4 ways to prepare for the Windows 8 update

No matter what type of customer I’m speaking to — large or small, desktop or application — one topic has risen to the forefront of every conversation: virtualization, and how it will be impacted by the upcoming Microsoft updates.

Later this year, Microsoft will release both Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012. I’ll be on hand during our customers’ update process to answer any questions about licensing and compliance, re-evaluating current licensing and deployment infrastructure, and providing best practices for any implementation. In the meantime, I’ll be outlining four things that can be implemented to best prepare for the switch. Let’s start with Windows 8.

1. Become an expert in the environment

The first step to prepare is to re-evaluate the virtualization infrastructure on both the desktop and the application side. In other words, get a full view of the environment’s hardware and software infrastructure. This will provide a transparent look into the virtual environment. To do this, identify whether each connected device is personally or company-owned; whether the device is on or off the company site; and whether it’s already covered under the corporate licensing scheme, or if it’s the employee’s responsibility as owner of the device.

By asking to determine who owns the device in question, I’ve brought up the tricky and inevitable discussion of BYOD. The rapid proliferation of devices in the workplace has increased exponentially in the last 10 years. Before embarking on any type of internal update, the first thing to determine is who holds responsibility for the device.

2. Define ownership of each device

If the device is totally owned or controlled by a corporate entity, then it is the company that is held responsible for licensing. If the company does own the device, the update will fall into its lap. On the other end of the spectrum, if a device is not owned by the company and is not utilized in any corporate function whatsoever, that device is the employee’s personal responsibility.

Microsoft’s new Companion Device License (CDL), announced on the Windows 8 team blog, might complicate matters even more. Although not concretely defined as of yet, the CDL will allow people that invest in software assurance on their desktop OS to buy a companion license for a Windows-type device at a discounted cost. However, mobile devices that aren’t running a Windows-embedded OS might not be included in the CDL. So now we not only have to worry about who owns the device, but who is producing that tablet, what kind of embedded operating system it’s running on, and what tablet operating system is running it.

So where is that fine line that determines who is responsible for personal devices utilized for the benefit of a corporate entity? Unfortunately, because the BYOD trend is still new, most organizations are dealing with it on a case-by-case basis. The best advice I can offer is for end users to be transparent with their employers so that employers know what technology is being utilized to access the environment. It has implications in Office licensing, as well as in the remote access of virtualized desktops. The employer needs to know whether employees are remotely logging in with just their home PC, or if they’re also using their laptop, smartphone, and tablet to access the corporate servers.

3. Review your licensing

The next step to ensuring a smooth and successful update process to Windows 8 is to review the licensing, both Microsoft and third-party. Make sure that the legal license is being followed correctly. These days, licensing is more about the software being utilized than what is actually being deployed in the environment. So before the brand-new changes that Windows 8 will bring are even considered, there should be a firm understanding of the licensing agreement.

4. Create a technology road map

The final piece of advice I have is to prepare a technology road map for the future. It’s important for this road map to consider typical business patterns.

Either way, the software is going to change. But what about the infrastructure? Is it going to face any major changes during an update? The road map should foresee how any software updates will impact the hardware. In my next post, I’ll go over what needs to be done now in preparation for the conversion to Windows Server 2012.

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