BLOG: Brian Duckering

Closing the Door on Windows XP Opens a New Door for Efficiency and Cost Savings


The end of support for Windows XP has come and gone. Everybody knows that. Still, according to NetMarketshare, a remarkable 25% of PCs currently still use Windows XP as their operating system. Organizations have delayed conversion from the 10-year old operating system simply because they didn’t have to. Windows XP became a very stable computing platform and users became comfortable with its functionality. Unfortunately, IT managers also became complacent to the rising cost and complexity that comes with managing PC’s. End of support for XP provides an opportunity to migrate away from both Windows XP and cumbersome PC-based computing, potentially simplifying your entire IT system.

Organizations must migrate for two main reasons: new content and security. New Windows versions are designed for a very rich user experience, relying on constant Internet connectivity for a wide variety of content. In parallel, the advanced security threats require advanced security measures. Microsoft stopped supporting all Windows XP customers on April 8, 2014. In addition to no more technical support and software updates, it means no more security patches.

So if we must move forward, let’s be sure we are being smart about where we are going and how to execute. The execution of a Windows upgrade requires a concentrated planning effort, a clear understanding of the associated expenses, and an approach for implementation challenges, such as application compatibility, managing personal data and incorporating new requirements, including the use of web and cloud resources.

When evaluating options for an OS upgrade, there are three key questions that define the challenge:

1.  How hard is it to perform from a technical point of view?

2.  How easy is the new solution to maintain?

3.  What is the hard dollar cost for hardware, software – and the recurring soft-dollar costs for IT support?

The Options?

  • Purchase new PCs: This gives users a fresh start with new hardware and a new operating system. The migration itself is not overly complex in this case, but raises the acquisition costs per user, and requires that IT managers stay in the PC support and replacement business.
  • Install the new OS onto each existing PC: This approach provides direct control over the upgrade process, but often at a prohibitive cost. Each machine has to be individually backed up, re-imaged, tested and then put back into the user’s hands. This becomes an increasingly expensive and time-consuming process for the IT administrator. Also, many older PCs may not support newer operating systems and must be replaced anyway.
  • Move to virtualized desktops: In this approach, the user’s desktop environment runs on a central server instead of a PC. A thin client device may be connected to a monitor and peripherals to access a personalized desktop on the server over a network. OS and software upgrades are applied in the data center instead of on distributed PCs. Replacing end user PCs with thin client devices lowers the cost of acquiring and maintaining hardware components. This model also simplifies the upgrade and maintenance process tremendously and extends the hardware refresh cycle since thin clients have no moving parts and do not need to be replaced as often as PCs.

Within the server-based computing model, there are two distinct approaches to make desktops available to users:

  • Virtual Desktop Infrastructure: VDI is a 1-to-1 environment where each user gets their own virtual machine in the data center. Each desktop runs in a dedicated virtual machine stacked on top of hypervisor software. Each virtual machine has its own copy of a desktop OS and all required applications. Thus an entire OS environment must still be managed for each user, and the organization must provide all the computing, storage and network resources needed to support the virtual machine infrastructure.  The complexity of many desktops still exists, but in a centralized location.
  • Session-based Desktop Virtualization: Session Virtualization also provides a desktop environment for each user. But instead, a single instance of both the OS and applications used by a group of users are installed on a single server. Special software then creates virtual desktop sessions, which allow each user to access the shared software, but not the desktops of other users. Session virtualization is supported in hypervisor and bare metal implementations and is inherently more resource efficient and simpler to deploy and maintain than VDI. The same number of shared-session users as a comparable VDI implementation may use as little as 1⁄4 the computing resources.

Now that Microsoft has pulled the plug on Windows XP you must choose an alternate computing environment. Choose now or later, but choose wisely. Before undertaking any OS upgrade, do full compatibility and network stress testing to assure the session-based virtual desktop environment can deliver the performance and benefits designed by the administrator. For those who have been contemplating both a move to Windows 7 or 8 and a move to virtual desktops, it is highly beneficial to combine these rollouts into one effort.

The benefits of a new Windows OS in performance, rich functionality, security and ease of use,
are all powerful reasons to conduct an upgrade. By switching to a session virtualization model in tandem, organizations can not only adopt a new OS, but also simplify their overall hardware deployment at the same time. With this model, you can more easily achieve all the critical migration criteria by reducing acquisition and ongoing costs, the complexity of the migration, and simplify ongoing maintenance demands. The time to migrate is now.

 - Brian Duckering, Sr. Director Product Marketing, NComputing

About the author

Brian Duckering
Senior Director, Product Marketing
Brian Duckering brings 25 years of industry experience, in engineering, product management, marketing, business strategy and technology evangelism to NComputing. He has held executive level positions at business- and consumer-facing companies, both large and small, and has multiple degrees in engineering and technology management. He is an often-requested speaker globally on a wide range of topics, technologies and trends, including virtualization, cloud and mobility.