The XP Deadline: More Than Just an OS Issue

    Should the enterprise have a post-Windows XP plan in place? And if so, what should it be?

    The answer to the first question is easy: yes. As to the second, though, things are little dicey in that decisions regarding operating systems these days go far beyond mere features and functions and strike right to the heart of enterprise infrastructure and the role it is to play in the data ecosystem going forward.

    The good news is that there is still time to hash out these issues before the hammer falls. Microsoft has set an April 8, 2014 deadline to end support for the venerable XP platform. Due to the less-than-stellar response to Windows Vista, 7 and 8, it is estimated that XP still powers nearly 40 percent of PCs, both at home and in the office. And while Microsoft has already pushed back the XP deadline several times, it would be wise to take Redmond at its word this time and begin planning the transition now.

    The biggest consequence of continued reliance on XP is security. Once Microsoft stops issuing regular patches and updates, it’s a safe bet that the hacker community will go after XP with a vengeance. But this isn’t the only problem. As CMIT Solutions’ Greg Miller points out, expect third-party software and hardware developers to abandon XP long before Microsoft does, which could wreak havoc on office productivity if new systems are brought online without the drivers needed to communicate with large portions of the PC infrastructure.

    The easiest way to upgrade your OS, of course, is to upgrade your PC infrastructure. And indeed, PC manufacturers are already salivating over the prospect of enterprises around the world changing out their hardware en masse. HP, for one, is telling industry analysts that the end of XP will do more to help its bottom line than the introduction of Windows 8, giving the company a much-needed shot in the arm as it seeks to turn the corner in a multi-year rebuilding process.

    But is it possible that the end of XP will spur the enterprise in an entirely new direction regarding the PC? Seeking Alpha’s Josh Burwick thinks so. His take is that organizations of all sizes will be prompted to take a fresh look at desktop virtualization, which would give new life to struggling companies like Citrix. It is only recently that the cost of storage and networking infrastructure needed to support VDI has dropped to the point that it meets ROI demands, and many IT executives will no doubt be eager to abandon the PC refresh/upgrade cycle and all the integration and migration issues that go with it.

    And this gets us back to the point about the OS being about more than a simple upgrade. The combination of forces affecting the enterprise requires just about all decision to be weighed according to their impact on infrastructure. In this case, the choice is between the traditional PC or a new virtual one. If it’s the latter, will it be hosted in-house, in the cloud, or both? How will it affect existing storage and networking infrastructure that are themselves transitioning to new virtual and software-defined environments?

    This is all heady stuff and, when viewed in context, it makes next April’s XP deadline appear rather tight. Very few enterprises will be expected to have all the details about next-generation data infrastructure worked out by then, but the clock is ticking to at least work out the big picture and then determine how the PC will fit into it, or not.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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