As Microsoft prepares for the official business launch of Windows Vista, Office 2007 and Exchange Server 2007 on Nov. 30, customer upgrades and partner solution rollouts based on the new technologies may not happen as quickly as Redmond would like.
Many customers do not plan an immediate upgrade to the new products, while partners will roll out new solutions based on these technologies over time.
That is borne out by statistics from research group Gartner, which said that while some 58 percent of new PC shipments in 2007 will include Windows Vista, they also estimate that Vista will be running on less than 10 percent of PCs in the installed base by the end of 2007.
That figure is expected to rise to 29.3 percent in 2008, 50 percent in 2009 and 67.7 percent by the end of 2010.
Gartner analysts Michael Silver and David Smith are also advising companies that they should expect to spend 18 months testing, planning and piloting before undergoing large-scale mainstream deployment.
Gunnar Thaden, CIO of the TUV Nord Group, one of Germanys largest technical service providers and which specializes in technical safety, environmental protection and conformity assessment of management systems and products, is upbeat about the security, reliability, and less administration that comes with Windows Vista.
Thaden, who is based in Hannover, Germany, is also pleased that this latest version of Windows, which was five years in the making, is “evolutionary rather than revolutionary,” in terms of enterprise functionality.
“Vista is building on the enterprise base that Windows 2000 and Windows XP established. I can say it meets the needs of large enterprises head-on and, from an administration point of view, is a secure, architecturally driven operating system,” Thaden told eWEEK in an interview.
TUV Nord, which has been an early tester of Vista under Microsofts Technology Adopter program, has some 7,000 computers in its network, 60 percent of which are laptops used out in the field, said Frank Boerger, the companys head of client and user support.
While there are some disadvantages associated with Vista, which is more complex due to all the new security features, including the restrictions of user rights and the pop-up Windows that are activated when switching from one level to another, this is offset by the enhanced security it brings, he said.
“Vista is a good long-term investment, with the administration, features and security we need. As an enterprise we are pleased that it is an evolutionary upgrade to XP rather than a revolutionary upgrade, which is not what enterprises want in their operating system,” Boerger said.
But TUV Nord does not plan to immediately upgrade all 7,000 of its machines to Vista. The current plan is that every new laptop and desktop will have Vista installed.
Those still using Windows 2000 will be upgraded first, with some 60 percent of its machines likely to be upgraded over the next year, with the balance on Vista by the end of 2008, he said.
TUV also has a policy of only working with a small number of software vendors and partners, largely Windows and SAP, so as to create a homogeneous infrastructure and reduce the complexity of its environment.
“This yields a higher return on investment for us and is an approach we have studied and evaluated for many years. We truly believe it yields positive returns for us,” Thaden said.
With regard to application compatibility, Boerger said this is an issue for the firm, which has more than 700 different software packages that need to be tested for compatibility.
Thaden agrees that compatibility between Vista and its third-party software has been a concern, particularly with SAP, its largest application. He added that the company has 500 servers and its infrastructure has become increasingly complex.
-year wait for Vista was a good thing”>
“We have been ringing the alarm bells about compatibility issues between our SAP applications and Vista over the past year as we tested them together, but all our issues were addressed by both companies and we are now confident that Vista and our SAP implementation will work seamlessly,” he said.
TUV Nord has traditionally spent too much in administration and daily operations, and not enough in strategic operations to support company growth, Thaden said.
But that is changing with the release of this new wave of products like Vista, Office 2007, Exchange 2007 and Windows Server “Longhorn,” which is scheduled for the first half of next year, as well as others like Microsoft Operations Manager 2007.
“The features found in MOM 2007 are exactly what we need. We have a lot of hard disk failures from the Windows 2000 and XP machines used by our engineers in the field. But we have now installed the MOM 2007 agent on these machines, which alerts them in advance of a possible hard disk failure,” Thaden said.
“Also, there are features in Vista that let you see the health of each system and which identifies potential failures and issues. This functionality is critical for us as it lets us synchronize that data with our servers in advance of the failure,” he said.
For Thaden, the five years between the release of Windows XP and Vista was a good thing as it allowed the company to plan, roll-out and get good usage from that wave of products.
