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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Gabe, none of this is a surprise to us at Browsium as you can imagine. Every customer we talk to every day is trapped on XP because of app compat issues (specifically web app compat issues when they're talking to us). The good news is the motivation to migrate to Windows 7 is very strong and these large banks, healthcare, and government organizations all have active projects to complete this migration before 2014. The even better news is that Browsium Ion is on all of their "ideal solution" lists.

It's also worth noting that Windows 8 doesn't even come up in the conversations. Once Windows 7 gets in, they won't revisit their standard OS platform for another 10 years. Tablets will be the exception and that's setting up as an interesting battle between iPads and x86 Windows 8 tablets. (Has Brian changed his tune here after the Win8 CP?)


Gabe - this absolutely concurs with the messages we're hearing from customers.  Many are yet to find the budget required to start the heavy lifting.  Ones with budget are struggling with complexity around application currency, compatibility and readiness, whilst also trapped in additional issues of project management skills, resource availability, business interest and virtualization.  Lots are running in-house, which often means stalling on the pilot as required resource simply isn't available.

Windows 8 will be too big a jump for most, especially with ISVs still working towards Windows 7 and everything we hear says that Windows 7 is the platform of choice.

I am surprised (slightly) on the virtualization numbers but that's because we talk mainly to medium and large size  enterprises that have at least some departments or locations that are suitable, easy win candidates.  Smaller organisations still seem to be struggling with the ROI calculation.

Here's what I would love to know for the next one. How important is Microsoft's XP end of life date and are companies just resigned to paying out more money for support if they can't get to Win 7 in time?


Barry brings up a great point. Are customers expecting to pay for custom XP support after EOL in April 2014. From everything we hear, Microsoft will not offer this option at all. What are others hearing, and do you believe Microsoft will back down and offer (expensive) custom support agreements for XP?


People who don't upgrade by April 2014 deserver every hack they get. You are stupid if you don't upgrade by then VDI or not. Fix App compat with RDS or XenApp and be done. Come on wake the F up!


I read this article and I was stunned.  We are just about to finish our second full year of Windows 7, App V, VDI and the list goes on.  Out of all the things that made Windows 7 really work for us was APP V.  We have deployed over 200 Apps on our network; many of them were built for Windows XP, and now run on Windows 7 with very little effort.  And the apps that didn’t work, we got new ones that did.  I work in Education and I would say it’s about the same or worse of those who have moved on past Windows XP.  We get visitors quiet often to our district asking how did we do it?  How have we moved ahead so fast?  How did we make it work?  I ask them, how have you not moved to Windows 7?

I am convinced more and more that there is a strong lack of vision (and leadership) in the IT departments around the world.  Have we forgotten we are in (IT)?  We are supposed to be on the cutting edge everyday making it work.  Was it painless to move to Windows 7?  No.  Would I ever go back to XP, heck no.  I can’t stand to even look at XP or Windows 2003.  For all those excuses that the IT departments are coming up with to stay with an outdated, overextended OS, I say grow a pair and get back to your innovated roots.  Take some risks for goodness sakes.  You might just surprise yourself.   Thanks for the great article Gabe.  Makes me glad I live on the cutting edge.