REDMOND, Wash., Nov. 1, 2006 — With Microsoft Windows Vista scheduled to soon become available to business customers, many IT managers have a key question: Will the new operating system work with my existing applications?
As most enterprises have hundreds — even thousands — of applications, application compatibility is one concern of organizations ready to roll out Windows Vista when it is available later this month. Microsoft is taking its commitment to addressing this challenge a step further with the Windows Vista Application Compatibility Factory. The ACF, for short, is an initiative that teams Microsoft with services partners — such as Wipro Technologies, Satyam Computer Services and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) — to help customers overcome the application compatibility challenge.
To learn more about the Windows Vista ACF, how it works and what benefits it offers to customers and partners, PressPass spoke with Dave Wascha, director of the Windows Client business group at Microsoft, and with executives from three participating systems integrators: Michael Bailey, senior business development manager of Wipro Technologies; Sean Bowen, assistant vice president of Satyam Computer Services; and Pavan Sabharwal, global alliance manager of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).
PressPass: What is the ACF and how does it work?
Wascha: Microsoft recognizes that application compatibility is one of the biggest barriers of deployment across the enterprise. The ACF simply helps customers determine how to make their existing applications work with Windows Vista. Our ACF partners help customers identify the application compatibility blockers, assess application inventory, determine the best course of action and conduct remediation services. Customers simply hire an ACF partner and they do all the work. All the ACF partners have participated in the latest Windows Vista training and are also able to assist with deployment.
PressPass: What industry trends motivated the partners to participate in ACF?
Sabharwal/TCS: When considering migration to Windows Vista, every IT department is first concerned about their application support and the effort associated with ensuring that the applications can run on Windows Vista and benefit from its features. Feedback from our customers confirms that application compatibility is a key issue they would like to address and resolve. While not all customers will migrate to Windows Vista during 2007, a percentage are planning to do so, and the rest will migrate over time as the PCs in their organization are upgraded and as they understand the benefits provided by Vista. This provides an excellent opportunity for us to offer upgrade and application compatibility services to our clients in a cost-effective manner.
Bowen/Satyam: The infrastructure and application services outsourcing market has moved to a more strategic business model with global customers showing increasing interest in enterprise-wide outsourcing of their infrastructure and applications domains. Within this, there are a number of trends. For example, customers are demanding services more on infrastructure optimization, which focuses on lowering TCO (total cost of ownership) and enhancing IT productivity, efficiency and high availability. In addition, 64-bit and dual core architecture increasingly is moving into IT environments, and business-critical legacy applications need to be seamlessly migrated to the new environment. All of these trends have resulted in customers recognizing application compatibility as a barrier to deployment, which necessitated an established and tested methodology such as the one addressed through the ACF initiative.
PressPass: Why should enterprise customers choose ACF? What are the benefits?
Sabharwal/TCS: ACF provides an excellent platform for an enterprise customer to reduce the complexity of a Vista migration and shorten the time to deployment as well thereby achieving greater benefits quickly. Besides saving costs in a desktop deployment project, ACF can also shorten the deployment lifecycle, thereby providing a quicker ROI (return on investment). Another natural outcome of ACF is a documented application inventory for an organization. This can be used very effectively by IT departments, especially in decentralized environments.
Bowen/Satyam: ACF offers many benefits to customers. For instance, through ACF partners, customers can draw on a database of accumulated valuable customer experience and insight as well as partners’ expertise in application compatibility. Microsoft enterprise customers also get an opportunity to reduce cost, improve quality and develop faster remediation. As ACF partners, we pass on to customers the benefits of the exclusive technical training and application compatibility remediation materials we receive from Microsoft, and we also have access to Microsoft’s ACF Swat Team. As a globally managed partner of Microsoft, we have found Microsoft’s involvement to be critical. Customers are much more likely to purchase ACF services if the ACF comes with formal backing from Microsoft.
PressPass: As an ACF participant, what benefits do you see to your company?
