Those among us who harbour an obsession for dates and calendars may have noticed that we are fast approaching the first anniversary of the release of Windows Vista and we’re not out of the woods yet when it comes to application compatibility. Many argue that the product is not quite the revolution that the world’s largest software company originally envisioned. So why is that? Could it be that the sheer weight of testing overhead is too great for many companies to consider implementing it on an enterprise level?
I met up with a company called Camwood this week. These guys specialise in software that automates app testing for large scale Vista deployment. Now then, automated testing may not be a major issue for companies running 100 or so core applications, but for a larger global enterprises running perhaps thousands of applications, manual testing prior to an OS migration could soak up as many as three weeks per application to install, identify and rectify the problem. With automated testing, the same procedure could be carried out in 10 to 15 minutes.
The company is also working on technology to enable companies to migrate applications to Microsoft’s SoftGrid virtualisation technology under Vista prior to deployment.
Their approach is quite interesting. Microsoft itself offers Vista testing tools, but – as far as I can see - these are focused on collecting operational data from agents deployed throughout a production environment, which can be a very time consuming approach. Camwood’s solution targets the application installation media, processing these source files without the need to install the application. Using heuristic algorithms, the appTitude product actually looks at the MSI (if available) and the application files it contains to detect problems. It then provides a graphical summary of which applications will run without problems under Vista and highlights those that need attention. A detailed report then provides the technical information necessary to rectify problems.
According to COO Mike Welling, more companies are now realising the move to Microsoft Vista is inevitable and are looking for ways to mitigate risk and minimise business disruption. “We are embarking on an education process. Many organisations are already realising that wide-scale manual testing prior to Vista deployment is unrealistic and therefore end up testing core applications and leaving many applications untested. Many IT departments are simply unaware that this kind of deep level automated testing is available,” he said.
Welling also told me that many of the large systems integrators and IT consultancies could use this type of technology to reduce the time and cost associated with Vista deployment. Many have acknowledged how useful the technology could be, but seem reluctant to deploy.
So, what did I learn? Well, application compatibility is a complex area technically. OK, no surprise there. There’s clearly a lot of underestimation and misunderstanding in this area. There is a certain amount of testing to be done in any Windows migration project and the earlier that planning comes in, the more successful the migration will be. Is that stating the obvious? Perhaps not if you consider it within the greater context of this blog.
STOP PRESS: just as I post this I noticed that Reuters is running an interview with Kevin Johnson, president of Microsoft's platform and services group on this very subject. You can read it here: http://www.reuters.com/article/asiaTechnology/idUSIndia-30262720071031