Windows XP: How end of support sparked one organisation's shift from Microsoft

Windows XP: How end of support sparked one organisation's shift from Microsoft

Summary: The withdrawal of support for XP helped one organisation decide its best option was a move away from Microsoft Windows as its main operating system.

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There are the XP diehards, and the Windows 7 and 8 migrators. But in a world facing up to the end of Windows XP support, one UK organisation belongs to another significant group — those breaking with Microsoft as their principal OS provider.

Microsoft's end of routine security patching and software updates on 8 April helped push the London borough of Barking and Dagenham to a decision it might otherwise not have taken over the fate of its 3,500 Windows XP desktops and 800 laptops.

"They were beginning to creak but they would have gone on for a while. It's fair to say if XP wasn't going out of life, we probably wouldn't be doing this now," Barking and Dagenham general manager IT Sheyne Lucock said.

Around one-eighth of corporate Windows XP users are moving away from Microsoft, according to recent Tech Pro Research.

Lucock said it had become clear that the local authority was locked into a regular Windows operating system refresh cycle that it could no longer afford.

"If we just replaced all the Windows desktops with newer versions running a newer version of Windows, four years later we would have to do the same again and so on," he said.

"So there was an inclination to try and do something different — especially as we know that with all the budget challenges that local government is going to be faced with, we're going to have to halve the cost of our ICT service over the next five years."

Barking and Dagenham outsourced its IT in December 2010 to Elevate East London, which is a joint-venture between the council and services firm Agilisys.

Lucock and systems architect Rupert Hay-Campbell are responsible for strategy, policy and investment while Elevate looks after delivery.

"We asked Elevate to carry out a fairly detailed options appraisal of what the possibilities were. What we did realise was that we couldn't keep on doing ICT in the same way we had done before," Lucock said.

Three options were on the table. The standard approach was just to replace most of the XP desktops with a newer version of Windows. Because the council bought out of its Microsoft Enterprise Agreement a couple of years ago, it has perpetual licences that cover it up to Windows 7.

"Windows 8 would not have been an option for us because that would have required a significant reinvestment in Microsoft licensing. So that was one of the options — just do more of the same but with a newer version of Windows," Lucock said.

Then there was the possibility of repurposing much of the existing hardware as thin-client terminals, investing in new thin-client terminals and then running Citrix XenDesktop or VMware Horizon VDI.

"That wasn't going to address the mobility and flexibility issues and that would have meant we would have been wholly dependent on our virtual desktop infrastructure for evermore, because that's all the clients could have used," he said.

The third and eventually successful option was to look at Chrome OS and in particular Chrome Books and Chrome Boxes.

"There are a number of advantages there. One is that it's a browser and not just a thin client. So initially the Chromebooks and Chromeboxes will be used as thin-client terminals accessing published applications through Citrix," Lucock said.

The user experience would be little different from that under XP, with a Citrix storefront login screen taking them to familiar mapped drives and apps such as Office 2007.

However, because of the native Chrome browser, the council's ultimate aim is to move as many of its office productivity systems such as email and calendaring away from the Citrix infrastructure and into the browser through software as a service or the cloud.

"So in a sense it was a strategic move. Initially, there is very little change. Everyone is using the applications that they were using before in the same sort of way in Citrix," Lucock said.

"Over time, the native browser of the Chromebooks and Chromeboxes will be the predominant method of access to what people need. That was something the thin-client devices didn't have — it's a fundamental difference between those two options.

"Obviously, we'd need to look very carefully at the offerings from both Google and Microsoft but we'd certainly be wanting to move as much as we can out of Citrix onto the browser in the shortest possible time."

Google Apps reseller Ancoris was brought in to support Barking and Dagenham through a number of evaluations and pilot projects last year as part of its due diligence before the council opted for Chrome OS.

The initial rollout of 1,500 Samsung XE303 Chromebooks is taking place at a rate of several hundred devices a day, with the migration due to be completed by about the first week in June.

Lucock said the interval between the end of XP support and the June completion date represents an exceedingly low risk because of the strict security policies already in place.

"We have a very tightly-managed XP desktop estate that we were starting with, with end-point management on all devices and so on. So we're fairly confident we can get through to the beginning of June without any issues," he said.

"Ideally, we would have squeezed that time period a little bit more but we're not unduly over-worried that there's suddenly there's going to be a huge issue."

