For large enterprises that have thousands of users and hundreds to thousands of apps, migrating those applications from Windows XP to Windows 7 can be a costly, lengthy and risky business, especially if performed in-house.

Important factors to consider with such migrations include: are those business-critical applications compatible with Windows 7? Do all the apps need to be migrated to new platforms? What strategy is in place to support an effective migration with zero business disruption?

The clock is ticking

The date burned into most CIO and IT manager’s brains is 8th April 2014, when Microsoft ends its extended support for Windows XP. With less than 900 days to go to the XP switch-off, enterprises still on the platform should at least have a strategy in hand for migration to Windows 7, or be implementing that strategy already. If firms have a proper application management strategy in place, migrating to the Windows 7 platform will be a much more logical and simple process.

To assist companies on this often tricky route, specialist consultancy organisations are well-placed to help overcome the common application migration conundrums that can rear their heads. The Royal Bank of Scotland, BAE Systems and Tube Lines are just some companies I’ve come across recently with a much better footing with respect to their readiness for application migration.

5 steps to a smooth migration

Many enterprises do not know how many apps they have, which are being used, which have proper or any support, their cost or even what they do. To set companies on a successful path, I suggest a 5-step process to gather an organisation’s current application roster and then a final step to aggregate and present the data to firms as business-line reports, which they can then act on decisively.

  1.  Usage profiling

The first step involves ‘usage profiling’, to get a view on what applications are actually being used, and exactly what they are been used for. If you are deploying an app, you have to pay a license for it – so why deploy it if nobody’s using it?

  1.  Data usage

The second step addresses what enterprises do with data associated with specific applications. If the app is to be migrated, its associated data needs to be made available on a file-share. If it’s an app that’s to be retired, then its associated data can be archived on less expensive and power-consuming storage.

  1.  Application compatibility

Thirdly, check for application compatibility. If enterprises move to Windows 7, or App-V, or to 64-bit Windows systems, will their applications still work? Tools are available such as App-DNA’s AppTitude (recently acquired by Citrix), that can determine the compatibility status of applications as part of an automated process, drastically reducing the significant manual effort that would otherwise be required.

  1.  Application categorisation and supportability

Understand the functionality of apps, including their primary and secondary uses and if duplicates exist within the estate. Find out whether apps are, or will be, supported on new platforms.

  1.  Licensing costs

The last step in the process determines licensing costs. It is critical to understand if you are spending money on licensing for apps that are not used anymore. Of equal importance; have you too many licenses for apps that are used, or conversely, are you under licensed for certain critical applications?

Actionable reports

Once that five-step process has been negotiated, the data amassed is brought together and processed to support the decision making process. An Application Migration Intelligence (AMI) tool, for example, gives companies detailed information on their business apps, presented as business reports to department heads; it is business intelligence for apps, and actionable decisions can be made with these reports.

What about Windows 8?

Moving from Windows XP straight through to Windows 8, bypassing Windows Vista and Windows 7 looks to be quite risky. For starters, there’s unknown timelines for Windows 8 general availability, and when the ISV community will be ready to offer support for their applications is difficult to predict.

An enlightened migration process helps large enterprises manage the move of their desktop application portfolio from XP to Windows 7 seamlessly and efficiently, at the same time putting the enterprise on the front foot with respect to any further migrations, perhaps later to Windows 8 or beyond.

By migrating in smaller, more manageable steps, you’ll increase the likelihood of a successful change programme. The last thing you want to do when you’ve gone through a major migration is to go back to a chaotic state once again, and a clear, considered migration strategy will help to prevent this.