Hold on. No, not in the things-are-about-to-get-crazy sort of way. Rather, I mean: Hold on, you have lots of time to figure out your application and desktop delivery strategy before the ship sails without you.
Sure, there are lots of technologies (and product marketing campaigns) out there vying for your attention. They're telling you the end of Windows is nigh and making it seem like you're already behind the times, but the reality is that you have lots of time before you have to pick a direction.
Know that the pressure is off... for now.
The reason, thanks to Microsoft (We don't say that very often. 'Tis the season, I guess.), is that Windows 7 SP1 is supported until at least January 14, 2020. I say "at least" because there is an ultra-slim chance that there could be a Service Pack 2, which would probably bump that date out even further. All signs point to there being no additional Service Packs for Windows 7 though. After all, Windows 8 has already come out, as well as its successor, Windows 8.1.
What this means is that you have just over six years to observe and carefully react to all those disruptive trends in the market. It means that you can take your time choosing the best course of action for your company's desktops, applications, security, mobile devices and endpoints. Of course, you'll have to keep up with the times at a more fundamental level, so you can't ignore everything going on in this space. Still, point solutions here and there will be more than enough to keep up something resembling the status quo for the next half-decade.
What to do in the meantime
While observing the next generation of enterprise computing as it unfolds before your eyes, you can still put to work application virtualization and user virtualization to compartmentalize end user management. That makes it easier to move between platforms, data centers, and, if need be, desktop providers.
During that same timeframe, you'll lose more in-house applications and services to the cloud, but in a controlled manner rather than wholesale infrastructure replacement. That more than likely means first taking advantage of SaaS, then perhaps identity management, followed by more fundamental infrastructure services. This, by the way, is what I believe to be Amazon's advantage with its Desktop as a Service (DaaS) offering.
Speaking of DaaS, which has been the darling of the press lately: While the concept of DaaS is taking a front-and-center position on our radars, the technology behind it is pretty much the same as it has been for the past few years. There are situations where DaaS makes sense (assuming you've already decided to host your desktops in a data center and you're simply deciding whether or not to host them yourself), but it will be a few years before the challenges that continue to face DaaS adoption are overcome. Will you be rushing to use DaaS when you already have your desktop delivery and management strategy figured out? Probably not.
More on desktop delivery
Will Microsoft get in the DaaS game?
More DaaS offerings hit the stage
Getting around costly VDI and DaaS licensing
Where people will increasingly lean on data-center-hosted desktops is as the number of Windows apps in organizations dwindle. Those that keep hosting desktops in-house, even physical ones, might manage applications with something like FSLogix, which places every app on every desktop, turning them on or off via policy as needed. Having a tool like that means you don't need to have complex Windows application management technologies for a decreasing number of apps. But what happens when you only need Windows to support a handful of applications? That's when DaaS comes in with seamless applications served up from the cloud for the increasingly sparse uses.
Still, that tipping point is far off, because as long as you can continue to deploy and manage Windows in the same way you always have, there's no impetus to stop. The only thing on your plate right now is getting off Windows XP (something I believe small business consultants have not done a good job of communicating to their clients).
After that, we have the opportunity to see how this all shakes out before making any important decisions. Of course, you still need to stay abreast of all the changes and improvements to the future technologies, because each feature or new technology that comes out could be the one that strikes a chord in your organization. Just know that the pressure is off… for now.
This was first published in November 2013