Wait on Vista? That depends...

Wait on Vista? That depends...

Summary: There is the old rule of thumb that says "never buy a car the first year it is introduced" and similarly, "don't buy an OS until after the first service pack ships," but waiting until 2008 to upgrade to an OS that ships in 2006 is ridiculous. (And the idea of waiting for the first service pack to ship is probably pretty dumb too.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Windows
13

There is the old rule of thumb that says "never buy a car the first year it is introduced" and similarly, "don't buy an OS until after the first service pack ships," but waiting until 2008 to upgrade to an OS that ships in 2006 is ridiculous. (And the idea of waiting for the first service pack to ship is probably pretty dumb too.) Especially since we are now seeing glimpses of Vista and those glimpses do not indicate any overriding concerns about Vista's stability or performance. (I have not yet had the chance to look at Vista but I hope to soon.)

The idea that there are any IT shops still "downgrading" new hardware to Windows 98 is alarming -- to say the least. There may be sound reasons for downgrading to Windows XP. In fact, Windows 98 was the only version of Windows from which I kept repeatedly downgrading. I wanted to like Windows 98, I really did, but Windows 98 (all flavors -- 98/98se/Me) was always too unstable -- and just too damned slow (compared to Windows 95, compared to Windows NT 4, compared to Windows 2000 -- you name it.) The one great strength of Windows 98 that made me try it over and over again was Windows Update. Once Windows 2000 hit the streets -- I never looked back.

Any IT shop not running Windows Server 2000 or better in its machine room needs new management. Period. And any shop not running Windows XP on the bulk of its client workstations today is crippling itself. Sure, there are still little pockets of Windows NT Server being run here and there -- even in organizations with robust and security-conscious IT departments. The only way to shut these installations down is to implement security policies which cannot be supported under these legacy operating systems. The need for network security should trump all other concerns. In the enterprise, the stakes are simply too high.

There are certainly sound reasons for the enterprise to delay upgrading its OS of choice until the next lifecycle replacement of infrastructure hardware/software -- even if this means downgrading newly purchased workstations to maintain a uniform client software "build," but this does not justify permitting two or three OS releases to go by without upgrading. The day it shipped, Windows XP was more stable and performed better than Windows 2000. Today, Windows XP (with SP2) is a dramatically better product than it was when it shipped in 2001. I am quite certain that it will be the same with Vista. Simply put, any IT department which does not upgrade its operating systems as well as its hardware on a three-to-five year lifecycle is stifling the ability of the enterprise to function efficiently. Further, any IT department running Windows 95/98/9se/Me on any workstation connected to its network is placing its enterprise at grave risk.

Reading Colin Barker's article "Gartner: Wait 'til '08 for Vista" brings another thought to mind. In fact, this may be the point of Gartner's comments ...

The question of whether or not it is cost-effective to purchase upgrade licenses for Windows Vista needs to be considered. This is a different question than whether or not to continue to downgrade to Windows XP or before. As I said above, there may be sound reasons for downgrading to Windows XP (but probably not to Windows 2000) for some time after Vista ships.

At what point, though, does an IT shop decide to purchase upgrade licenses for a new OS? In an environment where a three-to-five year hardware lifecycle is the rule, and where the cost of the OS is bundled into the cost of the hardware, it is hard to justify spending as much as $100 per workstation (not to mention the man-hours involved) just to upgrade the OS. Even if Vista is a dramatically better product than XP, why buy an OS upgrade (and take the time to rebuild the machine) for a workstation that I am likely to replace next year? For many IT shops, the answer to the question above may be never.

Once Vista actually ships, IT shops should begin to evaluate it -- and plan for its ultimate adoption. That adoption will most likely be gradual as servers are retired and replaced with new servers sold with Vista licenses. Adoption on the client side may also be gradual as client workstations are retired or en masse once a critical number of new client workstations have Vista licenses. At that point, taking the opportunity to upgrade from a legacy software "build" to a Vista "build" makes a lot more sense. In either event, the upgrade will not be immediate.

In the end, whether an IT department buys a Windows XP workstation today or a Windows 2003 server, Gartner's advice (if not their rationale) is sound -- to wait until 2008, when you upgrade your hardware again, to upgrade to Vista. That is not to say that if you buy a new server a year from now (after Vista ships) that you should not consider using Vista. By all means, unless there is a good reason not to (such as legacy or mission-critical software incompatibility), you should move to Vista -- but this need not be en masse and it need not be at added expense. All Gartner may be saying is that there is no compelling reason to spend money that you were not going to spend already making sure that you have Vista in your shop as soon as it ships.