“But many of my senior IT colleagues at other companies have been complaining about the fact that it has taken five years to get here,” he said.
The fact that Vista, Office 2007 and Longhorn Server were engineered to fit and work together was a positive for enterprises, given the high level of built-in integration between them, which reduced complexity and enhanced security, he said.
For its part the U.S. Armys Advanced Technologies directorate in Fort Belvoir, Va., has already fully deployed Exchange 2007 in its environment, to about 7,000 mailboxes. The directorate is a test and research group within the Army.
“This allows us to find out what problems may arise in the Army environment before the product gets deployed in the enterprise. The Army as a whole cannot deploy the product until at least Service Pack 1 due to some features that are required and which will not be added to the product until then,” Brian Tirch, a senior engineer for the Advanced Technologies directorate, told eWEEK.
Tirch added that he could not speculate on a given date at this time for deploying Exchange 2007 in the Army enterprise.
Exchange 2007 brought good performance gains, while the move to 64-bit allowed the directorate to take advantage of increased memory, he said.
“Windows Power Shell is a great add on which will allow the scripting of many tasks and bridges the gap between Unix and Microsoft products. There is also increased security, with roll-based installation and default message encryption between servers,” Tirch said.
Mixed reviews for Outlook
Exchange 2007 also brought greatly increased cluster performance, with failovers that used to take 10 minutes or more now taking less than a minute. Users also liked the integrated smart card login for OWA (Outlook Web Access), he said.
User reaction to Outlook 2007 has so far been mixed, he said, adding that while most of them enjoyed the rewritten OWA, that was tempered by complaints about features that used to be in the product and which are no longer there.
Examples of this include OWA rules for editing distribution groups, signing/encryption messages and deleted item recovery.
Tirch is also looking to the first update of the product that will address the fact that the graphical user interface for the Exchange Management Console lacks a lot of functionality.
“All the commands can be done from Power Shell, but many Exchange administrators are not used to a command line and so this will require retooling,” he said.
“Outlook 2007 will also need to be updated so that the Army will be able to use all the features that require auto-discovery.”
On the partner front, Quest Software, a global gold certified partner as well as a Microsoft managed partner, is working to have the migration and management solutions that support SharePoint 2007 and Exchange 2007 ready within 90 days.
“We are focused on helping customers take full advantage of the Exchange 2007 platform. Most of these products are expected to be available either at the launch of Exchange 2007 or within 90 thereafter,” Dave Champine, Quests director of Exchange solutions, in Aliso Viejo, Calif., told eWEEK.
These Quest products will help customers with migration and management, including migrating from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2007 with Quest Exchange Migration Wizard; as well as disaster recoverability and e-Discovery with Recovery Manager for Exchange.
The Public Folder Migrator for Sharepoint will also let companies easily adopt SharePoint as their collaboration platform by migrating public folder content and permissions, he said.
“The level of interest has been very high in these products from enterprises because they are interested in many of the new capabilities Exchange 2007 offers around performance with the move to a 64-bit architecture and unified messaging,” Champine said.
Champine added that customers who are still on older versions of Exchange such as Exchange 5.5, which Microsoft no longer supports, are anxious to move to the new Exchange platform.
Quest expects Exchange 5.5 and Exchange 2000 customers to start deploying Exchange 2007 during the first half of 2007.
“We have already been working with Microsoft and several early adopter customers to migrate them from Exchange 5.5 to 2007. These migrations are being driven by not only the new capabilities of 2007, but also by the fact that Microsoft no longer offers mainstream support for Exchange 5.5 and that their hardware is fully deprecated and out of warranty,” Champine said.
David Waugh, Quests vice president of SharePoint solutions, in Ontario, Canada, said he expects a quick adoption of SharePoint 2007, telling eWEEK that many large, early-adopter companies that have already been running the beta of SharePoint 2007 are now putting it into production, even before its official launch.
“Customers and system integrators have been telling us that they are pleased with the changes coming in SharePoint 2007 and are excited to take advantage of them,” Waugh said.
“Quest wants to help the customers get there and manage it once they are there.”