Notes from my VDI Road Show presentation: Windows 7 is still on the "to do" list for many companies

Why we're all still using Windows XP, why we didn't all use Windows 7 as an excuse to move to VDI, how client hypervisors fit, how applications and Windows are complicated, and what the future looks like.

A few weeks ago I was in Seattle giving my first VDI Road Show presentation, which is essentially a rundown of where we are with desktop virtualization today. It talks about why we're all still using Windows XP, why we didn't all use Windows 7 as an excuse to move to VDI, how client hypervisors fit, how applications and Windows are complicated, and what the future looks like. What was cool about this VDI Road Show, though, was that the setting was a bit more intimate and there was explicit time for Q&A, during which I learned some things that I thought I'd share.

Nobody was doing VDI at any real scale

There were 90 people in the room, and when I asked for a show of hands for who was using VDI, only two went up. TWO! I knew VDI adoption was pretty slow, but I did expect more than that. When I asked if they were using it at any great scale (I think I asked if it was over 100 users), their hands crept back down. This isn't anywhere near a surprise, and does well to confirm what we've been saying - those 1,000 and 10,000-seat deployments that are talked about by the vendors are few and far between.

It also backs up my suspicion that the bulk of VDI deployments are simple and only require simple solutions instead of mega-complex behemoth solutions. Vendors should be paying very close attention. 

Almost everyone was still on Windows XP

The real surprise here was that not a single person said they were finished with a Windows 7 rollout. To me, that's amazing, since we're so quickly approaching the end of Windows XP. I mean, April 8, 2014 is just over two years away, which feels like forever, but then we'll have Windows 8 to worry about and all the changes there…it just doesn't make sense to wait that long. For the record, nobody said they were waiting for Windows 8, but if you're starting a Windows upgrade project in 2013, are you going to roll out an older OS?

So, I asked why. Most people seemed to agree that hardware was the bottleneck, and so they chose to roll out Windows 7 along with their PC refresh cycle. For some, they projected that they'd make it all the way to Windows 7 in time. For others, though, the PC refresh cycle wasn't fast enough to get them to 100% Windows 7 before 2014, so they were going to have to pick up the pace somehow. 

Others said they're not on XP yet because they simply don't need to be, to which I replied "But you do!" I understand the sentiment–if everything works right now, why the hell should I change it? If it ain't broke… But now external influences are making organizations change, and you're running out of time to pull it off. All it takes is one major exploit that comes out after April 8, 2014 for all the remaining Windows XP machines (and the networks connected to them) to be extreme liabilities. If I were a hacker group, I'd be sitting on that bombshell of an exploit, just waiting for Microsoft to ramp down support.

Another reason for the holdup is that organizations had to wrestle with politics and infighting. At least one person said that they were totally held up until the powers that be finally came around and bought in to the plan to upgrade. Up to that point, though, the admins wanted to do the upgrade, but couldn't. This has always been on our list of reasons VDI projects fail, but I'd never really considered a problem for traditional desktop maintenance. That process has been the same for almost 20 years!

The last one that really stuck out to me was from a healthcare provider that was stuck on Windows XP because of the apps that they run. I asked if it was because the organization was the holdup (by not purchasing newer versions of the apps that are compatible with Windows 7) or if the ISVs were holding it up by not having apps that are compatible. It turns out the ISVs were partially at fault, and that certain applications have yet to be certified to comply wit HIPAA and similar regulations. Come on ISVs! It's 2012 for crying out loud!

Everyone is doing Windows 7 x64

The final question I asked was about what version of Windows people were upgrading to. I'd already learned that nobody was waiting for Windows 8 (good), but was curious to see if people were sticking with 32-bit Windows 7. To my surprise, nobody was. A few had been challenged by 16-bit applications and other incompatibilities, but RDSH solutions had fixed those. Everyone had their focus solely on Windows 7 x64. 

I love doing these events, because I can poll the audience to learn things like that. If you're curious what goes around the country and outside of your organization, and if you have questions you'd like me to ask next time, let me know. 

 

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