REDMOND, Wash., April 24, 2002 — Imagine you’re a cook, assigned to get 20,000 people eating in a crowded cafeteria to exchange their regular meal for a new dish. You’d need to consider and accommodate each diner’s personal preferences without mixing them up, as quickly and with as little impact on the meal as possible. Imagine the organization and planning ahead of you and the kitchen staff.
Sound stressful? Welcome to the world of upgrading enterprise software.
Information technology (IT) professionals face many analogous challenges when upgrading a company’s enterprise desktop software. As any conversion must take place as transparently as possible, with minimal disruption of work, tools are an important element to help plan, manage and roll out new software.
Justin Neff recently upgraded the operating system (OS) at Black & Veatch, a US$2.4 billion engineering, construction and consulting firm based in Kansas City, with 9,000 employees worldwide. “We were running a mixed environment with Windows 95, Windows NT 4.0 and Office 97,” says Neff, Black & Veatch’s enterprise deployment manager. “We needed a way to simplify deployment of new PCs in the company. We found Windows XP to be a cost-advantageous solution.”
Many businesses that have moved up to Windows XP and/or Office XP have found the upgrade process relatively smooth and painless — online tools and improved stability have helped reduce requirements on IT staff and lower costs. Even so, those who plan to upgrade to Windows XP and Office XP shortly, or are considering doing so, are about to find even less reason to be intimidated.
Microsoft has begun to offer a new set of resources to make enterprise deployment of Windows XP and Office XP easier than ever. These resources include the Desktop Deployment Resource Center, an extensive online portal of resources, including case studies, how-to’s, evaluation guides and download areas, all tailored to the software migration needs of the individual customer company. Also, a nationwide Windows XP/Office XP Business Desktop Deployment Tour offers in-person assistance directed to decision-makers as well as to IT professionals. The tour runs now through May.
“We know there’s a lot for IT professionals to consider when rolling out enterprise desktop software across a network,” says Charmaine Gravning, product manager for Windows at Microsoft. “Our goal is to make the evaluation and deployment of new software as easy as possible by providing a variety of tools and resources that will simplify the process.
“The desktop deployment portal is one of the tools we offer to customers to assist them with their deployments. It’s a customized Web site that automatically selects the Microsoft resources best suited for your specific company’s situation, whether you’re halfway through your deployment or just considering it as a possibility.”
The Desktop Deployment Resource Center, found at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/deployment/ , offers not only informational content, but will also be the stage for 10 90-minute Web-based seminars on Windows XP and Office XP deployment topics.
Unmixing the Network Environment
Neff says that Black & Veatch’s network environment had turned complex in several ways. Its 7,200 client PCs, scattered in about 90 U.S. offices and dozens more overseas, were configured in some 300 different ways and presented more than 70 operating system “images” (settings and programs loaded onto each machine). Costs to deploy new machines into the system, and maintain existing ones, ran over $2 million per year.
“In a Windows NT environment, deploying a new PC would take about two days,” Neff says. “With Windows XP, we’ve found we’re able to reduce that by about 30 percent, and over 7,200 machines, that’s pretty significant. And, rather than 70 different images, we now only need two. That’s a considerable savings”.
Neff’s team found certain tools in Windows XP especially useful. Sysprep helps reduce image-loading time by 40 percent, and the User State Migration Tool (USMT) accurately and comprehensively migrates a given user’s data and application settings. These tools enable Neff’s team to execute the rollout with one-third fewer people than were required for earlier Windows deployments, while reducing variations or errors in individual machines.
IT professionals also need to consider how they continue to maintain the systems once the operating system is rolled out. Neff found the remote-management capabilities of Windows XP very appealing. Remote desktop and remote assistance enabled his administrators to service and update machines from a remote location, without having to touch the machines, again reducing costs.
Black & Veatch also expects further savings from upgrading from Office 97 to Office XP. It anticipates the enhanced document sharing and collaboration tools will help it get business proposals and critical documents to their clients 10 percent faster, by reducing the number of document review cycles. Improved stability and reliability have reduced Office-related help desk calls, further reducing ownership costs.
Other companies report similar benefits from upgrading to Windows XP and Office XP. Enterasys Networks, which develops communications infrastructure solutions for enterprise-class customers, began migrating its 2,700 client PCs from Windows 2000 to Windows XP and Office XP last year. Dean Hertzog, director — Worldwide CIO Operations, said the migration is going “much faster” than previous OS upgrades, due to the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard in Windows XP Professional.
Enterasys’ deployment team utilized Sysprep as part of its “image and build” process, and as a result was able to reduce the total number of corporate images from 15 to two. Using Sysprep, Enterasys was able to rollout to their user population with an Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) image for 95 percent of the systems deployed, and a non-ACPI for the rest. Additionally, the User State Migration Tool allowed Enterasys to completely automate both the migration of user data and settings, as well as the upgrade to XP, such that users on the Enterasys corporate campus were able to do their own migration if desired.
Like Black & Veatch, Enterasys is finding its cost of ownership is lower, due to reduced administration costs, and fewer support calls. For example, the Remote Assistance feature in Windows XP Professional helps reduce deskside visits by IT staff. And its Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) extends Plug and Play functionality to the entire network, enabling discovery and control of networked devices and services, such as network-attached printers, Internet gateways, and consumer electronics equipment.
Likewise, Macromedia foresees reduced administrative and support costs for its 3,000 client PCs with Windows XP. The company, a world leader in creating software for professional Web developers, was running Windows 98 in its West Coast offices and Windows 2000 Professional in its East Coast offices, with others mixed in, due to corporate acquisition. It began migration to Windows XP Professional late last year — remarkably, Nader Djafari, director, IT Operations & Services, said the company’s IT department reports 100-percent application compatibility with legacy applications across all business units.
Making Migration Easier
Even as moving up to the latest Windows enterprise desktop software is easier than ‘ever, Gravning says Microsoft is dedicated to making it even easier. The Desktop Deployment Resource Center and related events are designed not only to inform those making the migration, but also to help those who have not yet taken the leap.
The Desktop Deployment Resource Center is a “one-stop shop” for information on rolling out Windows XP and Office XP. Gravning says it will help IT professionals filter the resources that address specifics such as the size of the company and the stage of evaluation or deployment, then guide them through the resources available and pointing out the appropriate tools. Users get a comprehensive view of the deployment processes as the portal ties together Microsoft deployment resources, including TechNet, deployment white papers, deployment guides, services offerings, Knowledge Base articles, third-party tools and best practices from early adopters.
The Desktop Deployment Resource Center will also host a series of 10 weekly online seminars that go into various topics related to Windows or Office migration, including Windows-deployment tools, application compatibility, deployment planning, deployment for medium-sized businesses, migration from Office 97 or 2000, and migrating from Smart Suite. Through the portal, a user also can connect to QuickStart Services, a professional-services group that will help companies develop a migration plan.
In conjunction with the portal is the Business Desktop Deployment Tour, in which Microsoft representatives present seminars across the United States. Planned are one-day sessions aimed at those who are still weighing whether to move up to Windows XP or Office XP. Case studies and business-value cases will be presented; as well as three-day sessions for IT professionals to learn about tools and resources.
Additional details about the Business Desktop Deployment Tour, including a listing of cities, are available at https://www.entirenet.net/registration/tour/ . A complete list of the weekly Web-based seminars, times and registration information is available at http://microsoftseries.digisle.tv/ .