Many CIOs, technical architects as infrastructure and operations (I&O) professionals in Chinese companies are struggling with the pressures of all kinds of business and IT initiatives as well as daily maintenance of system applications. At the same time they are trying to figure out what should be right approach for the company to adapt technology waves like cloud, enterprise mobility, etc., to survive in highly competitive market landscape.   Among all the puzzles for the solution of strategic growth, Operating System (OS) migration might seem to have the lowest priority:  business application enhancements deliver explicit business value, but it’s hard to justify changing operating systems when they work today. OS is the most fundamental infrastructure software that all other systems depend on, so the complexity and uncertainty of migrations is daunting. As a result, IT organizations in China usually tend to live with the existing OS as much as possible.

Take Microsoft Windows for example. Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 have been widely used on client side and server side.  Very few companies have put Windows migration on its IT evolution roadmap. However, I believe the time is now for IT professionals in Chinese companies to seriously consider putting Windows upgrade into IT road map for the next 6 months for a couple of key reasons. 

Windows XP and pirated OS won’t be viable much longer to support your business.

  • Ending support. Extended support, which includes security patches, ends April 8, 2014. Beyond that point, we could expect that more malwares or security attacks toward Windows XP would occur.
  • Regulatory environment. With the 12th Five Year Plan of Chinese government for the next phase of business transformation and globalization, we expect that government will further drive the anti-piracy monitoring.  This will result in more strict regulatory surveillance for enterprises small and large, as many of them are based their business operations on pirate copies of Windows.

But Windows will continue to be a leading OS for enterprises.

Given the base of experience IT has with Windows, continuing with it makes compelling business sense.   In various perspectives, Windows are still being widely used in enterprises across the whole application lifecycle.

  • It remains a dominant operating system.  90% of North American and European enterprises and SMBs run Windows for their company-issued PCs with 48% of all respondents are using Windows 7, compared to 38% still using of Windows XP.
  • Developer support is broad and deep.  Windows family are the top 3 most popular OS among the software developers surveyed for Forrester Forrsights Developer Survey Q1 2013, , ex. 50% of them were using Windows 7 and 9% of them were already using Windows 8, just a couple of months after Windows 8 launch. This same survey showed  that software developers will allocate more than 17% of their time to write code using languages that are best developed with .NET, such as C# (8%), VB .NET (6%), Basic (3%), etc., and Microsoft Visual Studio is still the most popular (25%) integrated development environment (IDE).  More than 30% of developers use Microsoft’s Team Foundation Center and Microsoft Visual Source Safe, or IBM Rational ClearCase –  all available only on Windows.

And Windows 8.1 provides substantial reasons to stay with Windows.

Forrester predicted that Windows 8 would have a bumpy birth year globally, but would eventually mature and take hold in 2014. We believe that Windows 8.1 puts Microsoft on track for a better year in 2014. There are several reasons.

  • Flexibility. With Windows 8.1 and Visual Studio 2012, not only end users could choose from Windows 8 UI or classic Windows XP style, but also developers are free to make decision among various programming options (C#/Javascript/C++, or HTML/XAML) and layout design alternatives (Tiles, Notifications, Charms, Snapping,).
  • Cloud. With ASP.NET Web API, application development and delivery (AD&D) professionals will be able to access a (REST) API, and data will be transferred as JSON, XML, etc. These API/Services are loosely coupled, transparent with easy caching and scalability, reusable with error handling mechanism, and they could access table storage, queue and blob storage in Windows Azure. Definitely it will help Chinese customers to better leverage the operations of Windows Azure in China that was announced in June.
  • Mobility. With Windows Azure Mobile Services that was released September 2012, developers are enabled with mobile development capability toward the cloud. It could support a wide range of application types and devices, such as Windows Store, Windows Phone, iOS, Android or even HTML.
  • Compatibility. Microsoft’s work to integrate the open source jQuery framework into ASP.NET since 2008 further enabled developers to connect to many devices through increasingly capable HTML5 browsers or hybrid container frameworks such as the Apache Cordova project, which will enable mobile devices to share the development assets.

For the above reasons, enterprise architects and I&O professionals should equip themselves with a forward thinking mindset, together with a pragmatic approach to get prepared.  Forrester recommends that I&O professionals should proactively take the following steps to prepare for Windows 8 in the enterprise:

  • Speed up existing enterprise-wide Windows migrations. If you have already started the migration plan for Windows 7 up from Windows XP or other versions, you should stay focused on it which will ultimately pay off with greater compatibility if or when your organization decides to support Windows 8
  • Implement progressive BYOD policy and program.As BYOD becomes a trend which comes together with Windows 8 adoption demand, I&O professionals should focus on smartphones and tablets first, but Windows 8.1 might be the start for PC inclusion.
  • Shift to the cloud and be open. If existing applications could be shift to the cloud, it will minimize future migration efforts, and at the same time it could provide employees with better access and a broader range of devices. Embrace open standards such as HTML5 for future compatibility.
  • Leverage application and desktop virtualization.Virtualization is a good solution for BYOD by providing standardized and well managed environment.
  • Set up lab environment to evaluate new platforms and applications. Virtualization can be leveraged to reduce the cost creating physical labs.
  • Start small, go big.Start with a small pilot project toward the business requirements; take phased approach and see ROI; revisit the roadmap whenever needed