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Windows 7 Early Adopters Say Virtualization Key to Rollouts

By Shane O'neill, CIO
June 11, 2010 02:21 PM ET

CIO - A common piece of advice runs through recent conversations with companies migrating to Windows 7: test early and often and don't be afraid of virtualization.

Windows 7 adoption has certainly been on the rise, easily outpacing its predecessor, Vista. After seven months on the market, Windows 7 owns 13 percent of the global OS market share, according to Web metrics company Net Applications. Adoption rates have been lifted by corporate PC refresh cycles and a recent jump in PC sales. In May, Gartner predicted a 22 percent growth of global PC sales for 2010.

As for corporate adoption, a recent poll of 923 IT pros conducted by Dimensional Research found that 16 percent are already running some Windows 7 and 42 percent plan to start deployment by the end of this year.

Also boosting Windows 7 corporate adoption rates: Many businesses had time to prepare and test for application compatibility because they simply passed on Vista. And new application and desktop virtualization tools from Microsoft, VMware, Citrix and others have made deployment easier.

Two early enterprise adopters of Windows 7 recently shared deployment lessons learned with CIO.com.

Using Virtualization for Migration, Intallation and Remote Desktops

Both Expedia and Continental Airlines are in the throes of Windows 7 migrations, and both have used to virtualization technologies to get there.

Travel site Expedia is using both application and desktop virtualization tools as it migrates from Windows XP to Windows 7. After a year of planning that included three phases (application compatibility testing first, a pilot testing program next and finally a wider roll out of Windows 7 to new employees and those with old PCs) Expedia now has Windows 7 deployed to 300 seats, with plans to roll it out to 2,500 seats by the end of the year.

[ For complete coverage on Microsoft's new Windows 7 operating system -- including hands-on reviews, video tutorials and advice on enterprise rollouts -- see CIO.com's Windows 7 Bible. ]

The travel site used application virtualization as a cost-saver to package and install applications using Microsoft's App-V virtualization tool (part of the MDOP suite).

Previously, Expedia's application deployment method had been more or less manual, but the cost of packaging each of the apps was unsustainable, says Mike Peterson, Expedia's manager of end-user technology.

"We looked at the cost of just moving to a virtualized packaged or a virtualized instance of that application," says Peterson, "and we went from 24 to 30 hours worth of work to four to eight hours, a huge time and cost reduction."

Expedia is also looking at desktop virtualization through Microsoft's VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) tool. The company will mainly use this technology for its workers in contact centers that are using thin clients. With VDI, the users can access full desktop environments that are really residing in virtual machines running on servers in the data center.

Continental Airlines, which has deployed Windows 7 to more than 2,000 seats to date, is also using about "180 Windows 7 VDI sets" for its "super agents", who take reservations and do back office work.

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