Vista in slow lane for Aussie CIOs

A clarification was made to this story. Read below for details.
Written by Munir Kotadia, Contributor and  Renai LeMay, Contributor

A clarification was made to this story. Read below for details.

A majority of chief information officers and administrators of Australian companies polled by ZDNet Australia are in no rush to roll out Microsoft Vista because the operating system requires too much processing power and doesn't provide a compelling business case to upgrade.

However, a handful from the education sector have moved swiftly to embrace the new operating system.

Those who said they will eventually deploy Vista will wait until their hardware requires a refresh and Microsoft has released at least one service pack (for Vista).

This will stymie the software giant's plan of making Vista more successful than its predecessor, Windows XP. Twelve months after the release of Vista, Microsoft expects that usage share of the operating system in businesses will be double that of XP, said Brad Goldberg, general manager for Windows product management.

"Vista is built for businesses," Goldberg said. "We're giving businesses the tools they need to get out of the gate faster with Vista... Our goal is to have twice as fast deployment of Vista than for any other operating system."

Sharam Hekmat, the CIO of global insurance firm Aviva in Australia, told ZDNet Australia that neither Windows Vista or Microsoft's upcoming update to its Office suite are very compelling.

"I'm not excited about either of them. Generally the approach I take to commodity software -- and these are clearly commodity software -- is we have to evaluate them based on their true business value," he said.

Hekmat believes there is currently "no business justification to move to the next version". However, he expects that to change in a few years as new applications are released that require Vista or security issues make the upgrade more compelling.

"We might start facing interoperability issues or there might be a need to upgrade to these new versions because of security concerns, virus protection measures and so on. These are usually the things that eventually get you... So we'll wait for that time to come.

"That might be two year's time or three year's time but we're certainly not going to be a first cab off the rank to convert to these products," Hekmat said.

The New South Wales Department of Commerce is also taking a cautious approach. It currently runs Windows XP SP2 and recently upgraded its enterprise resource planning (ERP) application but when it comes to a new operating system, the department's general manager of Information Management and Technology, Geoff Tye, said he had "no immediate plans to upgrade to Vista".

"I'd expect that we would move to Vista within two to three years to more than likely allow integration with revised application software as it became available under that platform," said Tye.

Accountancy group PKF Australia, which recently moved around 800 users from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Exchange, could not see any reason to adopt Vista until 2008.

The group's chief information officer Mark Carmichael said: "At the moment there's no glaring benefit to us".

Aviva's Hekmat also cited cost as a barrier to the adoption of Vista: "For us, a migration such as moving from XP to Vista, is not a cheap exercise, it's quite expensive ... it can be quite disruptive as well.

"There is the cost of implementation and then there is the negative cost of impact to the business... We have to consider those, versus the true value they deliver. And of course, unfortunately with Microsoft, often the value is very marginal," said Hekmat.

Meanwhile, the University of Tasmania's IT director John Parry said he did not want to deploy Vista without first putting it through an "appropriate testing regime".

"We're adopting a wait and see attitude. It's not something that we're really going to be dependent on because we've got quite a modern standard operating environment at the moment," said Parry.

Cost has also been flagged as an issue when considering a Vista upgrade. Apart from the additional hardware costs, the operating system is far from cheap.

Ready for Vista
However, not everyone has labelled Vista a low priority upgrade. Some organisations have ensured that their most recent hardware purchases will cope with Vista's processing demands and have placed key employees through training programmes.

Central Queensland University (CQU) is well advanced with its Vista plans. The university's manager of corporate systems administration, Adrian Yarrow, said: "Since the beginning of this year, we actually set all of our desktop purchasing standards to be compatible".

He also revealed that two of CQU's IT staff have undertaken Vista training with Microsoft.

Perth's Edith Cowan University (ECU) is also looking at being an early adopter, with IT director Mark Ridge admitting that some staff have been preparing for Vista since June.

One compelling reason for ECU adopting Vista is improved administrator rights.

"We had a couple of sessions with Microsoft, and I suppose did a checkpoint of our own environment and where we're at... They've come back with some thoughts on helping us and the issues we need to look at doing in our Vista rollout," Ridge said.

Aviva's Hekmat was not surprised that many of the early adopters are universities.

"Universities do tend to be at the bleeding edge -- their situation is so different, because in terms of corporate data, their investment is not huge. Whereas in a commercial environment it's quite the opposite," he said.

"Vista could have been, in my mind, a service pack for XP. But of course, if Microsoft do that then they'll have to give it away for free, whereas now, they can generate a few billion dollars of revenue through this.

"So that's the reality behind it. Great for [Microsoft], but not so good for us," Hekmat added.


Clarification: The story has been updated to clarify that PKF Australia CIO Mark Carmichael said moving to a Microsoft Exchange platform from Lotus Notes doesn't provide any real cost benefit. He maintains the company will look at upgrading to Vista after a hardware refresh next November.
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