Experiencing migration pains? The move to Vista need not be so difficult

AppDNA's Apptitude promises a smoother migration to Vista

Barely a day goes by when someone I am speaking to or swapping e-mails with does not moan about application compatibility issues with Microsoft's Vista platform.

Worse still, we are having Windows Vista forced upon us whether we like it or not, which spells all kinds of problems for home users and businesses.

User concern has seen major names in the PC and laptop world, such as Dell and HP, offering downgrades from Vista to XP. Typically this response has been in the form of offering XP Pro recovery discs to those who request one, which can be used to revert a Vista machine to XP Pro.

Although industry commentators have said this is happening purely at a business level, if you pop into a retail store and ask how Joe Public is taking to Vista you will find the same answer as in the business community - they are not. The reality is that these downgrade requests are coming from all types of users.

Looking at the bigger picture, the result is that businesses are avoiding Vista. The situation is compounded by the knowledge that Microsoft is now going to release a Service Pack 3 for XP in the coming months. Ironically, this means that Microsoft is the biggest rival to Vista take-up.

I spotted this entry on a blog site that made me laugh, but summed up the issues as being no laughing matter: "Finally took the plunge and installed a workstation with running Vista Business.

1. Software incompatibility - big issue.

2. Froze both of our servers (Windows 2003) - big issue.

3. Will not write to a folder even though I have 'effective privileges' of an administrator - big issue."

However, as this is likely to be the final service pack for XP, businesses have no option but to move to Vista if they want to continue down the Microsoft route. In which case, what do they do?

Moving from XP to Vista

One possible answer comes in the form of a product I have just looked at that is designed to analyse and ­detail potential migration issues when moving from XP to Vista, as well as other platforms, such as the mysterious virtual world that is SoftGrid.

The product is Apptitude from London-based AppDNA. Using Microsoft's Virtual Server, the product lets you create a virtual copy of all your applications and install procedures - MSI-based, or otherwise, off the shelf or in-house developed - and then, using an algorithmic engine, it analyses the software installation and run-time behaviour of those applications.

At the end of the analysis, both a summary overview and detailed report is generated (you can generate these as formatted PDF reports or use the raw data in whatever way you choose), which uses a traffic light (green, amber, red) approach to highlight potential migration issues. For example, these might be driver- or registry-related.

The reports produced by Apptitude are suitable for techies or developers within an enterprise or independent software house to use, as well as for the financial directors to calculate the cost of moving to the new platform.

The result, if we take an enterprise example, is that what would take months or years in manual form - and lots of consultancy fees - is reduced to days or weeks. Moreover, it is an enabler for moving to a new operating system where otherwise a company might delay that move until the last possible moment (not ideal if there is no support coming from Microsoft at this point).

What Microsoft does next

The Vista problems remind me of a previous generation of migration issues - when Novell introduced Netware version 4.0.

Then, the migration issues were as major as now. The result was that an independent software supplier released a product that eased the path for businesses to move to Netware 4, enabling it to be adopted far more quickly than would have happened otherwise.

In that instance, it eased the path so well that Novell ended up buying that independent software supplier and incorporating the product into Netware 4.1. Whether Microsoft will follow suit here is yet to be seen.

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