Application Compatibility Lifecycle

XP will reach the end of support in few month (April 2014) and several companies have already migrated to Windows 7 / 8. Many others are hurrying because they are not still ready to migrate…

I don’t want to discuss about the risks of using XP after April 2014, but I want to write some thought about application lifecycle.

In 2001 Microsoft introduced Windows XP that was a “smooth” transition for the companies that used Windows 2000 workstation.

The majority of applications were compatibles between Windows 2000 and Windows XP.

After several years (November 2006) Microsoft released a new Operating System (Windows Vista) that introduced lot of changes and problems and was not adopted by nobody.

The next Operating System was Windows 7 (October 2009) and as usual the majority of enterprise customers waited until the Service Pack 1 (February 2011) before begin to adopt it.

This means that for more or less 10 years the companies don’t care about Operating System migration. They loose the focus on changing the OS due to the lack of new OS.

In addition, Microsoft released several Internet Explorer versions but an IT could continue to run an old IE version and apply all the security fixes and Service Packs. I have lot of customers that use Windows 7 with service pack 1 but Internet Explorer 8.

Now the things are gonna change…

With Windows 8.1 Microsoft made available a sort of Service Pack with the aggregation of all the existing fixes and also with some new features (the return of the start menu button, the boot to desktop policy and many others)

The key difference is that 8.1 includes Internet Explorer 11 and you cannot avoid the installation of this browser if you want to upgrade your windows 8 to 8.1.

This kind of behavior is very similar to Apple that includes a new version of Safari browser every time a new Mac OSx 10.x is shipped.

I have no secret information to share but I bet that next autumn Microsoft will release Windows 8.2 with Internet Explorer 12 included.

Bring back the control over your company applications

First the IT needs to asset their applications. I have several customers form Finance to Commercial to Public Sector to Telco market that have no idea about how many applications they own, who needs a given application and why.

This is the reason why several customers still use Windows XP because they are trying to clarify their application portfolio.

Work around application compatibility

Assuming that a company knows exactly every application needed by users, how can I migrate from Windows XP to 7 or 8?

Depending on the circumstances, you need to consider one of the 5 R’s solutions:
  • Retire
  • Re-code – Fix the code to be compatible
  • Replace, with a newer, compatible version
  • Re-platform – Move it to the cloud, web, virtualization (Citrix) etc.
  • Repair – Shim the app to work

Retire

Maybe you can retire the current application because you don’t need it anymore or you can replace it with a new one compatible with the new OS.

Re-code

If you own the source code of the application (for example an internal web portal) you can made changes to the code in order to make it compatible with the new OS.

Replace

The first step is about vendor assessment that is about know if the application vendor supports it on the new OS.

If the answer is “NO” maybe the vendor has a new version that is supported but you must take into account the costs of new version license and that a new version maybe is not compatible with the whole IT infrastructure (for example SAP Gui 7.20 is compatible with Windows 7 but maybe your back end infrastructure works only with Gui 6.84)

Re-platform

Changing the platform means not to install the application on the new OS but to access it remotely. For example maybe a Windows XP compatible application is installable on a Windows 2003 server that can be exposed to the user using Citrix XenApp.

Consider that re-Platform with Citrix would only be a temporary measure because Windows 2003 support will end July 2015.

Repair

You can try to fix compatibility issues using remediation packages called “shims”. This Microsoft technology is used to run incompatible applications and works changing the OS behavior. For example App1 doesn’t work because was written for XP and Windows 7 use UAC that gives problem to App1. With a Shim you can avoid UAC only for App1 and only when this app is launched.

Consider that is not always possible to remediate an application using shims and this is a temporary measure because you are using an application on a unsupported platform.

Create an endless application lifeclycle

I think that in the next years several releases of Microsoft Operating Systems will be available. The new 8.x releases will have new features but also new browsers so IT departments need to change the way they support Operating System migration.

It’s important to build the infrastructure and the procedures needed to perform as fast as possible the application compatibility tests every time a new OS version / browser is made available.

Create an endless application lifeclycle

I think that in the next years several releases of Microsoft Operating Systems will be availables. The new 8.x releases will have new features but also new browsers so IT departments need to change the way they support Operating System migration.

It’s important build the infrastructure and the procedures needed to perform as fast as possible the application compatibility tests every time a new OS version / browser is made available.

Today I see lot  of companies without a good test environment for application compatibility. No one knows how many applications need a test, who is the owner of a given application, how to install and test an application…

This is no longer sustainable.

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