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: hardware performance

"Definitely, a managed desktop resource is a huge help when planning for Vista," HP's Foster says. "But you're still going to need to do some heavy manual lifting. There's no escaping that." And it's with hardware where this lifting will be the heaviest, especially as hardware assessment will be a far more important part of the Vista migration planning process than it has been for the past couple of Windows generations.

When it comes to hardware, Microsoft has been downplaying Vista's requirements. The truth is that the OS is built to take advantage of the latest hardware developments. As such, deploying Vista over older hardware will generate issues. That means surveying the hardware landscape is another critical step -- one that simply cannot be done with software tools alone. And then there's that other thing ...

"It's the testing," Foster continues. Older hardware needs to be tested for optimal performance before a rollout, and that's strictly a manual process. "Hardware that's even a year old may have compatibility or performance problems. Video is the one everyone talks about, but RAM is just as important, as are older versions of things like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth," he says.

Not surprisingly, you'll get the same message from the big hardware vendors. "Sure, you can run Vista on old hardware, but don't. Do it on new hardware, and you'll be better off all around," says Greg Bryant, vice president of the business client group at Intel. That "all around" refers less to features than it does to a perceived ease of deployment when new hardware is involved. By waiting for current hardware lease agreements to run their course, enterprises can reduce the rollout process to simply saving and restoring user data. The new operating system and application portfolio can be handled by the hardware vendor or VAR.

"We're getting a lot of customer interest in that aspect of our service offerings," HP's Foster says. HP's service division can help HP customers with hardware purchasing and post-purchase support, but the division also specializes in custom support as well. Customers can define a desktop software library, and Foster's crew will test for Vista compatibility, build the WIM libraries, maintain them, and even roll out the images, either at HP's site or at the customer's.

"A completely outsourced corporate desktop is becoming one of our more popular service offerings," Foster says. "For many customers, it's just the easiest way."

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