At a time when Microsoft is rethinking PCs and Windows, Indian enterprises seem to be very happy with Windows XP. With support for XP set to continue until April 2014, many organizations are not even contemplating migrating to Windows 7, much less the two-month-old Windows 8.
What makes Indian businesses technology laggards, even though Indian IT and services companies are world leaders in their fields? Decade-old enterprise application stacks that still rely on customized versions of software written for XP are the main culprit.
Though CIOs are excited about new trends and possibilities like touch capabilities, mobility, and BYOD, businesses are wary of migration for multiple reasons. Upgrading to a new OS calls for changes to end-user application interfaces. Legacy applications built on 16-bit architecture will not work on Windows 8. Organizations lack the capex for hardware upgrades and will resist changes that may affect task workers, such as bank employees who conduct transactions and shop floor workers who perform regular and repetitive tasks.
Yet change is inevitable. CIOs have long realized that applications written more than a decade ago (though perfectly capable of serving business requirements) may need a second look, due to security concerns and lack of support. For instance, an application built to run on Internet Explorer 6 or an older browser will not work as smoothly on newer browsers. They can continue to run on Windows XP up until Microsoft stops supporting that OS.
What is the solution? Experts here are suggesting desktop virtualization as a plausible way out of the issue of migration fatigue.
Desktop virtualization basically decouples the OS from the hardware and the applications from the OS. Linking the user to the OS instead, it creates a user profile that includes the type of OS and the applications that person uses. A virtual desktop is delivered to the user and may take the shape of a thin client, a laptop, a tablet, or even a thick client (an old desktop rendered into a dumb terminal). From the organization's viewpoint, the user can move seamlessly from one OS environment to another. And the organization can cut down on maintenance and other costs and avoid the pains of migration, including updates through service packs, patching for every machine, and dealing with application compatibility.
In India, desktop virtualization is already picking up pace, but migration to a new OS is not the driving factor. The real motivations are reducing desktop management costs, securing critical business data in datacenters, minimizing device breaches, and ensuring a homogeneous desktop experience for the office staff, mobile workforce, and remote teams. BYOD is also fueling the trend. According to the Citrix Bring Your Own Devices Index, CIOs are looking at desktop virtualization as the key technology to unlock the benefits of BYOD within the enterprise.
In 2013, Windows migration is expected to be another factor driving the trend toward desktop virtualization. Organizations here will probably move from XP to Windows 7, since the Windows 8 ecosystem is still developing. Some BYOD-friendly organizations may see value in the touch interface of Windows 8. However, those that stick with XP up to 2014 may skip Windows 7, opt out of Windows 8, and set their sights on Windows 9, rumors of which are already making the rounds.