Living on the Bleeding Edge, or in Yesterday’s Technologies?

As Microsoft announces Windows 10 and new feature functionality on the horizon, some IT organizations are cringing because this means that they are falling further behind. How quickly will your IT group adopt to a new Microsoft operating system?

A new operating system implies that Microsoft Remote Desktop, Citrix, and VMware will introduce new versions and features associated with their respective virtualization products. In general, previous releases have not cleanly addressed upgrades, but increased competition may force a welcome change in this area.

From a virtual desktop perspective, deployments of Windows 8.x were few and far between due to the operating system itself, but how quickly will Windows 10 be deployed for VDI once released? A small percentage of the more progressive IT organizations will immediately deploy Windows 10 as a virtual desktop after general availability.

Rolling out a new operating system via VDI is certainly faster than physical deployments, and the ability to quickly roll out a new operating system via VDI is part of the beauty of the technology. No shiny new computers to unpack, and no physical upgrades. Just create a new base image, and your users log in to get a fresh virtual desktop with a slick new operating system on the bleeding edge. It sounds easy, but in IT, few new technologies are quite that straightforward.

However, it’s unlikely that Windows 10 will be rolled out in short order everywhere. Right now, most organizations are running Windows 7 or even Windows XP virtual desktops. Windows XP? Yes, even though Windows XP has reached end of life, its minimal resource requirements still make it an attractive operating system.

Most IT organizations are one to three years behind current technologies. Many companies just don’t live in today’s technologies, much less tomorrow’s. Keeping up with bleeding-edge technologies just isn’t reality for everyone, because there are so many new releases and not enough time to test and deploy them. In addition, new releases are often less stable and are less mature, and working through these issues is time-consuming.

Virtualization solutions based on a server-based virtualization infrastructure such as XenApp make upgrading that much more difficult. Not even the threat of end of support or end of life pushes the transition, because of complexities associated with application compatibility with operating systems and a larger migration process. Some large companies are using operating systems that are a decade old, because moving a mountain is slow process both technically and culturally. When IT resources are in short supply, continuing to run on older technologies may be the only option.

A new operating system raises questions regarding application compatibility and vendor support. There are vendors in the marketplace that still have not certified their applications to run on Windows 8.x or Windows Server 2012, and as such, testing and support for an even newer operating system may be years away. Within any virtualization infrastructure, whether based on virtual desktops or server-based computing, applications are the heartbeat of the system, and without stated support, subscribers will typically not risk upgrading the operating system.

Will IT organizations adapt quickly, or will a “wait and see” attitude prevail? From a virtualization perspective, we can expect that Citrix and VMware in particular will intensify the competition and work feverishly to improve features, but the market will likely not be ready to consume the operating system, applications, or functionality for quite some time.

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