– Mike Temple, product manager at Avocent (www.avocent.com), says:

What hardware in my environment doesn’t meet minimum specifications? 

Unfortunately, there are two answers to this:

1. What machines do not meet recommended minimum specification as outlined by the Manufacturer?

2. What machines are “borderline?” In other words, once you upgrade a perfectly good XP machine running your big business application, will the overhead of Windows 7 cause the application performance to suffer and be sub-par? It’s important to understand what your unique minimum specifications would be.

Once this is determined, you can quickly lay out a hardware refresh program. These new machines, as well as machines refreshed as part of the normal hardware refresh cycle, should factor into the migration as well – make sure your new machine acquisition process includes installation of Windows 7 when it rolls in the door.

Before we get too carried away with the relatively simple act of backing up a machine and laying down a new operating system, it is important to do an analysis on which applications can run on Windows 7, and for those applications that cannot run or do not function properly or completely.

There are essentially three options for applications that have issues:

1. “Compatibility” mode: Essentially a way of running an application and telling the operating system to tell the application that it’s running on some other version of windows. This isn’t always successful as some applications need more.

2. “XP mode”: This mode is only available to those customers who own an EA or a SA with Microsoft; however, it is no additional cost. This is essentially a special Virtual PC session running Windows XP. It is critical to understand that this is essentially another node on your network, which would need provisioned, secured, etc. Please understand the licensing implications (Additional license counts of antivirus, management tools, etc.), the performance implications of virtualizing the operating system, as well as the security/patching implications of having this device on your network. The good news is that it’s a real XP machine running inside your Windows 7 machine, so the likelihood that the incompatible application runs normally is very high.

3. Upgrade the application to a Windows 7 compliant version: This includes contacting the vendor of the application (or possibly refactoring and re-compiling if it’s a custom application) and could have licensing, migration, training, data conversion and roll-out implications that need to be understood on an application-by-application basis.

If you decide on a reload process, make sure that you have your standard Windows 7 image set up and complete. Most organizations use a captured sector-based image that has been “Sysprepped” to strip out all unique elements of the OS.

Next, for machines that will not be refreshed, it’s important to make sure you maintain the users business data as well as the more critical items such as wallpaper, shortcuts, and desktop icons. Once this activity is complete, you can then wipe the hard drive, lay down the new Operating System and restore the user data. Lather, rinse, repeat for all workstations in the target group.

Of course, most of these steps can be very simply accomplished (except the training step) with a robust Lifecycle management system that integrates with a robust Systems Management solution, like LANDesk Asset Lifecycle Manager and LANDesk Management Suite and Security Suite with LANDesk Application Virtualization. With this solution, the steps of planning on which hardware gets refreshed versus upgraded are as simple as a report, and the Hardware Independent Imaging solution, combined with the process-based Provisioning and User Migration Assistant technologies within the solution make deploying no-touch a breeze. Application incompatibilities can be minimized by leveraging virtualization. Essentially a months-long project could be reduced to days or weeks, and leave in place a robust process for adding new machines, moving machines and retiring machines, regardless of the operating system.