VDI wrangles rogue Windows 10 upgrades

Free Windows 10 upgrades may prompt users to move before IT is ready. VDI and other strategies can prevent app compatibility issues and helpdesk calls.

When Windows 10 becomes available on July 29, it's likely employees will take advantage of the free upgrade -- whether IT is ready to support Microsoft's new OS or not.

The culture of consumerization and the low barrier to Windows 10 upgrades will add another complexity to the multiple OS versions most enterprises already have. 

Some applications will be incompatible with Windows 10 and require rewriting, said Andi Mann, business technology strategist and head of Sageable LLC, a technology strategy and analysis firm in Boulder, Colo.

"Users will try to upgrade on under-spec'd or unsupported hardware, and, inevitably, users will lose critical data in the process," Mann said.

However, the impact may be lower for IT shops that support BYOD, said Matt Kosht, an IT manager with an energy company. 

"The issue with Windows 10 'just showing up' will be worse in organizations reliant on Windows 7 and older versions of IE for the sake of app compatibility," Kosht said. 

VDI limits Windows 10 upgrade issues

Using virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and published applications to manage BYOD can help IT maintain some control. This approach also makes the end users' operating system and browser choice less significant, Kosht said.

VDI vendors hope to capitalize on that fact. Citrix software support for Windows 10 is already available in technical preview and will be generally available on the day Windows 10 hits, including Receiver, XenDesktop, XenApp and XenMobile.

AppDNA application migration software is also available free to Citrix Solution Advisors, so potential app compatibility issues can be identified and addressed immediately, according to Citrix.

Where's Citrix Workspace Pod?

Though Citrix is ahead of the game with Windows 10 support, it put the brakes on availability of its anticipated Workspace Pod, a pre-integrated bundle of compute, storage and networking software that ties in the recently acquired software-defined storage capabilities from Sanbolic and technologies from partners such as HP.

Citrix cancelled its planned launch last week. Nabeel Youkaim, vice president product management, Microsoft Alliance at Citrix, would not provide specifics around whether the issue is technical issue, political or otherwise.

"We are still in the kitchen with that product… We have to get the initial use case right," he said.

Delivering Windows 10 support prior to the OS general availability will give IT an option to keep serving users apps and desktops throughout the transition, Kosht said.

Like many software providers, VMware Horizon and AirWatch will offer zero day support for Windows 10. Horizon client software will also offer zero day support and server support will be available later in the quarter. AirWatch's zero day support enables the enrollment of Windows 10 devices with additional management capabilities becoming available throughout the year, a VMware spokesperson said.

Virtualization tools only go so far

VDI and application virtualization tools will help organizations deal with early Windows 10 upgrades, but the problem will be deeper and wider than these tools can solve, including in non-BYOD environments, Mann said.

"IT departments will ultimately fail to stop business users from upgrading their own systems, but [users] will run into many more problems than any competent sysadmin," Mann said.

IT shops that still try to control the apps and operating systems end users rely on may want to use the upgrade cycle to rethink their end user computing model, which may mean going mobile and allowing users to adopt the technologies they want. This includes supporting BYOD or investigating hybrid devices, such as the Microsoft Surface or Lenovo Yoga, Mann said. Allowing users to choose their own devices and OSes has the business benefit of improved productivity.

Another way to make the operating system version less of an issue is to migrate to cloud-based applications -- such as Google Apps or Office 365 -- and cloud storage options -- such as Box or OneDrive -- where all the heavy lifting is done outside the client, critical data is somewhat isolated from user corruption and compatibility is as easy as running a supported browser, Mann said.

IT should work to standardize on one version of Windows, or on as few, recent versions as possible. This will minimize compatibility issues and support calls, simplify both management and use of Windows clients, and it will satisfy end users' urge to upgrade, Mann said.

Additional technologies companies should investigate include discovery and configuration management tools to catalog the current and changing OS deployments across the enterprise, according to Mann.

"You cannot manage what you cannot see," Mann said.

Bridget Botelho is Senior News Director for TechTarget's Data Center Virtualization and End User media groups. Contact her or follow her on Twitter @BridgetBotelho.

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