David Overton introduces the Microsoft Desktop Enablement Team

David joined Microsoft 12 years ago. In this time he’s worked in several groups, including a three year run as head of technology for small business, which involved working with Microsoft partners to ensure great solutions for SME customers. For the last 4 years David has worked with a select group of partners who add significant value to desktop solutions, enabling friction free migration from old desktop technology to a modern rich or virtual desktop solution – through this the Desktop Enablement Partner Team has been realised.  Microsoft’s objective is to ensure that customers can realise the benefits of a modern desktop as quickly as possible. Successful deployments of Windows and Office with happy users is the primary measure of success, while the focus is ensuring customers and partners are aware of the benefits that the Enablement Partners can bring. Enablement Partners solve problems that customers frequently encounter when moving to Windows 7 whether installed physically on a computer, virtually through VDI or using a Windows Server Remote Desktop Services solution. These challenges slow down deployments and can provide the user with an unsatisfactory desktop once the deployment project is completed.  Typical problems revolve around application compatibility and migration, moving the user “personality profile” forward, licensing issues and making the new desktop available on a range of end-point devices.  The challenges that customers face when moving to a rich desktop include:
  • An unknown application sprawl that needs migration to the new desktop
  • Application mitigation where potential problems exist running Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 under Remote Desktop Services
  • User profile migration and portability
  • Support for deployment on rich computing platforms and in virtual environments
Through the use of Desktop Enablement partners, customers experience a more precise understanding of the challenges. This empowers them to deliver a fast, focused project, reducing the efforts required and therefore the cost, as well as significantly increasing the user satisfaction of their new environment.  So it’s clear that Enablement Partners are a vital part of the realisation of a modern desktop for customers. Using these partners allows customers to deploy Microsoft’s latest technologies more quickly, easily and at reduced cost. Allowing customers to realise the value of the software they have purchased, while still maintaining the pace of innovation and progress. In addition to Camwood, the key Desktop Enablement Partners include
  •  AppSense
  • AppDNA (now part of Citrix)
  • Centrix Software
  • Citrix
  • NetApp
  • Quest Software
Microsoft can engage directly with these partners if they have existing relationships or via David Overton, for an introduction.

Camwood sets the pace for technology innovation

On the 26th February Camwood, the original creators of the software company App-DNA, featured in the Sunday Times Money Section as a leading ‘success story’ for UK investors in venture capital trusts.  App-DNA, whose solutions help companies understand which of their applications will work on the latest versions of Microsoft Windows, span out of Camwood in 2010 and was acquired by US based technology company Citrix Systems in November 2011 for $92M –  delivering a minimum 32 times return for their investors. Such a significant return over an aggressive time period demonstrates Camwood’s ability, as the leader in Application Intelligence Consulting, to create and launch a global business whose software is used by large enterprises including BAE Systems, Babcock and Tube Lines. Camwood’s expanding software portfolio, which includes Application Lifecycle Manager and Application Migration Intelligence, uniquely addresses the key issues that organisations face in managing their complex application environments.  With products that deliver real business and efficiency gains for customers looking to run application migration and desktop transformation programmes, Camwood continues to gain global recognition from customers and technology service providers as the developers of game changing application software and services. Frank Foxall, Camwood CEO, comments: “The acquisition of App-DNA by Citrix clearly demonstrates Camwood’s thought leadership and vision.  To bring to market a unique and widely adopted software product that has revolutionised the application migration process for hundreds of customers cements Camwood’s leading position in the technology and services space.”

