How a Windows XP migration became a journey of discovery

How a Windows XP migration became a journey of discovery

Summary: One organisation has used a Windows XP migration project to discover the true extent of the software on its books and just how much of it is really being used.


Preparations for a corporate shift away from Windows XP are bound to throw up issues, but one organisation currently making the move from the aged OS has found in the region of 1,000 pieces of software installed on its systems.

UK heath organisation Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust is in the process of shifting 6,000 users to Windows 7 from Windows XP, which from 8 April 2014 will no longer be supported by Microsoft after almost 14 years on desktops around the world.

As part of the groundwork for the migration, the Trust's desktop services manager Richard Wakefield wanted an accurate inventory of installed software and its use to ensure applications worked with the new operating system.

However, initial attempts using Microsoft System Center Configuration Manger produced incomplete results (SCCM).

"I needed to know who used what and where. That sounds quite a simple thing on the face of it but to actually garner that information — with Windows as it stands — I couldn't report on it. We had SCCM. It did software metering but it wasn't perfect for us. It missed quite a lot of stuff," Wakefield said.

Patterns of application use

Unlike the patterns of use found in most organisations, really important pieces of software are not necessarily in regular use at the health organisation — yet overlooking them in the migration could have serious repercussions.

"With us being a hospital we have some quite important pieces of kit. Not all that kit is used every single day. We have certain things, for example, that are connected to machines that are only used occasionally," Wakefield said.

"We did a trial run of a rollout. Even though we asked people what they used, every single person, every single department that we did a trial rollout with missed and forgot certain software that was key to them.

"Obviously we didn't want it on the reputation on the project that 'You've missed this, you've missed that', even though in reality it would have been no fault of our own. People were missing some quite important things that they use day to day, so it became quite obvious quite quickly that we couldn't rely on them to tell us what software they use."

The Trust decided it needed specialist software to create an inventory and track usage and, after a trial, opted for Centrix Software's WorkSpace iQ system.

"It was quite clear at the start that what software we had out there was quite unmanaged. We didn't know who was using what. We didn't know whether it was compatible," Wakefield said.

"What we did in the process was contacting the users and contacting the suppliers and getting the software and testing it on Windows 7. We had a user acceptance testing process where the user would come in and use it as they would during the day and then sign off that, 'Yes, that works on Windows 7', and we'd tick it off the list.

"The list we originally started with was about 1,000 pieces of software and we brought that down to just under 300 in actual use."

Testing applications for compatibility

Wakefield, who used consultancy Esteem Systems for the migration, has had a team of five people working for about six months on testing applications for compatibility issues with Windows 7 and deciding which could be safely migrated.

"We're into single digits now — single digits of software left to do. There are just under 10 pieces of software that are hanging on but we expect to clear those off pretty soon," he said.

Wakefield thinks it inevitable that in some isolated cases, particularly in the medical physics department which looks after scientific kit, a move away from Windows XP will prove impossible.

"The medical equipment does have computers attached to it but often they're offline, so the risk of that is lower for us. The main risk with it being unsupported is us getting a virus or a zero-day that can't be dealt with by Microsoft.

"I know there are already pieces of kit that we won't be able to move away from Windows XP. It happened to us with Windows 2000. Up until not long ago we had a system that was still running Windows 2000."

After almost a year's work, the Salford trust's first step in the staged rollout of Windows 7 took place last month, when the Child Health Department, chosen because it is relatively small and internal, successfully transferred from Windows XP.

Consolidation of software licences

Wakefield believes that one of the direct benefits of the new management software and the auditing process behind the migration will be a more accurate picture of patterns of use and a rationalisation of software licences.

"At the moment we do manage software licences but we could do it a little bit better. For example, Microsoft Project licences: I suspect we're going to be massively over-allocated. I don't think people use that as much as we thought they do," he said.

"We do have a massive amount of spend on software licences and I'm certain it's not all being utilised. As a trust, everybody has their own budgets for hardware and software, so it has become quite unmanaged over the years.

"This gives us an opportunity to bring it all in and make sure it's managed and we can prove to our users who are our customers that, 'Actually, no, what you're paying for is not actually being used as you think it is'."

The aim is to move away from the current use of a static image of most of the Trust's software towards defining a user's software access according to a number of set roles and automating the process.

The migration from XP to Windows 7 is due be completed by the end of the year, according to Wakefield.

"We're aiming to have everything done by Christmas if not sooner. We've currently planned the first couple of directorates but we don't want to plan in too much detail towards the end because we're a hospital and things change quite quickly. Before Christmas is the plan — and definitely before April," he said.

Topics: Enterprise Software, CXO, Microsoft

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  • ?

    Windows "2007"? Or did you mean Windows 7?
    D.J. 43
    • How sad... is that the Trust, which is funded by tax payers money, is now moving on to an operating system that is almost over 4 years old!