Topic: Windows

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

13 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Blindly "up"grading

    Just because something new comes out is no reason to jump in with both feet. I agree with you about old version of Windoze - they were seriously broken and you just needed to "get the hell out of there". But if you ask some W2k enthusiasts, XP offered nothing new and potentially worse "features" (Windoze "phone home" and "activation") - so they stay on W2k. Going with Windoze Riska will FORCE you into areas you may not want to go! I don't LIKE .NET, but with Riska, you have no choice. More co-mingling, more hidden APIs, more dependencies on homogeneous Windoze server/client technologies (.NET, MSN) - and all for WHAT, some pretty graphics and (unproven) security features? EXACTLY what does Riska give to me that I don't already have (but NEED)? Upgrading just to be like the Joneses - the first on your block - is not a very sound policy.
    Roger Ramjet
    • Blindly upgrading? No ...

      ... but if you are still running Windows 2000 on the client side, you are missing a great deal compared to Windows XP Pro SP2. For instance, the Windows XP is dramatically more efficient -- faster to load, smaller footprint on machines with low memory. All of this translates into lost productivity for the enterprise. Unless you are running a third-party firewall on your Win2K clients, you are also putting your enterprise at risk.

      If you are running Windows 2000 Server, then there are other concerns. Are you running it on out-of-warranty hardware? If so, then you are taking other significant risks by not upgrading your hardware and buying it with Windows Server 2003. If instead, you are running Windows 2000 Server on in-warranty hardware and are waiting for your end-of-lifecycle replacement to upgrade, that makes sense.
      M Wagner
  • One of the many reasons to wait on Vista...

    http://news.zdnet.com/5208-1009-0.html?forumID=1&threadID=15198&messageID=303008&start=-29
    ju1ce
    • Ridiculous

      The most clueless thing that can be posted is a link to another poster's rant. It's not like any hard facts are there.
      IT Scion
      • Well seeing as he took it from PC World...

        I'm gonna say at this moment.. I'm weary.

        There are posters you don't have to question their opinions.. There are others like yourself who don't care for facts and continually try to refute anything negative about any piece of software you support.
        ju1ce
    • This is a DRM issue, not a Vista issue ...

      Like it or not, DRM is going to cause havoc for awhile -- regardless of your OS of choice! Until lawmakers amend the DMCA or until consumers stand up and say "enough is enough" copyright holders are going to use whatever tactic is at their disposal to protect their property. Because people steal (yes, music & movie sharing is stealing), honest users who want nothing more than to play their music & movies when and where they want will be inconvenienced. It's a fact of life.
      M Wagner
  • Please elaborate..

    [i]And any shop not running Windows XP on the bulk of its client workstations today is crippling itself.[/i]

    A majority of our machines are Windows 2000. I see no difference between them and the XP machines as far as stability. Yes, the XP machines are faster because they are faster machines.

    The only place that XP has made a difference is on our laptops. And that only has to do with roaming profiles and users logging in off our network.
    Patrick Jones
    • The crippling effects are minor

      If your servers are Windows 2000 then XP really doesn't give much. If you domain is a Windows 2003 domain then you actually do lose the advanced features in XP is you stick with Windows 2000. For example the Windows 2003 admin pack won't even run on Windows 2000 Pro workstation. So to administer a Windows 2003 domain remotely you need XP.

      Most of the little things that you miss with sticking with Windows 2000 are more anoyance than show stoppers however.
      voska
      • Thanks

        :)
        Patrick Jones
      • Oh, you must mean...

        ...support for your Windows installation, since 2000 will end this year.
        Confused by religion
    • I don't agree ...

      For most common personal productivity tasks (no, not multimedia -- where Windows XP excels), I cannot tell a difference between my Dell Dimension 4100 running at 866MHz and my Dell GX280, running at 3.4GHz.

      That's not to say that Windows 2000 is a 'bad' choice but, if one is not running a third-party firewall, running Win2K puts you at greater risk than running WinXP Pro. Don't forget, time is money and boot time and task switching does eat into worker productivity.

      My point is that there may be good reasons not to upgrade existing workstations to XP (and soon Vista) but one should think long and hard about downgrading new hardware to Windows 2000 (and soon XP). If you are currently downgrading to Windows 2000, you need to know what it is costing you -- and you should be planning to migrate to XP whenever you own sufficient XP licenses to make the transition cost-effective.
      M Wagner
  • Defying industry wisdom...

    ...is what is pretty dumb. The idea of waiting until SP1 is something that has involved out of necessity due to the poor track record of the Windows OS. To pretend that this poor record of initial releases doesn't exist is what is truly dumb. Do you own MSFT stock by chance?

    "And the idea of waiting for the first service pack to ship is probably pretty dumb too."
    Techboy_z
    • I don't appreciate the implication ...

      Waiting for SP1 is indeed the conventional wisdom -- and if your organization lacks the expertise to do a thorough evaluation, waiting for SP1 might be advised.

      Still, any IT shop worth its salt will begin testing any new OS in its migration path as soon as it ships, with the intention of deploying it as soon as it is cost-effective to do so.

      What constitutes cost-effective is in the eye of the beholder but the longer you wait, the behinder you get so lifecycle considerations for both the hardware and the OS need to be considered. If you are a Windows 2000 shop without a Windows XP Pro (or Windows Server 2003) migration plan, you are way behind the curve.
      M Wagner