Migrating to Windows 7: How feasible is it?

Windows XP is on its way out, leaving behind the only viable option of migrating to Windows 7. We catch up with early adopters of Windows 7 in India.

For Indian organizations migrating to Windows 7 is turning out to be an obvious OS of choice (with Windows XP's impending demise). Of course, migrating to Windows 7 does not happen at the click of a command, but once the adoption is complete, there does seem to be many a difference, according to the popular feedback. And what are the differences? We decided to ask the decision-makers at giants GMR and Mahindra & Mahindra, who are among the early ones in India to migrate to Windows 7 in their organizations.

Subbarao Hegde, the CTO as well as head of IT and systems for infrastructure player GMR Group, is currently in the midst of a phase-wise Windows 7 implementation. The entire migration to Windows 7, which started at the end of 2009, is expected to be over by June 2010. "We have taken a decision to migrate all Windows Vista Enterprise and Business versions to Windows 7 Enterprise on laptops and then on to desktops," says Hegde. "This will be after a thorough evaluation (proof of concept by running all our corporate applications on 25 machines loaded with Windows 7, which included laptops and desktops)."

GMR has been one of the early adopters in India which migrated to Windows 7. The company is under Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, wherein it can have standardized Windows operating systems group-wide, irrespective of any OS loaded by the PC manufacturer (OEM).

Hegde points out that the company has more than 1500 desktop computers, and more than 900 laptops running Windows XP or Windows Vista operating systems. He says: "The company was facing issues like slow performance and memory intensive operations for applications on Windows Vista, which made it mandatory that we migrate to Windows 7."

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With the launch of Windows 7, Hegde and his team decided to test it for OS performance. "Windows Vista did not perform as per our expectations," he recalls. "We understood from Microsoft that migrating to Windows 7 will be reliable, faster, more secure, and eliminate all drawbacks of Vista. Also, it has Windows XP mode virtual operation."

Hegde and his team conducted a pilot run for 25 IT savvy cross functional teams, including business side members to explore different features of Windows 7 like BitLocker, DirectAccess, BranchCache private/public browsing, personal taste theme options, and jump list. He says that GMR is getting user satisfaction and enhanced end-user experience after migrating to Windows 7.

Hegde refuses to divulge any information when it comes to the enterprise agreement licensing costs for migrating to Windows 7. He says the Windows 7 roll-out is part of GMR's IT roadmap, and they have taken advantage of the Microsoft Enterprise Agreement. "We see the global economic slowdown as an opportunity to make use of best IT collaborative tools to support end users," he says. "Migrating to Windows 7 will eventually help us enhance the productivity levels and end user experience."
The merits that GMR found in migrating to Windows 7 include:

• Improved end user experience in terms of boot time, shutdown, standby, search, indexing and USB devices access.

• Faster, reliable and more secure operations.

• Inbuilt connectivity to an overhead projector (auto sensing).

• Windows screen, themes, icons and color can be adjusted as per personal taste.

• Excellent private and public browsing options feature.

• Built-in DirectAccess VPN and branch cache features can reduce the total cost of ownership.

• Windows 7 performed well on a four year old laptop (Upgraded the memory from 128 MB to 1 GB to load Windows 7 for testing purposes).

• Get online and stay online facility is really good

Many of our users preferred Windows XP to Vista. When Windows 7 was launched, we tested and figured out that many applications like SAP are compatible and worked better with Windows 7
Vijay Mahajan
senior GM - corporate ITMahindra and Mahindra

Yet another Indian organization on the same path as GMR is Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd (M&M), which is on a migratory flight towards Windows 7. Perturbed with Windows Vista performance issues, Mahindras, one of the biggest corporate houses in India also plan to migrate to Windows 7.

"We faced many issues with Vista, which led to our tests to evaluate merits of migrating to Windows 7," recalls Vijay Mahajan, the senior general manager of corporate IT for M&M. "Many of our users preferred Windows XP to Vista. When Windows 7 was launched, we tested and figured out that many applications like SAP are compatible and worked better with Windows 7." He says his company tested Windows 7 on around 50 machines and enterprise applications. "We also tested the features of Windows 7," he says.

Pritam Dutta, the deputy manager from M&M adds: "Based on the POC, we decided to migrate to Windows 7. One of the best features about migrating to Windows 7 is that drivers get automatically installed when you connect to the Internet. The drivers of non-Microsoft devices like webcams are also easily available. Problems come when you are not connected to the Internet."

M&M's assets are on a rental basis with three year's replace cycle. Because of the cost involved in the Windows 7 migration process, the company is planning to go for pre-loaded Windows 7 for the new machines provided by the hardware vendor. With Microsoft planning to withdraw its support from Windows XP, it becomes necessary for the IT team at M&M to migrate to Windows 7. Once the support is over, patches and updates for Windows XP will not available.

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