Donít let application compatibility issues hold back your Windows 7 migration project
By Alaina Plaice, Content Director
Window 7 is the latest version of the Microsoft Windows operating system and is widely regarded as an important upgrade for customers that are using Windows XP or Windows Vista. Many organizations are either considering migration to Windows 7 in the next 12-18 months, or already have migration projects in place. However, large portions of these organizations are finding that many of their applications are not natively compatible with the new OS. In fact, recent studies have shown that most customers will experience compatibility problems with as many as 50% of their applications. These problems range from minor errors in functionality to complete inability to either install or run applications on Windows 7.
The root causes of application compatibility issues
The leading causes of application compatibility issues with Windows 7 fall into three broad categories:
- Internet Explorer conflicts - Internet Explorer (IE) is different from other web browsers in that it is tightly coupled with the Windows OS. Due to the popularity and longevity of Windows 2000 and Windows XP, many organizations have standardized on critical line-of-business applications that rely heavily on older versions of Internet Explorer, especially Internet Explorer 6 and 7. The problem is that neither Internet Explorer 6 nor Internet Explorer 7 can be installed on Windows 7, which in many cases prevents these applications from working on Windows 7.
- System and component dependencies - Windows 7 includes many changes to system-level components, which creates issues with applications that depend on older versions of these components. Good examples include Windows Media Player, Dot Net and the Microsoft Management Console (MMC), which are used by many applications. When these components are replaced with newer versions as part of an OS migration, applications that depended on them may stop working. Worse still, because these dependencies are part of the OS, customers cannot simply deploy the old versions of the components on the new operating system.
- Operating system security - Windows 7 features a new security model which includes User Account Control (UAC) and changes to default user permissions. By default, applications that run on Windows 7 do not have write access to protected operating system directories such as the Windows folder and the Program Files folder, and cannot modify certain areas in the Registry. In addition, the recommended way to use Windows 7 is by logging in as a "standard" user, rather than a user with full administrative privileges. The problem is that many applications that were written for Windows XP were not designed to operate in a secure OS environment. Such applications may not run on Windows 7, or may require full administrative privileges in order to function correctly, consequently compromising the overall security of the OS.
Traditional compatibility tools introduce other headaches
Customers that are facing application compatibility problems have traditionally looked to solving them using server-based or virtual-machine-based solutions. While these methods can get the problematic applications to work, they are often very expensive to implement, result in tremendous performance hits, and may not deliver the desired end-user experience.
- Server-based solutions, such as Citrix XenApp or Microsoft TS/RDS, run the problematic applications on servers and enable the Windows 7 clients to access them through remote sessions. These solutions require heavy investment in server infrastructure, cannot support disconnected (offline) users, prevent the remote applications from interacting with locally-installed applications (e.g. remote CRM application will not be able to create a proposal using the locally installed copy of Microsoft Word) and may result in very serious performance hits especially over low bandwidth network connections.
- VM-based solutions can be used to run the problematic applications in Windows XP virtual machines. The VMs can run locally on the Windows 7 machine (e.g. Windows 7 XP Mode, MED-V) or accessed remotely (e.g. VDI solutions). In both of these cases however, the applications residing in the VMs will not be able to interact with locally installed applications, and end-users may experience serious performance hits. In addition, this method will make it more difficult for IT to update and deliver applications, as it will now need to continually manage full Windows XP VMs that are considerably larger than the applications and require frequent updating and patching. In the case of VDI solutions, most of the problems of server-based solutions also apply, making them even less adequate for solving application compatibility problems.
An optimized solution for application compatibility
InstallFree provides an optimized solution for solving application compatibility problems. Rather than run problematic applications on remote servers or inside virtual machines, InstallFree creates a lightweight virtualization layer that enables applications to use their own set of private resources irrespective of the underlying OS. InstallFree virtual applications run locally on the Windows 7 machine with full performance, are available for offline use and can fully interact with locally-installed applications. InstallFree fully supports the virtualization of Internet Explorer and most other user-mode applications (e.g. Microsoft Office, Java, etc), solves system and component dependency issues, and runs applications using limited privileges even when the applications themselves do not support it. Better still, InstallFree does not require heavy investment in infrastructure, does not require system-level agents on client PCs and enables IT to incrementally and efficiently deliver, update and manage applications.
In most cases, InstallFree can solve application compatibility problems in less than 30 days and at a fraction of the cost required for implementing server-based or VM-based solutions. Once the solution is in place, customers can continue to use it on an ongoing basis to dramatically improve PC application management.
Here are just a few examples of what InstallFree customers were able to accomplish:
- A global insurance company virtualized their legacy claims application so that it could run with Internet Explorer 6, Java and many ActiveX controls on their new Windows 7 machines.
- A large software company with an aging CRM application was able to complete their migration to Windows 7 and continue to run the application using virtual Internet Explorer 6.
- A large technical college virtualized their learning management system so that it could continue to run using Internet Explorer 7 and legacy versions of Windows Media Player, QuickTime and Adobe Reader on their new Windows 7 machines.
To learn more about the InstallFree application compatibility solution, visit us on the web at www.installfree.com
Article updated 3rd May 2012