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Microsoft to IT: Deploy Windows 7 Now

Microsoft put out the word Monday that IT organizations can start deploying Windows 7 now, citing the cost benefits of doing so.

Windows 7 was released to Microsoft's volume licensing subscribers last month. And last week, the company rolled out a set of tools designed to help IT pros automate Windows 7 deployments, known as the "Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010."

In addition, the company plans to release a set of Windows 7 administrative tools in late October for Software Assurance customers, known as the "Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack 2009 R2."

Microsoft has been touting a number of features available in the Windows 7 Enterprise edition that can potentially ease the lives of IT pros. Those features include DirectAccess, which helps remote users connect to the corporate network without a virtual private network. Another is BranchCache, which speeds up data access at remote locations. BitLocker provides security for removable storage devices and laptops, although it was first introduced with Windows Vista.

On Monday, Microsoft released a beta of the "Infrastructure Planning and Design Guide for DirectAccess." as described in this blog.

Still, the main interest for many IT pros will be any possible time or cost benefits to installing Windows 7 in their environments. Many IT departments haven't upgraded to Windows Vista and continue to use the venerable Windows XP operating system, which retains an 86 percent use rate among Windows-based PCs in the enterprise, according to a second-quarter 2009 report by Forrester Research.

So, to assure companies that Windows 7 is ready to deploy now, Microsoft produced its own total cost of ownership (TCO) estimates, as described in this Windows blog. Redmond compiled its numbers based on the experiences of three early-adopter companies.

Microsoft claims that Windows 7 can potentially save IT departments time and money by reducing costs associated with PC management, PC power use and service desk calls, according to the Windows blog. So far, few analyst firms have compiled independent TCO estimates of Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2.

Richard Jones, vice president and service director at the Burton Group, said that Windows 7 will have less strict hardware requirements than Vista, but any benefits in terms of overall maintenance are unclear. He noted that security maintenance issues may become a factor in the near future.

"We suspect that at first it will be less costly (malware countermeasures costs) until the installed base market share of Win 7 surpasses Win XP (expect in about 3 years at the earliest)," Jones explained in an e-mail. "At that point, [Windows 7's] security measures should make the cost of ownership less than XP, especially since XP will no longer be receiving security patches."

Deploying Windows 7 may or may not save money, according to Michael Cherry, research vice president for operating systems at Directions on Microsoft. It all depends on an IT department's deployment plan.

"Organizations should be careful that they are not just moving support costs from one budget line to another," Cherry noted in an e-mail. "So organizations should treat TCO studies like EPA mileage estimates--your mileage may vary."

While Microsoft's Windows blog cited power savings with Windows 7, Cherry was doubtful.

"I am very skeptical of claims such as power management is so good in Windows 7 that the power savings alone is equivalent to printing money," he wrote. "Power management is improved, but it may or may not result in measurable savings."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor, Enterprise Group, at 1105 Media Inc.

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