Back in March, I wrote an article about Vista, Microsoft's way overdue next version of its Windows OS (Early admission for Vista?). In that piece, I discussed a strategy for the eventual migration of today's Education IT operation from Windows XP to Windows Vista. Since I wrote that piece, much has been written about Vista.
Of particular interest to me was Microsoft: Set your systems for Vista because, much to my own surprise, it revealed that Vista will (at least according to Microsoft) be able to run on my six-year-old Dell Dimension desktop. Of course, by the time that Vista actually ships, that computer will be pushing seven years old. But then again, I like a good challenge. Am I holding my breath? No.
As I said in my original piece, there is no substitute for good planning and thorough testing -- and now that Beta 2 has been released, this is a good time for the Education IT group where you work to begin their testing of Vista. But should you put off your next computer acquisition to be sure that your new computers will run Vista? Absolutely not!
If Microsoft's recommended minimum's can be relied upon, then any system you are likely to own should run Vista. How well is another question -- which only your testing can discern.
Should you be anxious to jump on the Vista bandwagon? Again, no. There is an old 'rule of thumb' that suggests that you should wait for the first service pack of any new operating system before you deploy it in any mission-critical environment. In reality, waiting for the first Service Pack is probably unrealistic -- and unnecessary -- but, before jumping in with all fours one should, at the very least, assess the implications of upgrading your existing hardware to run Vista as well as the equally significant implications of operating a site with multiple versions of Windows installed.
The implications of running a mixed OS environment are such that, come January 2007 (or whenever Vista ACTUALLY ships), most IT shops (in- and outside of education) should seriously consider downgrading their new hardware to running Windows XP until they are at a point that all of their hardware can run Vista at a level suitable for their needs. This might be one year, two years, or more but it will save many a headache and sleepless night.
Those familiar with me know I am a strong believer in 3-5 year hardware life-cycles -- especially in mission-critical environments. (Yes, I own a six-year-old Dell but it is not in mission-critical service -- and it is not the only machine at my disposal -- just the oldest!) Nevertheless, even an old hand-me-down is likely to be upgradeable to Microsoft's official minimum requirements for a relatively few dollars.