Windows 7 Migration – When failing to prepare isn’t an option

Migrating to Windows 7 is a far from trivial exercise, especially in large enterprises where thousands of desktops and applications are involved. February 2012 figures showed that Windows XP, the 10-year-old operating system, still commands a leading 45 per cent share of the os market. It may well be the most popular operating system, but the latest numbers show a continued trend in which XP has gradually lost share over time, while Windows 7 has attracted more and more customers. As Microsoft continues to encourage people toward Windows 7, organisations need to seriously think about the task ahead. The clock is ticking too. April 8th 2014 is the date on which Microsoft intends to turn off support for Windows XP, and by implication, the date by which enterprises, if they haven’t done so already, need to have a strategy in place for migrating desktops to Windows 7. Not that big a job you might think, but then it’s not just a matter of switching to a new version of Windows. That by itself would be fairly straightforward, but there’s also the issue of making sure the hardware is up to the job, plus the far from trivial task of migrating applications to the new platform. If anything, migrating applications is the biggest hurdle to overcome with all sorts of questions that need to be answered along the way. Questions such as, are the applications we need to migrate compatible with Windows 7 or will upgrades and licence changes be required? Do we need to migrate everything or can we ditch apps that aren’t being used? Can we get support on the new platform, will the migration impact the business, and of course, how much will it all cost? A fully worked out migration strategy that includes applications and answers these questions, is essential. Something we at Camwood have long recognised, having helped major companies such as the Royal Bank of Scotland, BAE Systems, Tube Lines and others with their migrations. Key steps to a smooth migration It’s an unfortunate fact of life, but the majority of enterprises simply don’t know how many applications they have. More than that, most can’t say exactly who, if anybody, uses them or even what they do. As such, we recommend starting out by taking an inventory of all the applications currently deployed, the versions involved, and if they can’t be tied to specific users, at least which computers they’re installed on. This inventory information is crucial as it can be used to both ditch unused applications and prioritise the migration of those that deliver the most value to the business. It also helps when it comes to looking for alternatives, or better still, establishing a standardised set of applications which can be more easily rolled out during the migration process. You might also want to consider application virtualisation, using Microsoft App-V or other products, to further reduce the work involved in migrating to the new platform. Or perhaps switching to cloud-based applications and doing away with desktop installed apps altogether. Next comes the all-important step of checking the applications you intend to keep for compatibility, and where remediation is needed. This can be done by using sophisticated application compatibility software, such as Citrix AppDNA. It’s also important to take a detailed look at licensing and how much migrating each application will cost. This is of particular importance where you need to upgrade to a new release, or perhaps switch from a 32-bit to 64-bit implementation, as this may not be covered under existing software assurance agreements. Those agreements need also to be carefully studied and upgraded where necessary. Making plans Having gone through all this, the data amassed needs to be brought together and presented in a format digestible to those responsible for devising and approving the migration strategy. None of which is easy and our preferred tool here is Camwood Application Migration Intelligence (AMI), a powerful set of software components able to deliver a clear picture of a company’s application estate in a range of CTO, CFO and CIO-friendly report formats. More than that, by taking feeds from Camwood’s Application Lifecycle Manager (ALM) software, AMI can help with all of the steps required for migration planning, providing a complete view of:-
  • Usage: who uses which apps – and which aren’t used at all
  • Categorisation: applications grouped by function similarities
  • Compatibility: which of your apps will migrate easily to a new platform
  • Supportability: whether your existing apps are supported on your target platform
  • Licensing: how much you’re paying for each app in the estate
AMI can also offer recommendations as to which applications to rationalise, migrate or decommission. We call it ‘BI for your Apps’, because that’s what it is; a set of intelligent and easy to digest application reports with the ability to drill down by region, division, department and individual user, to get to the  granularity of information needed to decide the best way forward for everyone. Desktop migration is never going to be easy, everyone knows that, making careful planning absolutely essential. However, it’s less difficult than some might think and can be made a lot simpler if you choose the right products, services and expertise. By doing this, it will take the guesswork out of the process for organisations where failing to prepare simply isn’t an option.

Why Windows 8 can wait – Five steps to a smooth migration

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 of the clients who Camwood, for example, has put onto a much better footing with respect to their readiness for application migration. Five 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 five-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 Citrix AppDNA, 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. Camwood’s Application Migration Intelligence (AMI), 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.  Camwood’s 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.