explained. "First of all, the enterprises will still require a corporate-standard Windows 10 build that they know is compatible with all of their applications. So, unless you have one of these arrangements with your hardware vendor where you sent them the image and they put it on there for you, then you only just get a build of Windows 10 turned up and it's going to vary continually. You get the current branch on there and it's going to change every six months. Maybe you'll get the current branch for business on there. But again, you get this twice-a-year upgrade cycle and you need to keep it up to date across all of your desktops."

Hardware also will be an impetus for organizations to move to Windows 10. Rolls noted that it will be "very hard to order new hardware that will run Windows 7 or Windows 8 in the near future." Intel's latest generation of Kaby Lake processors aren't built for those OSes, he added.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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