On top of cost savings of about £200,000 ($340,000) over the cost of new Windows desktops, Lucock said there are other advantages in the Chromebooks approach even though it has entailed upgrading wi-fi across council buildings and investing in the Citrix infrastructure to spec it for 3,500 people.

"It's cheaper to supply a Chromebook than it is a Windows desktop, not only in the capital cost of the equipment but in the deployment and the rollout," he said.

"It's very easy to roll out ChromeOS devices. You just take a note of who you've given it to and hand it over."

Ongoing support is also going to be much less onerous and expensive, with no need to worry about patches and antivirus, or keeping multiple images.

Power savings could amount to a further £200,000 ($340,000) because of the greater energy-efficiency of the Chrome OS devices.

Chromeboxes are being deployed as fixed devices in kiosk and hotdesking areas. But wherever a device is being assigned to an individual, it will be a Chromebook.

The council will still be running as many as 600 Windows 7 machines for applications such as AutoCad that demand it and for special hardware requirements.

"But the fundamental difference here is that we've switched it around so the default is always going to be the Chromebook. Then if there's a particular reason why that's not going to work, we do something different," he said.

Although without the end of XP support Barking and Dagenham could have stuck with the 12-year-old operating system, Lucock is pleased to be making the move.

"With the benefit of hindsight, I'm glad that we are because we had a very sedentary workforce. We had 3,500 employees and we had 3,500 desktop machines. If people needed to work in a mobile or a more flexible way, then we needed a laptop for them as well. So we had more devices than we had people," he said.

"We know we've got to rationalise our accommodation. We currently work from around 60 sites in a very small borough. Clearly, that's costly. We need people to work much more flexibly, with mobile to be much more a daily feature of people's lives."

The main benefit for the council lies in creating a more flexible workforce, Lucock said.

"Every time we replace a Windows PC with a Chromebook, we've enabled them to work anywhere. That's a big step forward — and to able to do that on such a large scale over a very short period of time, it's very exciting."

Topics: Windows, Virtualization, Operating Systems, Mobility, Microsoft, Government UK, Google, Enterprise Software, Cloud, CXO

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161 comments
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  • The end of XP was just another nail in the coffin.

    The end of XP was just another nail in the coffin.
    CrimsonEclipse
    • And Win8...

      ...was all the other nails
      FrankInKy
      • I know right?

        Poor Linux...

        Finally getting buried after all these years...
        ForeverCookie
        • You lost me on that one

          I'm sure it makes sense in you mind
          FrankInKy
          • Funny thing about those nails

            We keep hearing about all these nails, yet nobody's ever bothered to say how many nails it'll take to nail that coffin closed.

            Right now there's been 3000 nails in a coffin that requires over 3 billion nails to close.

            Yeah, end of MS type thing right there...
            William.Farrel
          • Ended MS on supercomputers.

            Did a real number on phones (right around a billion).

            Has done just as big a job on embedded (something like another billion, not sure though - the new TVs/internet things aren't all counted yet).

            Provided the foundation for all cloud design.

            MS is now moving things into cloud for support - and even making them available for non-windows first.

            Looks like it is closing in on that 3 billion nails you want.
            jessepollard
          • Not even closs, Jesse, and I know you agree even though you won't voice it

            which is the best part of your responses.

            :)
            William.Farrel
          • Not even coherent this time...

            I must have hit a nerve...
            jessepollard
          • What are you talking about????????????

            See, this is the complete nonsense that is utterly false.

            Complete lie.

            Despite slowing sales of PC's the figures still indicate that the sales that do still take place of Windows based computers every year still are higher than any of the few that opt out of Windows every year.

            So this means the installed Windows user base is still increasing in numbers, not actually decreasing, despite slowed sales.

            So in effect, instead of any significant number of nails going into Microsofts coffin it would still take more nails each year to close the coffin than it did the year before.

            Wake up pollard. You talk like a kook when your half asleep.
            Cayble
          • Microsoft is a serial killer

            By Microsoft killing the OSes which they created is shooting themselves in the foot. While Linux has been supported for 23 years now, Microsoft kills their OSes. Until XP, nobody cared but now we hear that Microsoft's killing spree is here to stay. They have tasted blood and now they will satisfy their cravings with Windows 7 and then 8 followed by 9 and on and on.
            Tim Jordan
          • Supported for 23 years

            I challenge you to find a widely used distro VERSION that was supported for 23 years. It just doesn't happen. Just like how Microsoft stopped supporting XP, people stopped supporting ... *thinks of a distro version* Warty Warthog? Yeah, that works.

