In an effort to further reduce application compatibility issues for enterprises considering a move to Windows XP and Office XP, Microsoft Corp. has updated some of its tools and created a new desktop deployment portal.
Microsoft on Tuesday will announce its new Desktop Center portal as well as its updated Baseline Security Analyzer 1.1, which can be found on the portal. The analyzer scans corporate desktops for missing security updates and service packs and also identifies common system misconfigurations.
Once the scan is complete, the analyzer provides an individual XML security report for each desktop scanned. To perform local or remote scans of Windows systems, the analyzer includes a graphical and command line interface for IT managers.
“The analyzer will now also check for security configurations for Exchange 5.5 in addition to Windows XP. It has also been updated to include the security elements, configurations and issues related to the first Windows XP service pack,” Rogers Weed, Microsofts corporate vice president of Windows product management, told eWEEK in an interview on Monday.
In addition, Microsoft has updated its Windows XP Application Compatibility Toolkit 2.6, which is also available on the portal. The tool kit is designed to not only help users evaluate and test applications, but also to assist IT administrators in tailoring adjustments to the applications so they are optimized for Windows XP.
“We decided that all this information needed to be easier to find. So we moved to consolidate all the material customers needed when considering upgrading, as well as updating the tools, under one simple URL,” Weed said.
“This information was previously dispersed all over our Web site, and customers were telling us they wanted it all together in one place. The tool kit will also alleviate much of the burden of testing applications and streamline the process by addressing compatibility issues before the operating system is deployed across the organization,” he added.
Application compatibility has long been one of the biggest bugbears for both users and Microsoft itself with the release of each new product upgrade. Even before the release of Windows XP in late 2001, the application compatibility monster reared its head.
As was the case when Microsoft upgraded users from Windows 3.x to 95/98 and then to Windows 2000, software developers and users found that some of the applications that ran on previous versions did not run well—or at all—on the new XP platform.
Microsoft also last week bought the Virtual Machine assets of Connectix Corp., giving the Redmond, Wash., software company a solution that will enable its customers running legacy Windows NT 4 business applications to continue to run these as a virtual machine alongside the upcoming Windows Server 2003 product family.
“Application compatibility is one of those things that you just dive into and keep hammering away at. So, as weve gone into best practices and a prioritized set of issues around what customers run into, we reflect that knowledge back in the tools we provide people,” Weed said.
“What holds customers back from moving to XP is the effort and cost involved, so we are committed to working to keep helping customers with this and to releasing our tools as often and broadly as we can,” he said.
The upgraded tools will help enterprise customers reduce deployment time for Windows XP by as much as 67 percent compared with Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows NT 4, Weed said.
A recent Microsoft study, audited by BearingPoint Inc. (formerly KPMG Consulting), which evaluated nine companies with more than 800 applications using the tool kit, found Windows XP was compatible with more than 95 percent of the applications on deployment, he said.
The new portal also includes a calculator to measure the return on investment and thus the overall business value of upgrading to Windows XP; a system preparation tool designed to reduce the number of images required in a deployment; guides for large-scale deployments; and access to other deployment resources, including TechNet.
Centura Health is one of the enterprise XP migration success stories that Microsoft is touting. Centura moved to Windows XP from Windows 95 as it needed a simplified, standardized and more secure operating system environment for its 5,000 desktops and 750 laptops.
Kraig Sullivan, Centuras director of strategic technologies, said he expects savings of tens of thousands of dollars a year in third-party licensing fees due to the built-in security features found in Windows XP.
“Relying on applications from both ends of the performance and complexity spectrum makes it vital to have a desktop system that can run what we need. We are using Windows Application Compatibility mode for three of our four older applications, with the rest running in native mode where, surprisingly, they often require no significant tweaking to work,” he said.
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