Sunday, May 4, 2014

Windows 7 Desktop to Windows 8 Tablet Migrations: With Fries, a Drink and a Xanax

One of my clients is in the midst of a mildly-frustrating migration to change from a like-for-like computer hardware refresh project, to one that inserts the added dimension (or dimentia) of offering users the option to purchase Windows 8 tablets.

The basics of the environment are this:

  • Active Directory (Windows Server 2012)
  • Windows 7 SP1 Enterprise 32-bit on 99.99% of the desktops and laptops
  • Office 2010, IE8 on most everything, but some smattering of IE11 and Google Chrome
  • Almost no Windows 8 production computers
  • Roughly 1400 distinct software applications
  • Roughly 6000 desktops / laptops / users
All of the Windows 8 tablet devices are configured with Windows 8.1 64-bit edition.  They will also come with Office 2013, IE11, Google Chrome 30-something, and a handful of other staple apps for various doo-hickey things (VLC Player, Adobe Reader, etc.)

Of the approximate 1400 software products in the production environment, roughly 40% are big-name vendors (Adobe, Microsoft, Oracle, etc.).  Another 40% are from lesser-known vendors, but still have a real "support center" you can call into, somewhere.  The last 20% are what some might call "garageware".  Those are the kinds of one-off products which are (more often than expected) "must-have" tools for various department functions.  Those are also quite often duct-taped together by a "vendor" who answers the phone while trying to scoot their noisy cat away from the food dish sitting beside their keyboard.

But all of this is just backdrop to the real issues...

While the bigger headaches with XP-to-Win7 migrations circled around UAC challenges, the newer challenges are less dramatic, but no less serious.  Some of the key aspects to consider when reviewing a given software product for use on a tablet device (I'm just picking on Windows 8, but it could be any tablet OS actually), are these things:
  1. Does the application sport a UI that is easy to use on a tablet? (i.e. the "UX" aspects)
  2. Does the application work well with kinds of touch input "gestures" that a tablet provides?
  3. Does the vendor give a shit about tablets, or Windows 8 for that matter?
Go ahead and laugh at #3, but you might be surprised how many would seriously tell you "no".

Now, aside from the aesthetics, there the nuts-and-bolts stuff to consider:
  1. Does the application rely on a specific CPU architecture?  Not just AMD vs Intel, but how it pertains to Windows (e.g. "Program Files" vs. "Program Files (x86)", and the wonderful Registry hive "WOW6432node" stuff)
  2. Does the application rely on specific browser interfaces?  Will it work as well with IE11 as it does (or did) with IE8?
  3. Does it rely on a particular Microsoft Office version?
But wait... there's more!!!

If you're supporting a shop that's large enough to care about things like this, you could fall within the general realm of having to care about this as well:  Licensing Models.

Let's say you have 1,000 desktop computers running Autodesk's infamous AutoCAD 2014 (okay, you're probably still on an older version, trying to squeeze budgets as usual).  Maybe you were smart enough to install them using the provided deployment toolkit, and you opted to use a network license server (e.g. "Flexnet" or "FlexLM").  You did some analysis and figured out that only 75% of the licenses were in use at roughly 90% of a typical work week, so you purchased 750 licenses.

Now you show up at a Monday morning meeting, wearing a clean shirt, toting your notepad, pen and a steaming hot cup of coffee.  You're in the midst of enjoying a nice, long swill of that caffeinated goodness, when one of the managers across the room says that she wants to replace 500 of the desktops with Windows 8.1 mobile tablets and run AutoCAD as well.  Now you've got coffee stains all over your clean shirt and on the arm of the poor guy next to you.  What a bummer.

Did you remember to configure "license borrowing" on your server?  Did you plan for the possibility of such a large number of licenses possibly going off into the wild, for who knows how long?  Will that 750 number still work for this new direction? 

Things to make you rub your chin and say "hmmmmmm...."

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