Microsoft has released a beta version of a application that aims to make it easier for its customers and partners to identify what servers, workstations and network devices are in their IT environment. The Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit 4.0 (MAP) is designed for companies that are considering whether to upgrade their desktop operating systems to Windows 7.
The software giant describes MAP as an agentless and scalable toolkit IT administrators can rely on to discover all computers within Active Directory and workgroup environments.
The toolkit conducts hardware and device inventory and hardware-compatibility analysis. MAP also generates actionable, environment-specific IT proposals for migration to most major Microsoft technologies. It even identifies candidates for power-saving opportunities, virtualization and security vulnerabilities.
Should Enterprises Upgrade?
Microsoft said more than 680,000 of its customers and partners, including Costco, Continental Airlines, and Banque de Luxembourg have already downloaded and used the toolkit. Companies can download MAP from Microsoft's TechNet Web site.
But will enterprises adopt Windows 7? Should they? Any CIO worth his or her salt normally would never migrate to a new version of Windows before it has been proven stable, according to Roger Kay, principal analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates.
Conventional wisdom says to wait for Service Pack 1. Since SP1 usually doesn't arrive until a year after a new OS launch, most of Microsoft's early shipments traditionally go to consumers buying new PCs with the latest OS installed. In the first year, the percentage of commercial buyers who adopt a new OS usually remains in the single digits. However, Kay said, it may be different this time around.
"Microsoft has learned from its mistakes, and a new methodology has been put in place by Steven Sinofsky, head of the Windows development effort. Most importantly, Windows 7's feature set was 98 percent locked early in the process," Kay said. "So no pet features crept into subsequent builds. Also, the back end of the code is the much maligned but by now highly stable and robust Vista back end. After two years and some, the important services behind the Vista interface have been much banged upon and haven't moved a lot beyond their being adapted to the specifics of Windows 7."
When To Upgrade to Windows 7
Overall, Kay said, the Windows 7 launch is much better coordinated than the blunder that was Vista and offers some vital new features for enterprises, including Direct Access, migration tools, virtualization support, drive and device encryption, application control, and BranchCache. These features, along with better device and application compatibility, performance, reliability and security, make Windows 7 a fairly smart choice for commercial outfits, he said.
Given that the installed base has grown so much mold that the new environment appears to be pretty inviting, Kay said it's really a matter of when would be optimal to upgrade. So in this case, at least, the common wisdom of waiting for SP1 may be out of date.
"This launch could be the first since Windows 95 that actually stimulates an upgrade cycle," Kay said. "The OS itself is a joy to work with, and the buzz, already positive, is likely to remain so. Commercial-client buyers should definitely get test versions up and going in the shop early and consider moving to Windows 7 more smartly than they would otherwise be inclined."