With less than a month left before Microsoft Corp. removes the block on the automatic delivery of Windows XP Service Pack 2, the software giant updated its Application Compatibility Toolkit to help smooth the migration for large enterprise customers.
The Redmond, Wash., company has set April 12 as the drop dead date for the delivery of the service pack to all Windows XP and Windows XP Service Pack 1 systems, whether businesses are ready or not.
With that deadline fast approaching, Microsoft has added three security-centric evaluation tools to help customers identify the common issues caused by SP2s increased security settings.
According to Jon Murchinson, group program manager for Windows, ACT 4.0 will now feature a Windows DCOM Compatibility Evaluator, a Windows Firewall Compatibility Evaluator and an Internet Explorer Compatibility Evaluator.
Murchinson told eWEEK.com the tool kit has two key parts: the tools themselves and the Deployment Task List, which provides guidance for a user who is building a deployment plan.
"The first step [for a business] is to run the Application Analyzer, which collects application and system data for each computer it is deployed to," he said. "Each machine on which the tool is run has an inventory log file that is created, and the App Analyzer aggregates all of the log files into a single inventory report."
Once the inventory is completed, Murchinson said, the DCOM and Firewall compatibility evaluators can be run, retrieving log files identifying possible compatibility issues. "An example would be an application that requires a port to be open that SP2 turns off by default."
With these steps complete, the Application Analyzer can be used to compare the inventory file against the Microsoft database via a Web service to search for known issues and suggested fixes, Murchinson said.
"Once the fixes or workarounds have been identified, they can be packaged together with the Solution Builder, which enables multiple fixes to be packaged into a single executable," he added.
"Once your compatibility issues have been identified and packaged, then SP2 needs to be deployed followed by the solution packages, which can be deployed manually, using Group Policy or SMS [Systems Management Server]."
Microsoft has also posted a 55-minute Webcast with accompanying documentation to explain the benefits of using ACT 4.0.
Through the Internet Explorer blog, Microsoft is also beating the drum for IECE (IE Compatibility Evaluator).
Tariq Sharif, program manager in the IE security and networking team, said the IECE tool is designed to help IT professionals evaluate changes in behavior of Web applications and Web sites caused by the new security features in the service pack.
Among other things, IECE can be used to identify issues and blocks to Web site functionality and pinpoint the cause of a block and specific details to identify the location of the problem.
Murchinson said the ACT 4.0 rollout is targeted at midmarket customers up through large enterprises.