      Are they also running Internet applications supported only IIS6 - are they still enjoying the era of Windows 2003!
      • ONLY 4 years old??

        and my car is 20 years old, still running better that some cars just out of the showroom!!!
      • I hope you are not questioning the Trust

        But rather Microsoft, because their 4 year old piece of software is the best piece of software they ever created, not their newest one.
        So the Trust is being completely logical for choosing the best thing available to them.
        Ehsan Irani
        • You must mean completely illogical

          Unless they trust the NSA and want open all of their customer data to the Windows NSA backdoor:

          Only open source operating systems like Linux can be trusted. Windows already has the NSA written all over it.
      • Win7 support due to end soon(ish)

        Hi :)
        Windows 7 support was due to end in April 2015 so that gives them just over a year to move straight to the next MS systems.

        At least next time they know what to spend time and money on rather than having to try out different 'obvious' routes that they now know yield poor results.

        Just think if all that money had gone into migrating to Gnu&Linux then they could probably use Wine set-up to 'emulate' Win 2000 saving them from being vulnerable to 14year old malware and ancient known exploits.

        Regards from
        Tom :)
  • What are they using for wordprocessing?

    I'm curious whether they are using a pre-2007 version of MS Office, which is likely. Replacement of the traditional menus with the ribbon has a substantial learning curve. Also, I find that the Office 2007+ help system is absolute garbage. I normally use WordPerfect, and for just about anything on Word 2007 I have to google how to do it because the on-line help is useless.

    In that regard, I use a program that installs the equivalent of the traditional Office menus, so I don't have to rely on the ribbon. And even with that aid, if I have to do anything that isn't in the menus I wind up having to go on-line.
    • 1995 called

      It want's its file menus back.

      Seriously, it's 2013, 6 years since the Ribbon debuted. Who doesn't know how to use it at this point?
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • Doesn't mean it is good

        The Ribbon is a horrible UI Paradigm.

        Buth then again MS is king of Horrible UI Paradigms - see Windows 8, Windows Phone 7, 8 for examples.
        • Horrible?

          How can a UI that brings everything out in a nice organized manner, and doesn't hide anything from the user "horrible"? If anything you should be saying that about drop downs. It's horrible how many useful features are forever buried and forgotten (or never uncovered in the first place) by the user because items are overly technical sounding, and there's no icon that could even hint at what the function does.
          The one and only, Cylon Centurion
          • huh

            I have little enough time to do my write up, without having to spend time on organising the program!!!
          • THIS.

            Stuff don't become "horrible" when you don't like them. They become horrible when the majority can't use and therefore don't like them.
            By that definition, the pre-2007 Office was absolutely horrible. A conclusion I fully agree with.
            The Ribbon is one of the best UI decisions Microsoft ever made, along with Windows 7's taskbar redesign. It should be taught in UX workshops as "exactly what you should do".
            Ehsan Irani
      • I don't know nor want to know that stupid ribbon,

        and still Office 2003 and prior reign in the legal and financial community, because they don't want to learn the stupid interface, either.

        We're sick to death of the ignorant mantra that new is ipse better. It's actually often WORSE. So to argue that oh, wee are 'behind the times' or other such claptrap, is to be someone no one sane would hire.
        • Not for long...

          Since Office 2003 goes unsupported on the same day Windows XP does.

          If you're "sick to death" of new things, then what are you doing in the tech field? Eventually, you *have* to learn new things.

          I was hired at my current job because I wasn't afraid of these things. After all, someone who does know new things is more marketable compared to someone who doesn't. I don't think there's much demand anymore for someone who only knows Windows XP or less. LOL. Sorry.
          The one and only, Cylon Centurion
          • no...

            most are NOT in the tech field, or even being paid!! the voluntary sector helps a lot of people... next time you are ripped off by people, or have need 'official' help, think of them... :)
          • Learn new things!

            I did: LibreOffice and Linux.
        • Microsoft Windows

          And I don't want to learn Windows 7 stupid interface. I tried it and it is dumb down and ugly. Couldn't wait to get back to the simplicity of XP.
      • Re: 6 years since the Ribbon debuted.

        Unfortunately, it's showing its age. It was designed before modern widescreen monitors became popular. Look at the new OpenOffice Sidebar to see now a modern office-suite UI should be designed: that takes advantage of ample horizontal space, instead of hogging scarce vertical space.
      • Windows 7 fanboy

        Do you work for Microsoft? Or do you just like bashing XP. If you hate XP so much then why come to articles about it.
    • One more thought:

      If you're not up to par with the Ribbon UI at this point, you're definitely behind the curve, and not doing anyone any favors. They appear in Windows 7, and more in Windows 8, and they're not going away any time soon, nor are they replaceable with archaic "options".
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion