Enterprises need an action plan for software upgrades
Many enterprises are now going to be forced to upgrade to a newer version of Internet Explorer! Microsoft recently announced that the company will be cutting-off the support lifeline for older versions of Internet Explorer (IE) including IE7 and IE8 (the most popular version) by January 2016. Choosing to continue using IE7 and IE8 will be a high risk strategy for enterprises as no patches for critical vulnerabilities will be provided by Microsoft.
And this is not all -- it is rumored that Windows 9 operating system (OS) will be unveiled by 30 September this year (for launch in April 2015) -- close on the heels of Window 8.1’s general availability in October 2013. This is when many enterprises have only just transitioned to Windows 7 from Windows XP; and some businesses are potentially underway in their Windows 8/8.1 projects.
What do these ever-shortening software lifecycles mean for businesses?
Fundamentally, software transitions are enormously difficult for organizations -- they are extremely resource intensive, they drive up operational costs and disrupt business. With respect to IE, organizations face tremendous risk and disruption if the upgraded version of the IE browser proves to be incompatible with the existing IT environment. IT would not only have to deal with the painful transition to a new version of the browser -- but also the outcry from users when applications and websites that previously worked with the old browser, no longer do. OS migrations are even more complex and unearth an exponentially greater number of disruptive compatibility and usability issues that must be tested for and eliminated. Accordingly, the move to Windows 9 will soon present even more migration challenges for IT departments.
But there is a way forward. Enterprises can undertake measures ahead of these upcoming migrations to minimize the pail and disruption of these migrations. Incorporating Application Readiness best practice into the IT environment will smooth the way for these and any upgrades in the future too.
Application Readiness best practices and automation allow enterprises to easily manage and deploy new software versions without additional staff resources, time or complexity. Enterprises can automate the planning, compatibility testing and fixing, customization, packaging and delivery to users across computing environments in as trouble-free a way as is practically possible.
So what are these Application Readiness best practices? Simply, they are the following steps:
- Identify -- Identifying all the applications that are deployed across the organization is important to get an accurate picture of the effort involved in a software migration. It helps avoid surprises of application incompatibility issues, post deployment. This first step is a good time to take stock of what applications are actually being used as opposed to those that are deployed. Especially when enterprises undertake a major migration, every app they move to the new environment requires time, effort and money. Reducing the number of applications that must be migrated is an important goal.
- Rationalize -- IT should verify the need to continue to support certain applications or consolidate targets to a reduced number of products and versions. This saves time and cost around the migration and enables the company to reduce wasted IT spend on unused application licenses. A survey last year prepared jointly with IDC found that 56 percent of the enterprises polled said that 11 percent or more of their software spend in the last year was associated with unused software (also called shelfware) -- clearly a wasted expenditure. With software licenses and maintenance typically representing one third of overall IT budgets, if optimized, corporations can save up to 25 percent of their software spend by eliminating shelfware and non-compliant software use.
- Compatibility -- Especially in a platform migration project, all applications must be tested to assess compatibility with the new environment. This includes testing them against the OS, the browser, and the hardware. It also involves testing against other applications that will be running with them in the new environment. Given the volume of applications involved, manual testing is neigh impossible. Automating the testing process is the best way.
- Plan -- With the above steps undertaken, IT is then in a good position to accurately calculate costs and duration timeframes. Enterprises should consider hardware requirements, software requirements, and potential conflicts between the operating system and application. For OS migrations, organizations must also ensure that they have sufficient horsepower to run the new OS and applications -- both in on-premise and virtualized environments.
- Fix and package -- As enterprises prepare to deploy in the new environment, often custom changes are required as well as converting applications to the required format. Consequently, full visibility and control into the contents of application packages becomes necessary. Since this can be a time-consuming, manual process, utilizing technology that implements desired workflows, automates the steps, and leverages investment in existing packaged applications can yield considerable savings, and ensure a consistent approach to Application Readiness. Enterprises also need to deploy applications to multiple environments, such as on-premises, virtual/cloud-based environments and mobile. Ideally, a package-once, deploy-anywhere philosophy presents the best approach.
- Deploy -- IT can then hand off the packaged applications to the deployment system for delivery to end users. Costs can be cut even more by streamlining the end user experience for application request and fulfillment. Some organizations create enterprise app stores for self-service to give users iTunes-like access to their business applications. If the App Portal is linked to an Application Readiness solution, the process of deploying packaged applications and making them available to users can be simple. If the App Portal is tied on the back end to a Software License Optimization system that checks on the availability of licenses before the apps are deployed, IT can create a seamless Windows App Store experience for end users while still maintaining continual software compliance, financial accountability and control.
With the increasing frequency of application and operating system upgrades, having Application Readiness processes and technology in place will create value long beyond the IE upgrade and Windows 9 horizon. Perhaps using the fire drill of the IE7 to IE8 upgrade to get their larger Application Readiness processes for OS migrations in place and in order may be a good idea.
Vincent Smyth is Senior Vice President EMEA at Flexera Software, responsible for driving revenue, market share and customer satisfaction in the independent software vendor, high-tech manufacturer and enterprise account domains. Prior to Flexera Software, he has held several sales management responsibilities for Business Objects, PTC and Computer Associates. He has extensive experience of doing business across Europe and the Middle East.