Bowen/Satyam: The biggest benefit — to Satyam and our customers — is the early bird advantage that comes from working jointly with Microsoft to mitigate the risks of migration long before Windows Vista is released. This, coupled with our robust infrastructure practice, gives our joint customers predictability and confidence and hence enables them to leverage the benefits of Windows Vista at the earliest. Satyam benefits through our association across technology and marketing environments with Microsoft and through having access to beta customers. ACF also helps us build a center of excellence and obviously we experience business growth by connecting with Microsoft enterprise customers in search of ACF remediation services.
Sabharwal/TCS: ACF forms a key part of our overall strategy around end-user computing. Besides enabling us to have access to the key Microsoft technologies and product groups, it also helps us share best practices within the ACF community, which in turn helps in enhancing the knowledge base to serve our customers better together, and address the concerns and issues our enterprise customers have with Microsoft technologies and working with Microsoft. Being able to offer our customers a structured, optimized and cost-effective solution to their application compatibility requirements is a substantial benefit to us.
Bailey/Wipro: We see the benefits as threefold: 1) Enhanced business opportunities; 2) Opportunity to provide additional value-based services to customers and to assist in providing a complete solution to a customer attempting to do a desktop upgrade to Windows Vista; 3) ACF assists in increasing pull-through revenue through the additional business that would be included in application packaging during Windows Vista deployments.
PressPass: Can you give an example of how the ACF will help one of your customers?
Sabharwal/TCS: Sure. ACF could assist one of our customers in defining their roadmap for their desktop infrastructure. Today, they may face challenges with software distribution and security, but they could face a greater challenge in ensuring application compatibility on a newer version of the desktop. ACF can “de-risk” that process by providing them a clear roadmap. It would also help them establish a well-defined application inventory and serve as a tool for application rationalization and consolidation. Besides being a cost-effective mechanism to ensure application compatibility, ACF also serves as an excellent method to ensure that there is minimal disruption to business as usual. End-user computing is an integral and very important part of overall business architecture as it impacts the daily working of people within the organization. ACF plays an important role in addressing key concerns that CIOs will have in impacting this architecture.
PressPass: Please describe the steps/process that a customer goes through in using ACF.
Bailey/Wipro: Typically it will be a four-phased approach: 1) Any engagement will start with a brief assessment to determine the current status and inventory of applications and a high-level compatibility matrix drawn out. 2) This will be followed by a typical pilot phase in which the first few applications will be put through the grind of compatibility testing. 3) Actual compatibility testing and remediation of the non-compatible business applications for the entire enterprise will be done and made ready for Windows Vista applications. 4) Windows Vista rollout to all desktops along with applications.
Sabharwal/TCS: TCS has put considerable thought and investment into designing an ACF process that is applicable to customers with both centralized and de-centralized IT departments. The typical ACF steps that a customer would go through are:
Application Inventory — Building a view of the application inventory, dependencies, criticality, lifespan and business impact.
Assessment — Application compatibility analysis, defining failure modes, describing severity of problems.
Planning Application Rollout — Determining the rollout plan for the applications (or groups of applications) based on the results of the assessment and coupled with the business criticality. Decisions on application replacement and retirement.
Remediation — Corrective actions taken to fix identified issues with the applications.
Certification — A validation step to ensure that the application works on the new platform.
The ACF steps are followed by a natural progression of application packaging and distribution to the desktop infrastructure.
PressPass: How do you see ACF helping customers deploy Windows Vista in the next 6-18 months?
Bailey/Wipro: In the next six months, the priority will be to ensure applications are ready for the Windows Vista platform.
Sabharwal/TCS: For customers looking to deploy Vista within the next 6-12 months, ACF can help in reducing the time taken to complete the project. TCS has already developed programs such as TCS Vista QuickStart and QuickPlan, which include ACF as a key component to assist customers in their Vista deployment exercise. Even customers who plan to deploy Windows Vista in 2008 should begin the planning cycle immediately. ACF provides them with a good mechanism to forecast IT budgets.
Wascha: We know that customers are excited about Windows Vista but may be reluctant to deploy in the first months after availability because historically application compatibility has been a major concern that they were left to deal with on their own. We’re doing everything we can to help customers through this process with ACF and other tools such as the Application Compatibility Toolkit 5.0.