Upgrading to Vista? Proceed with caution

If you're thinking of leading your enterprise into Vista country, adding Office 2007 and Exchange 2007 might make the trip worthwhile

Gut check: software compatibility

That's a rosy picture Microsoft paints for its own wares, but even with this brace of new deployment tools, Vista's radically redesigned new innards will still have a significant impact on mission-critical line-of-business apps.

"Software remediation is definitely the most important upgrade step across all our customers. It really drives the rest of the rollout process," Avanade's LeSueur says. "Our own internal rollout, for example, ... we're halfway through, but our accounting department will have to come last because one of their critical software applications is going to need more time to become fully Vista-compliant."

Figuring out what's running on the network -- including a full software and hardware portfolio -- will be the most crucial prep step for every enterprise Vista rollout. Fortunately, much of this can be accomplished with existing desktop management tools.

"[Vista has] been a great business driver for us," says Tony Thomas, senior product manager at Numara, the software company behind Track-It, a popular desktop management and asset management platform. "In fact, we're creating a customer Web portal specific to Vista deployments, including the steps you should take, the features we do and don't offer, and the ability to ask questions. We want to help them as much as possible with this process, and our software puts us in a unique position to do that."

In addition to the portal, Thomas says Track-It has received new features specific to the Vista predeployment process. "We've added reports designed specifically to let our customers see what machines are equipped to run Vista and what their overall software portfolio looks like," he says. "The intention for us is to facilitate the planning as much as we can, then facilitate the rollout, and finally give them the tools they need to measure ROI."

And those are the right brush strokes whether you're using Numara's or another system -- but don't expect such systems to do all the work for you. No desktop management system catches everything. A complete software inventory still takes serious staff legwork, which drives up costs. The trick is to keep those costs as low as possible.

A key worry that many InfoWorld readers have expressed in terms of software compatibility rests with desktop anti-virus. With the redesigned Vista kernel, existing Windows XP anti-virus packages won't run on Vista. This situation has folks with hundreds or thousands of anti-virus client licenses concerned about how upgrading will affect their budgets. Fortunately, anti-virus vendors are taking the sensible approach.

"We had no problem with having to purchase additional Symantec licenses," FranklinCovey's Connelly says. "Under our corporate license, this was considered a feature upgrade, and we didn't have to pay anything extra. Symantec got us the code, and we've made it part of our WIM files." Although grateful for Symantec's stance on the redesign, Connelly isn't leaving well enough alone. He's taking the opportunity to evaluate other desktop security platforms, notably Windows Live OneCare -- yet another benefit of an organized software remediation and planning phase.

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