            People had to upgrade or lose support.
            Michael Alan Goff
          • Come now, Troll Jordan

            you can do better then that. Can you even type with a straight face?

            Lets see, it appears that MS has supported Windows for 29 years (to your 23 years for Linux) so come back and talk when that original Linux distribution has hit 30 years of support.

            In other words, I doubt we'll be hearing anything from you on that in 7 years...

            (Nice try, though) :)
            William.Farrel
          • What Are You Guys Talking About?

            Whether Microsoft or the Linux community is better at supporting their versions 1.0?

            I gather the angels on a head of a pin thing had gotten settled and I missed that.

            Mr. Farrell, the 3,000,000,000 nails necessarily means 3,000 nails were pounded, so the destination is closer, somewhat. And let's read the writing on the wall, shall we? Microsoft is adapting to the concept that operating systems licenses may be a zero-revenue business for them. Won't happen tomorrow or in five years, but it looks like it's happening. If it doesn't, it will be because Microsoft has, as it did earlier, figured out how to compete with free. Now back then, network connections were slower and computers were slower. Hardware has improved, more cores are available, and a lot of work went into making javascript faster to execute and to wrap javascript with sugar to make it more expressive and safe for programming. And Microsoft has put resources into making that happen. Besides, the general consumer is hearing that Apple is "giving away" its os. That is a different magnitude of expectations as compared with those of us computer types who 10 years back were experimenting with Linux. Because it was free as in libre? No, for me, because it was free as in beer.

            As to why anyone thinks that Microsoft cannot adapt or why, these days, there is any joy at the prospect of Microsoft disappearing, I cannot understand. The Linux trolls I encounter are now becoming poor winners. And, yes, they won within their frame of reference. Microsoft lost the ability to sell an os into the mobile space and it was mostly because Google championed a Linux kernel to form the foundations for Android and ChromeOS.

            Which brings me to another assertion. I say Linux cannot win or lose. People who build businesses around Linux may win or lose. In addition, Microsoft can win or lose without Apple, Google, Red Hat, Facebook, IBM, Samsung, etc., etc., winning or losing.
            DannyO_0x98
          • Huh?

            What are you talking about? Does Ubuntu still support v8? Does RedHat still support Fedora v6?
            Gisabun
          • Gawd, you are an idiot

            Who exactly is "Linux"?

            As for Linux support, provided by various vendors and groups, it is only provided for a limited number of years, after which one must upgrade.

            Kindly tell me which "Linux" that is as old as XP that is still supported. I waiting....
            Raid6
          • Who exactly is Linux? An interesting question.

            Strictly speaking, Linux is a kernel invented and maintained by Linux Torvalds. Everything else under the "Linux" moniker is a collection of GNU utilities (GNU = Gnu-is-Not-Unix) distributed under one name or another. Each "distro" is unique so they are not 100% interoperable. Any more than UNIX was ever 100% interoperable.

            The irony of it all is that that huge collection of GNU utilities have all been ported to Windows.
            M Wagner
          • If you are still running a 23-year-old version of Linux, you are ...

            ... no better off than if you are running Windows XP.
            M Wagner
          • Not so much a specific number of nails Will.

            More like how many nails need to be hammered by Microsoft in order to close an individual organizations coffin "on a per instance basis".

            I'm guessing the end of XP was the final nail for the organization in this article. It may be something completely different for others. I don't want MS to go anywhere to be brutally honest, it makes a more lucrative target for attacks solely due to the fact it exists on the larger market share.

            If Microsoft loses a significant market share you will definitely see a spike in non Microsoft based malware,virus, and attack vectors exploited in non Microsoft operating systems.

            Viva La Microsoft "keep up the good work".
            GDMPC
          • How did he lose you? Despite the perceived misstep on Microsoft's part ...

            ... Linux is still unable to step-in. Instead, the short-term goal is still Windows infrastructure and the long-term goal is ChromeOS - even though Linux has had a thin-client option available since before Citrix built their solution around Windows.
            M Wagner
        • You might recall...

          ...that ChromeOS is Linux-based. In reality, what we're seeing in this case is what server manufacturers have wanted for 20-30 years; the replacement of personal computers with what amounts to smart terminals. How widespread this becomes will be clearer in years to come.
          John L. Ries