Dell Software and AppTracker - Faster, easier migrations

We are big fans of collaboration at AppTracker. Why? It allows us to obtain more value from existing systems by connecting them to AppTracker. A good example of this is where an organisation is about to undergo a transformation programme such as a Windows 10 migration. They need to understand what software and hardware is in use in the current environment to be able to efficiently plan for the migration. By connecting AppTracker to inventory solutions we can add a tremendous amount of value through migration planning and optimisation. This leads to significant time and cost savings.

We've just added a new connector for Dell Asset Manager (a hardware and software inventory solution) and the results are impressive.

How fast? Seriously fast.

We've done enough transformation projects to know that good planning can reap huge rewards in the long term, so this week I wanted to focus on AppTracker's planning capabilities. The data in the screenshot below is from a real-life Windows 8.1 migration currently in progress. 

Overview: A large organisation want to mobilise their workforce by replacing legacy desktops with Windows 8.1 tablets and laptops. They use a software asset management (SAM) solution to discover which users use which applications. This produces a huge volume of data:

  • Over 3,000 apps in use in the organisation
  • 700,000 application usage records appended daily with new data

The traditional approach for the applications team is to start getting the 3,000 apps ready for the new environment. This involves discovery, packaging, UAT, release to Live etc. Once most of the applications (80-90%) have been through the full readiness process we can start to migrate our users to Windows 8.1. The issue here is that we have to wait 12 months or more before these 3,000 applications are ready. 

Thankfully there is a better way which will save a huge amount of time and money:

AppTracker Application Prioritisation ("AAP")

AppTracker Application Prioritisation

AAP allows you to specify how many applications the team can get ready each week. I chose 55 per week for this example. It's a big number, but there's a big team working on this one. AppTracker looks at the data feed from the software asset management solution, and works out which applications you need to get ready each week based on which application the business use the most. Because AppTracker knows which users need which applications, it can then tell you when each user is ready to migrate.

"With just 20% of the applications ready 

we can migrate 79% of the users"

In the screenshot above each orange bar represents a week and the green line shows how many users are ready for migration on that week. The selected orange bar is 10 weeks into the project. At this point we have 20% of the applications ready, and we can migrate 79% of the users. This allows us to start the deployment phase of the project over six months earlier than is possible without AppTracker's planning capabilities. Now there's a cost saving that'll put a smile on the CFO's face...

What will a Windows 10 migration look like?

Here at AppTracker HQ we've been heavily involved in many Windows 7 migrations, and even though we're now approaching the one year anniversary of the end of extended support for Windows XP, we are still helping customers move away from this OS. Customers who are paying Microsoft for extended XP support will be receiving a hefty invoice in April 2015 if they want to continue getting hotfixes. We're helping organisations who are in this position as they really don't want to justify that invoice to the CFO.

We were discussing this recently and the subject of Windows 7 support came up. There was some confusion over what Windows 7 mainstream support and extended support means, and when they expire, so I looked it up:

Windows 7 mainstream support expired on the 13th January 2015. That means we're not getting any new features in Windows 7 going forward.

Windows 7 extended support expires on 14th January 2020. This means that we've got around 5 years of security patches and hotfixes left on Windows 7. So there's no panic in terms of moving away from Windows 7.

As we're in the business of application management we talk to a lot of organisations about their plans for future OS migrations. It seems that some organisation are already planning their Windows 10 migrations even though we don't currently have an RTM date for this OS. It'll be interesting to see how applications running happily on Windows 7 will be affected by a move to this new OS. The general consensus is that most will "just work" without any remediation, which will massively reduce the amount of application repackaging and testing required for migrations to Windows 10. Does that mean we can just upgrade our existing Windows 7/8/8.1 machines in place to Windows 10? Possibly, but I suspect a more pragmatic approach should be considered :

  1. Understand your business: What applications are people actually using? There are lots of great software inventory tools out there which handle usage metrics. Use one of these to get an understanding of which users are using which applications.
  2. Rationalise: Take this opportunity to consolidate your application estate so that you're not deploying six versions of Adobe Reader to new machines. You don't need to address the existing machines with multiple versions, but have a plan to ensure that new builds will receive the "standard" version of software.
  3. Testing is king: Undertake a testing programme whereby you ensure that each application which is used by the business successfully installs, functions and uninstalls from your new shiny Windows 10 build. This is what we'd typically call "UAT". 
  4. Remediate: Fix any apps which don't work on your Windows 10 build. Deploy those fixes out to the existing estate.
  5. Core build: Test that your Windows 7/8/8.1 core build upgrades to Windows 10 OK.
  6. Migration day: Those in-place upgrades to Windows 10 can now be started.

This is clearly over-simplified, but it gives you an idea of how to approach a migration to Windows 10. 

We're always wondering how AppTracker will be able to help with future migrations, especially as we're over the pain of moving away from XP. We believe the key is with adding context to applications by taking data feeds from multiple systems (AD, HR, Property Services, Software Inventory etc). Our planning and readiness reports can then answer questions like:

"Can I start my in-place upgrades to Windows 10 for the Finance team in Leeds on Monday?"

"Which applications should I be UATing this week to give allow me to migrate the New York office next month?"

Now we just need Windows 10 to go RTM!