With less than 800 days until the day that Microsoft withdraws support for Windows XP, IT departments  are coming under increasing pressure to get off Windows XP and start their Windows 7 Migration. Many are looking to desktop virtualization in one form or another. Some are considering desktop virtualization simply as an expedient means of escaping from Windows XP whereas others view desktop virtualization more strategically looking at it as a means of supporting increasing needs for agility in a world driven by the increasing consumerization of IT (CoIT).

In a timely move,  Centrix Software have released WorkSpace iQ 5.3 and are looking to ease the burden of Windows XP migration and provide ongoing analytics of end-user computing environments both physical and virtual.  Can Centrix software’s latest update reduce desktop transformation time-lines and what new features have been introduced?


Common Problems with Desktop Migration Strategies

The common desktop migration strategy adopted can be described as follows:

  • Audit applications in the existing desktop environment
  • Assess applications for compatibility
  • Migrate compatible applications
  • Remediate or replace incompatible applications

The core problem with this approach it’s lack of inbuilt intelligence which creates inefficiencies. Even assuming that it is possible for a one-off audit activity to correctly identify all applications,  it does nothing to identify which applications are either infrequently used all installed and never used at all. Nor does it take into consideration the possibility that a one-size-fits-all application delivery solution is either appropriate or necessary.

Unsurprisingly, this lack of detailed application usage data can significantly impact desktop migration activities. A recently completed audit shows that as many as 50% of all installed applications on enterprise desktops are not used (note that is entire applications and not just single executables), and that 90% of all applications that are used are used less than 10% of the time. Clearly under these circumstances the ability to identify and prioritize applications for compatibility assessment and migration can significantly impact the overall cost of any desktop remediation project.

It’s Just a Step to the Left

A better approach would be as follows:

  • Deploy application auditing system
  • Identify and discard unused applications
  • Standardize applications where multiple versions or functionally similar applications are used
  • Automated application compatibility assessment
  • Develop application delivery strategy
  • Prioritize migration and re-mediation program
  • Remediate or replace incompatible applications

Here, the value is clear. Auditing should be continuous as seasonal or limited use applications that may be missed through manual processes will be identified and flagged as they occur. Any dependency on in-house skills during the assessment phase is all but eliminated, replaced by a centrally managed knowledge base compiled and maintained by the application vendor. Most importantly in terms of effort and delivery time, the only applications that go through the migration process of those that are actually used. Not only that, but informed decisions can be made as to the appropriate migration strategy based on utilization and compatibility. As you might expect, it is often the older installed applications that are not used, inevitably the old applications are at greater risk of being incompatible with Windows 7 and so it is possible to eliminate unused applications from the migration process the savings can be dramatic. In the same previous audit the number of incompatible applications that had to be retained was reduced from 60% to just 9% by following this process. As the cost of remediation is inevitably higher than straightforward repackaging the saving was significant.

New Features in Centrix Workspace WorkSpace iQ 5.3

While both Citrix and Quest have incorporated tools to remediate applications (AppDNA, and ChangeBase respectively) the auditing process is still required. Understanding your application estate is key.  Centrix Software’s Workspace iQ gets enhancements with this release to extract IT intelligence on users, assets and rationalization opportunities in faster time with improvements to management reporting. These new features include:

  • Management Reporting – WorkSpace iQ now includes an automated management report output that displays the transformation, optimization and cost saving opportunities identified by the analytics solution in a variety of document formats. Summary and detailed reports are automatically produced in a variety of file formats.  The ability to be able to present core information readily and easily is key for both customers and consulting partners to share information. Previous Workspace IQ versions allowed this for sure, but the editing and collation could be a cumbersome task. Centrix Software’s Workspace IQ has competition from the likes of Lakeside Software’s Systrack Analytics and Liquidware Labs’ Stratusphere Fit: everyone needs to continue to innovate.  Automating standard reports and allowing you to focus on the exceptions.
  • Business Group Reporting – WorkSpace iQ now provides IT organizations with the ability to define application, device and service requirements for business groups based on user information residing in other systems such as HR. Powerful user segmentation analysis and reporting features have been added. It is not unusual to have business groups split across Active Directory domain groups. When auditing, being able to view application use and impact on business units, rather than security groups is far more useful. There are also benefits in terms of understanding recharge values, or understanding the impact of new services or changes to services as it is not unusual for an application’s use to propagate around an organisation
  • Integration with License Dashboard – WorkSpace iQ 5.3 introduces integration with license compliance reporting solutions from Licensed Dashboard.  Centrix have found better license use understanding in turn gives additional value by reducing license costs ( some customers have saved up to 40% on license renewals): you can of course find that you need more licenses. But better discover that than receive a hefty fine.
  • Reporting on the use of IE6 (Internet Explorer 6) – IE6 dependency is a complex beast, and the integration of different web browser versions into a user workspace can be cumbersome if planned haphazardly.  WorkSpace iQ now provides assessment on the use of IE6-dependent applications. Bear in mind the assessment gives an indication of which websites  to consider, rather than an indication of the actual issue. Some IE6 rescue packages rely on providing a Windows 2003 based environment, others such as Browsium’s  ION do not.
  • Windows 7 hardware compatibility assessment – In addition to assessing user and application compatibility for Windows 7, WorkSpace iQ now includes an additional reporting feature that assesses hardware compatibility across the desktop environment for Windows 7 based on Microsoft system requirements. This could be especially useful for those organisations how have been buying desktop hardware capable of running Windows 7 but downgrading to Windows XP. What can be reused/recycled? It would be interesting to see if this feature could be extended – perhaps to define different parameters to determine suitability for new applications, or for new versions of Windows, or for support for re-provisioning.

 

Intelligence is key

Major desktop transformations don’t come along often. However in supporting increasing needs for agility in a world driven by the increasing consumerization of IT (CoIT), desktop transformation can no longer be left to a process that happens once every 5-10 years. To quickly deliver change, you need to best understand what the impact of that change is. Auditing should be continuous as seasonal or limited use applications that may be missed through manual processes will be identified and flagged as they occur. With the latest release of Workspace iQ Centrix Software have looked not only to improve performance and reliability but to build on their customers’ experience and introduce new features that will help clarify impact and reduce effort.

If you are of a mind to do so you can download Microsoft’s Windows XP End of Support Countdown Timer from here, but if you’re still running Windows XP, don’t expect it to work, it’s only compatible with Windows Vista and Windows 7.

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Simon Bramfitt (135 Posts)

Simon is an independent industry analyst covering enterprise desktop, mobile and application virtualization, delivery and management technologies.

He is an experienced solutions architect with unmatched insight into the challenges of designing large (200,000 seat plus) high availability presentation and desktop virtualization systems.

Simon was invited to join the Citrix Technology Professionals (CTP) group in May 2010 and joined the Virtualization Practice in September 2010

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