A Windows 7 Migration Story

The migration to Windows 7 is being touted as one of the largest migrations to occur in PC history. Some organizations are simply migrating as part of attrition when new PCs are purchased. Others are looking at migrating large sections of their organization based on requirements for a new application, while still others are deploying Windows 7 to select users who are clamoring for the latest and greatest. Whatever your particular situation, having a solid plan in place is a must. For our story, we are going to set up a scenario which many of you will be able to relate to, and then walk you step by step through the high-level tasks that make up a successful migration. Along the way, we’ll give you tips and tools to get you there.
Our story
As the director of IT, you are approached by the CFO, who requests that his entire department be moved to Windows 7 to support a new financial package. He has one main location at headquarters with 30 PCs, and 10 satellite locations spread over a 50-mile radius with 5-10 PCs each. All PCs are running Windows XP. He is requiring that all existing software on those PCs be supported on Windows 7, since he has no budget for new software. As an additional wrinkle, he has recently replaced some of those PCs and therefore needs to know how much of the current hardware will support Windows 7.
Where are you now?
Before you can move forward, you have to know where you are now. That includes finding out how many existing applications are actually being run in his department, as well as what type of hardware he has. Enter Novell’s ZENworks Asset Inventory and Asset Management.
ZENworks Asset Inventory is included in the ZENworks Configuration Management package. Asset Inventory will give you a detailed picture of the readiness of your hardware for Windows 7. The reporting function is phenomenal and will give you lots of options to run. In like fashion, it will provide you with a software inventory, listing all the applications installed on each machine.
Once the hardware and software inventories have been completed, Asset Management will take you to the next level. By entering all your software licenses into the database, compliance reports can be run. Not only that, but by tracking the history of the PCs for a time, you can see what applications are actually being used. For example, consider a product like Adobe Creative Suite. Let’s say you have 10 licenses, but someone in your department was trying to keep end-users happy and installed it on 20 machines. When you use Asset Management to check usage, it reveals all 20 machines, and the fact that only 5 users are actually using it on a regular basis. Asset Management has not only apprised you that you are out of compliance, but that you are over-buying software licenses!
In the case of our story, you should run several reports and have a meeting with the CFO to present the findings, including what hardware is ready for Windows 7 and actual counts of the software that is installed in his department. He may be surprised to learn that 5 of his staff have Quicken installed, even though it is not an application that is used by his department. Based on your findings, strategic decisions can be made around what needs to be supported on Windows 7, and any compliance issues that exist can be rectified.
Now both you and he have a clear picture of where you are going with the migration. With your list of required hardware, you can begin the ordering process. Likewise, with your software list, you can begin testing on Windows 7.
Testing plan
First, you need to set up an environment for testing. Specific staff members should be assigned to this task and given a quiet place to work so they can concentrate for several hours at a time. Although we in IT are great multi-taskers, in my experience, trying to work on a task like this while doing other things is not effective. The task will be completed much more quickly if the team is given the time they need to focus.
Also, I firmly believe in setting up checklists and having people sign off on what they have tested. For example, it is not enough to find out if an application installs on Windows 7. You must also verify that it runs, and document each function of the application that has been tried.
A bump in the road!
Let us assume in our story that you have now tested all applications, and 50% of them do not run on Windows 7! Remember that your CFO does not have the budget to purchase new versions. Now what? ZENworks Application Virtualization to the rescue! With ZAV, you can run the applications in their own wrappers, so that all necessary files are contained therein. This makes it possible, for example, to run Internet Explorer 6 on Windows 7. You can even add in the correct version of Java that an app needs so that the different versions are not stepping on each other as they might if they were installed normally.
ZAV also makes it possible to set applications to expire and run isolated from a USB key so that no traces are left on the machine. This is particularly useful when giving end-users applications they need to run on a home PC.
Test, test, and test again
While you know your savvy IT staff will thoroughly test all applications to the best of their ability, there are bound to be some functions they miss. So after your IT staff has completed its testing, it’s time to test again. Find one or two IT-department-friendly users and have them test a new Windows 7 machine with all applications installed. Keep their old machine handy just in case any deal-breakers come up. Be sure to give them a testing worksheet, and ask them to sign off on what they tested. Folks tend to want to tell you good news, and popping by and saying “How’s it going?” usually yields a response of “Oh, just great!” What you don’t want to find out was that they played MineSweeper for a month and never actually ran any of the apps!
Automating the rollout
Now it’s time to begin the rollout. ZENworks Configuration Management contains a great imaging component for your staff that allows you to image multiple PCs at one time. Add the ENGL Imaging Toolkit to the mix and you have a powerful duo to complete your rollout.
Why do you need the Toolkit?
For many organizations, a migration to Windows 7 is a great way to standardize the desktop. The ENGL Imaging Toolkit assists in this process by automating the build of Windows workstations with:
* A hardware-independent base OS image.
* Driver add-on images created easily with tools from the toolkit.
* A Novell client and ZEN agent add-on image and hotfixes add-on image that are easily updated on a regular basis. (No need to update all images in your library just for a change in agent version!)
* Customized scripting to control workstation naming.
* Customized application deployment depending on end-user ownership or workstation functionality.
Using the ENGL Imaging Toolkit, we have helped many clients get control of their imaging and workstation deployment.
The rollout begins
With any change as large as migrating to a new desktop operating system, no matter how much preparation and testing are done, there are bound to be a few glitches. With ZENworks Configuration Management, handling those can be a breeze. Registry changes, scripted changes, even the full deployment of a new version of an application setup or virtualized application can be done quickly and with little end-user impact. Additional customizations to the desktop and installation of printers can be done via Windows Group and Printer policy.
Migrations can be fraught with pitfalls, but with some basic planning, testing, and the addition of the great tools mentioned in these articles, your migration will be a success!

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