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Simple Moves

Novell ZENworks 11: A Simplified,
Yet Comprehensive Approach to Windows 7 Migration

Written by Gil Cattelain

Undertaking a major desktop operating system migration is never a simple task. But if you’re looking to move your endpoints to Windows 7, you can simplify the process and minimize disruptions to your business with a smart strategy, a best practices approach, and the right migration, maintenance, security and service management tools. Such an approach begins with answering five key questions. What can I migrate to Windows 7? Will all my applications work with Windows 7? How can I easily migrate thousands of my machines? How do I keep my Windows 7 environment safe and up-to-date? How do I continually and effectively address service issues in my Windows 7 environment?

Developing a game plan and strategy for your migration is probably the most crucial aspect of any move to Windows 7.

Assess Your Assets

Developing a game plan and strategy for your migration is probably the most crucial aspect of any move to Windows 7. Proper planning helps ensure a faster and relatively smooth migration. That planning requires you have an accurate understanding of the state of all your assets. From a hardware standpoint you need to know which of your endpoints meet Microsoft’s published core hardware requirements for running Windows 7, which includes at minimum a 1Ghz processor for x86 and x64 platforms, 1GB RAM for x86 or 2GB RAM for x64, 16GB free disk for x86 or 20GB free disk for x64, and a DirectX 9 compatible graphics device.

Getting this detail of information for each of your endpoints can consume an enormous amount of time and effort if you don’t have the right tools. Fortunately, Novell ZENworks Asset Management can greatly simplify this otherwise complex process with its automated discovery and inventory capabilities. It performs an inventory analysis of all your endpoints, collecting detailed information on their individual hardware specifications and configurations. Using this information, it allows you to run a Windows 7 system readiness report that compares the existing specifications of those endpoints against Microsoft’s core hardware requirements for Windows 7. The report provides you an at-a-glance high-level summary of where your devices stand, as well as a detailed report of how the individual specifications of each endpoint stack up against the Windows 7 requirements.

Running the report is as simple as follows:

  1. Select Reports from the ZENworks console
  2. Click Upgrade Readiness
  3. Select Windows 7 Ready report (See Figure 1.)
  4. Choose the report criteria that meet your requirements or leave them at their default values (i.e., existing OS, memory, processor speed, etc.)
  5. Click Run and view the details of your report (See Figure 2.)

Additionally, the purchase history and license management capabilities in ZENworks Asset Management also make it easy to identify machines that might be due for a hardware refresh or drawing close to lease renewal. This helps you better decide which systems need to be migrated and which ones simply need to be replaced.

Novell ZENworks Asset Management gives you a better understanding of your software asset situation as well. Its license management capabilities let you know what applications you have installed, their different version levels, and even if certain applications are seldom or no longer being used. For applications no longer or seldom used, you might simply want to remove them from your environment. With the version information on all the rest of your software assets, you can check their compatibility at the Microsoft Windows 7 Compatibility Center.

You should note that the ZENworks Reporting Server in ZENworks Configuration Management also allows you to perform Windows 7 hardware readiness reports. However, you need ZENworks Asset Management if you want the software asset inventory and license detail discussed.

Performing a clean install on thousands of machines can be greatly simplified with the OS imaging capabilities provided by ZENworks Configuration Management.

Ensure Application Continuity

While the reporting capabilities in ZENworks Asset Management give you the information you need to understand exactly how a Windows 7 migration will affect your environment and what changes and adjustments need to be made, ZENworks Application Virtualization helps you address some of those adjustments. You likely have a number of applications that simply won’t run on Windows 7. If they’re critical to your operations, that creates a significant obstacle to your migration efforts. Do you just hold off your migration efforts on those systems that require those applications? Do you search for and invest in an application replacement? If they’re internally developed, do you allocate the resources to redesign the applications so they will work with Windows 7? Or do you run those incompatible applications in XP mode inside a Windows XP virtual machine on Windows 7, which ultimately requires you to maintain both Windows 7 and Windows XP on your endpoints?

Rather than holding off your migration, investing in application replacements or redesigns, or increasing your IT overhead by managing dual OS environments, you can simply virtualize your Windows 7 non-compatible applications with ZENworks Application Virtualization and run them seamlessly on Windows 7.

Novell ZENworks Application Virtualization lets you create portable Windows virtual applications that run as independent executable files. It encapsulates into a single executable package all the components that an application needs to run. The resulting self-contained executable makes no changes to the host operating system where you run it and it eliminates common software problems such as DLL conflicts, allowing the virtual application to run consistently on every system where it runs, including Windows 7.

