Organizations ponder migration to Windows XP

No sooner had Rick Kelley made the painful decision to migrate his division's 4,500 desktops from Windows 95 and NT to Windows 2000 than he had to stop and consider Microsoft's latest, greatest operating system--Windows XP.

No sooner had Rick Kelley made the painful decision to migrate his division's 4,500 desktops from Windows 95 and NT to Windows 2000 than he had to stop and consider Microsoft's latest, greatest operating system--Windows XP.

It took an entire year of intensive testing and a lot of convincing before Kelley, desktop and asset manager for the Orlando-based Missiles and Fire Control division of Lockheed Martin Corp., felt the time was right to start migrating the division's desktops as each finished its two- to three-year life cycle. The migration to Windows 2000, which began in February 2001, is about one-third complete, with completion scheduled in about two years.

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Kelley is now facing an even more daunting decision--whether to discontinue migration to Windows 2000 at some point in favor of a direct migration to successor Windows XP. Microsoft promises XP, scheduled to be released this fall, will be even more stable, have more robust security features, and be more reliable than its predecessors.

But Kelley is withholding judgment until his engineers dig into the operating system in another extensive round of testing. "The engineering environment alone has more than 200 applications in use, many of which had to be reworked for the Windows 2000 environment. We'll have to go through the same detailed process with XP, and it could take as long as a year unless there are less compatibility issues than there were moving applications to Windows 2000."

Engineers at PeopleSoft, a Pleasanton, Calif.-based collaborative software company, are facing a similar decision. The company has been in the midst of porting a large portion of its thousands of desktops and laptops to Windows 2000 since early 1999, with the goal of creating a mixed Windows 2000 and NT environment.

"We have a very aggressive plan to migrate our domain structure and working environment to Windows 2000, and throwing XP into the mix makes it more complicated," says Erik Beer, a workstation engineer in PeopleSoft's IT Engineering group. "We would need to see some sort of tangible return on investment before we would move to a completely new operating system. For us, that means things like better manageability, improved stability, less systems crashes, better application support and better power management for our laptops. It remains to be seen at this point whether XP can provide that functionality."

Part of the problem, says Dan Kusnetsky, vice president of systems software research at International Data Corp. of Framingham, Mass., is the awkward timing of XP's potential release. By following so closely on the heels of Windows 2000, Microsoft is putting many corporations in the untenable position of having to decide whether to switch to Windows XP midstream.

"Organizations tend to not just adopt new software, but to take the time to test it with their applications and procedures, gain some experience with it, and then start rolling it out in a very measured and careful way. Because of that process, the adoption of Windows 2000 Professional and Windows 2000 Server has been relatively slow," he says. "If you are a CIO and you have just decided that the benefits of upgrading to Windows 2000 are worth the expense and pain, and Microsoft starts banging the drum for Windows XP, it might arrest every effort you have to move to Windows 2000."

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