Virtualizing the User

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Windows 7 Migration & Protecting the User Experience

I look forward to blogging for Virtualization Review. My goal for "Virtualizing the User" is to take a unique approach to a variety of IT-related subjects, delving in to how new desktop technologies are affecting IT, and more importantly end users.  As we know, end user acceptance in the desktop virtualization space is vital for the investment to pay off (and be worth it).

The technology industry is continually evolving, so my quest is to narrow and focus this blog. But before we dive in there are a few terms I would like to introduce, as I will be using them quite a bit throughout my posts.

The first is user virtualization, which will be playing a crucial role in desktop virtualization, as well as the migration to Windows 7. User virtualization is a way of managing user-specific information independent of the desktop and applying this information into any desktop on-demand.  In other words, providing end users with all of the personal preferences they were used to on their traditional personal computer – providing consistency that allows them to work more efficiently and effectively.  It’s easy to understand how this can be attained if you look at the desktop as consisting of three layers – the OS, applications and user layer. By separating these layers and abstracting the user information, user virtualization enables IT to standardize the desktop build, automate desktop and application delivery and migrate users to new desktops – all while making sure the user experience remains personalized and is unaffected.

Another term I use is virtual user infrastructure, or as I like to refer to it, VUI, which is the platform that allows the user environment to be managed independently of the desktop. This is a key enabler to desktop virtualization, which is why I plan to dig more into the technology and provide use cases in subsequent posts.

I am extremely open to, and look forward to comments and suggestions on what topics you would like discussed, and I am happy to answer any questions you may have.

I felt that it was only appropriate to start off my blog with a key issue that has been at the forefront of the technology industry since the release of Windows 7 in October 2009. The debate on whether enterprises will benefit from this transition has never been hotter and some initial users have found that the migration is not as easy as they originally thought.

Over the past few months, there has been quite a bit of information published about best practices to help organizations make the inevitable switch to Windows 7; however, most of this information ignores a crucial aspect to a successful migration -- making sure the user experience is accurately managed and protected. As we all know, user acceptance is critical to any proposed upgrade or migration in the IT world, and Windows 7 is no exception. With this being the case, IT must fully consider the implications of user profiles as part of the user experience and ensure that the migration appears seamless to the user.

At the heart of the Microsoft Windows user experience lies the Windows user profile. Windows 7 utilizes a structurally different user profile than Windows XP or Windows 2000 which means IT needs to fully understand this difference before stepping into the migration. When administrators are able to remove any issues around the user profile, it will almost certainly result in happier and more content user population.
Also Microsoft is aware of potential compatibility challenges with applications running on Windows 7, so they incorporated the Windows XP mode functionality into the newer operating system. 

The Windows XP mode is in effect a complete version of the Windows XP Operating System running as a virtual machine within the Windows 7 Operating System -- as a type 2 hypervisor. in essence.  Again, having the user experience  (the preferences, applications, etc. ) be intact and work the same as it did with the previous operating system, is (or certainly should be) right at the top of the important “to do” list when considering a migration. The user population must receive a seamless experience when migrating to Windows 7 -- this includes any ancillary items such as an application being installed in XP mode because it is known to not work in Windows 7.  The end user doesn't know this or care about the specifics, they just expect everything to work. All of the above is relevant regardless of which operating system the enterprise is migrating from -- i.e. Windows 2000, Windows XP or Windows Vista.

The key to successful Windows 7 migrations are like most other IT projects of today – reliant on end user satisfaction. The user today is more IT savvy than ever before and is quickly becoming more demanding in terms of what they expect IT to provide. To that end, a major migration such as the entire operating environment must take into account the fact that the user will expect the system to be faster (although they will often perceive it as being slower or the same). The user experience has quickly become the most important aspect of the deliverable that IT provides to users. Post migration, if the applications are not functioning correctly, the users will not tolerate it and will create an ongoing headache for IT administrators.

Have you migrated to Windows 7? How did you protect the user experience?

Posted by Simon Rust on 07/26/2010 at 12:49 PM


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