For applications where you’re uncertain about their compatibility, such as legacy in-house applications, you can simply virtualize them with ZENworks Application Virtualization to eliminate the time and expense required to test and redeploy them into your new Windows 7 environment. In many cases, virtual versions of some older legacy applications can be configured to perform better on Windows 7 than if they weren’t virtualized.

Migrate Thousands of Machines

Once you know which systems you have that are Windows 7 ready and have a reliable way to maintain application continuity, you’re ready to begin the process of actually migrating your hardware and applications to Windows 7. Unfortunately, unless your systems are on Vista service pack 1 or 2, you don’t have the ability to perform an in-place upgrade. Even if you can do an in-place upgrade from Vista, doing so has some limitations. As a result, a clean install of Windows 7 is often the best choice, if not the only choice.

Performing a clean install on thousands of machines can be greatly simplified with the OS imaging capabilities provided by ZENworks Configuration Management. At a high level, the actual migration process requires the following:

  1. Build a Windows 7 OS image – Install Windows 7 on a model machine in your lab environment, test and configure it to meet your requirements, and then use ZENworks Configuration Management to create an image of that Windows 7 model environment.
  2. Capture existing desktop personalities - Using the ZENworks Personality Migration capability in Novell ZENworks Configuration Management extract your users’ individual application and system settings, including desktop wallpaper, e-mail account settings, browser proxy settings, files and folders, archived e-mails, Microsoft office templates, Microsoft Office macros, and more.
  3. Deploy the new image – Schedule ZENworks Configuration Management to automatically deploy your Windows 7 OS image to all your devices at times that won't disrupt business operations. As it deploys your images, it can dynamically install all the correct hardware drivers and applications specific to the individual target devices. You can also leverage wake-on-LAN technology to deploy the image overnight.
  4. Automatically reapply desktop personalities – When users log in to their newly migrated Windows 7 machines for the first time, ZENworks can automatically restore their familiar user data and settings so they can continue working without disruption.

Keep Your Environment Safe

Now with your new pristine Windows 7 environment, you’ll want to keep it secure and up-to-date with all the latest security patches and updates. Novell ZENworks Patch Management gives you a reliable and efficient way to keep your entire environment patched and compliant. It automates the collection, analysis and policy-based delivery of patches to all of your Windows 7 devices. It also provides a unique combination of integrated patch monitoring, assessment, deployment and reporting capabilities that greatly simplify and speed up your patch management efforts.

From the Patch Management section of the ZENworks console you can identify critical patches relevant to your Windows 7 environment, as well as the machines that need to be patched or are already patched. (See Figure 3.) It lets you review the descriptions and details of each patch to determine their urgency. Then it’s a simple matter of selecting which patches you want to deploy, specifying which devices to patch (i.e. non-patched devices, applicable devices, or devices in specific folders or groups), scheduling their deployment, and choosing remediation options (i.e. Auto Reboot, No Reboot, or Advanced options). Then as scheduled, ZENworks Patch Management will automatically and silently install your patches to the specified machines in your Windows 7 environment.

To give you a smooth and successful migration to Windows 7, Novell ZENworks 11 addresses the key questions and issues at the heart of your migration efforts.

Keep Users Productive

No computer environment is immune to problems, and no matter how successful your Windows 7 migration efforts, you'll continue to experience routine support issues that can impact user productivity. Novell Service Desk interacts with ZENworks 11 to give you a complete service desk solution that lowers your service and supports costs, and improves service level agreements. Novell Service Desk can be easily and quickly deployed, providing you a scalable and flexible service management environment that embraces key ITIL best practices; automates incident, problem and change management processes using a centralized Configuration Management Database (CMDB); and empowers users to solve their own problems with advanced self-service capabilities.

To speed up problem resolution, Novell Service Desk lets you easily leverage the hardware and software configuration information for all your Windows 7 machines, which has been collected by ZENworks Configuration Management or ZENworks Asset Management. It has an easy-to-use Web browser interface with graphical dashboards, service request histories and audit trails, drill-downs and personalized views into your organization’s core processes. (See Figure 4.) It can map the relationships between your services and underlying technology infrastructure to quickly identify root causes or potential problem areas. It includes an array of built-in standard reports that let you quickly see how well your service team is performing. Novell Service Desk also offers a straightforward licensing model that meets the needs of small businesses to large enterprises.

Migration Success and Beyond

To give you a smooth and successful migration to Windows 7, Novell ZENworks 11 addresses the key questions and issues at the heart of your migration efforts. But ZENworks doesn’t stop there. Once your migration is complete, its comprehensive range of advanced discovery, inventory, packaging, deployment and desktop management capabilities let you create a robust, policy-based foundation to simplify the continued management of your entire desktop environment.

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