The Definitive Guide to Vista Migration

by Danielle Ruest and Nelson Ruest


Microsoft has been working for several years on the next-generation of Windows, and this effort is now to coming to fruition. Will Vista warrant yet another massive Windows desktop migration? The answer is yes -- Vista heralds a completely new era in secure Windows computing, complete with support for the very latest in service-oriented architectures and the provision of a host of services that can traverse the firewall over the most common HTTP and HTTPS ports. The Definitive Guide to Vista Migration provides a detailed roadmap to Vista migrations in order to take full advantage of the new enterprise-ready Vista feature set. This guide outlines best practices for migration planning and execution as well as piloting a migration for enterprises of all sizes. This book will help all levels of IT professional, from systems administrators to IT directors, who are considering Vista migration and want to see it done right.


Chapter 1: To Migrate or not to Migrate

Today, we are at the crux of a new age in computing and it makes sense, with Windows VistaTM, Microsoft is releasing its first true x64 operating system (OS), and x64 processors abound not only on the server, but also, and especially on the desktop. Even better, x64 processors are multi-core, delivering yet more power than the exponential growth we can expect from a move from 32- to 64-bit computing.

In addition, Vista will be Microsoft's first OS to truly support IPv6—the next version of TCP/IP—expanding networked communications from a 32-bit to 128-bit address space. The timing is just right, at least for governmental agencies, with the US government's Office of Management and Budget having set a deadline of June 2008 "…as the date by which all agencies' infrastructures…must be using IPv6…"

This new age is not going to be a big bang. This time it is quiet revolution—a revolution that we as individuals will feel whenever we use a computer, something we haven't seen for a long time, if ever: speed. Vista includes a host of new features that help speed it up: SuperFetchTM, ReadyBoostTM, ReadyDriveTM, low priority I/O and much more. In addition, running it on x64 hardware grants Vista access to much more memory than ever before. Vista also provides better TCP/IP throughput and removes traditional system bottlenecks. Are you ready for speed?

So what are you waiting for? Have you started the Vista migration process yet? No? Why not? It's true that before you can take advantage of a new OS on the desktop, you need to feel right about the one you are running now. We're in the year 2006, well into the 21st century and IT professionals still don't have complete control over desktops. System upgrades, software updates, security patches, asset management all seem to be out of control, making IT administrators react to issues and problems rather than predict and master them before they occur. If you find yourself in this situation, perhaps it is the ideal time to consider a Vista migration and at the same time, review and enhance the system management strategies you use in your organization.

Why not wipe the slate clean and do it right this time? A migration, by its very nature, offers the ideal opportunity for massive IT change—all the desktops will be involved, new management and deployment features are introduced and the deployment relies on common IT processes— processes that can be reviewed and updated. Why not take advantage of this opportunity and clean house? The benefits far outweigh the disadvantages: reduced diversity is always easier to manage.

Chapter 2: Planning the Migration

So you've decided to migrate to Windows Vista. Good for you! Your goal now is to design the very best migration possible and to ensure that the network remains stable during and after the migration has been performed. Successful migration projects rely on a proper structure. For this reason, this chapter will focus on how the migration project itself will be organized. To do this, we will begin by looking at the actual tasks required to perform a migration on a PC in order to help you understand what a tangible migration process involves.

But, because you know what to do to migrate one PC doesn’t mean that the migration of dozens, hundreds or even thousands of PCs will just work. Migration projects are massive undertakings that require the coordination of hundreds of tasks—tasks that must be correctly orchestrated to be delivered on time, under budget and with a very high level of quality. To meet these requirements, you need a change management strategy, one that will help you blueprint each step of the process and ensure that everything works as planned. Finally, you need to launch the migration project. Armed with the structured change management strategy, you can begin to lay out the steps you need to undertake to complete this project. That’s why we close the chapter with a look at the actual project plan for the migration and the process you need to put it in place.

Chapter 3: Creating the Migration Test Bed

The testing laboratory is perhaps the most important part of any technical implementation project. Testing and retesting solutions before they are deployed is the only way to ensure high quality. After all, you do not want to find yourself in a situation where you are deploying garbage into your network. Garbage aside, you'll quickly find that the lab environment is one of the most exciting aspects of the project. Things move fast, you're playing with new technologies, you're the hub of all technological requests; it's just fun to work in the lab. This is another reason why you want to have everything in place the right way.

When it comes to the deployment of Windows Vista, make sure you follow the golden rule of high quality solutions and provide a testing environment that meets and exceeds every need. But a testing lab is not only a technical solution; it also requires processes and procedures that must be followed to a 'T' if you want it to succeed.

To build the appropriate lab, you need to understand what your technical teams will require. What type of project they are in and how will the project teams be organized? In the case of PC deployments, two main tracks must be covered: the creation of the PC structure and the modification of server infrastructures to support new PC operating system (OS) features. Dividing the technical aspects of the project into these two streams will help you understand what your technical team will require and when they will require it.

Chapter 4: Building the Migration Toolkit

Now that the test bed is ready and some members of your team are in the process of beginning the unit tests they need to complete to get the engineering aspects of the migration project going, you can begin the selection or verification process for the different tools your project will require. The toolkits you will need to rely on cover three procedural and technical different requirements for this project:

  • General project guidance as well as technical guidance for the engineering aspects of the project.
  • Tools to provide support for the administrative and other processes the migration project itself will require.
  • Tools to support the actual migration.

The first two help provide structure for the project and all of the technical processes the project requires. In addition, the technical guidance obtained for the project will support the third requirement: tools to sustain the actual migration. For this, you should rely on the seven-step PC Migration Cycle (PMC) introduced in Chapter 2. Ideally, the tools you select for this project will be tools you can carry forward into production once the project is complete. As such, this toolkit must also aim to support ongoing management and administration of Vista PCs once they are deployed into your network.

Chapter 5: Security and Infrastructure Considerations

This chapter begins the preparation of all of the engineering tasks required to perform the deployment. Once again, it follows the Desktop Deployment Lifecycle as well as the PC Migration Cycle. The project has now moved from the preparation phases, including Question and Understand and is beginning the Organize phase of the QUOTE System. There is however, one part of the activities listed here that is required as input to both of the first two phases: initial inventories, especially if you don’t have existing inventory capabilities.

Chapter 6: Preparing Applications

Application or software management is one of the most challenging activities related to PC management and migration. Application incompatibilities, application conflicts, application installations, application delivery, application license management, application retirement are only a few of the issues you must master if you want to be in complete control of your desktop and mobile network. In fact, an entire science has been built around the management of software and applications with both manufacturers and experts weighing in to add their grain of salt.

As you might expect, the focus of this chapter is to help you make sense once and for all of how to prepare, distribute, manage and control applications in your network. First, some definitions:

  • The term program refers to compiled code that executes a function.
  • The term application software refers to programs designed to operate on top of system software such as an operating system. This differentiates between the OS and the programs that run on top of it.
  • The term software usually refers to an off the shelf commercial program. This category includes items such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat, Corel Draw, Symantec Corporate Antivirus, and so on—all commercial products you can buy discretely for your organization.
  • The term application usually refers to custom in-house development. This category includes anything that you develop in-house or that you have developed through outsourcing, but is a custom version of a tool that will only be used by your organization. It includes items such Web applications, line of business systems, or anything that is generated by tools such as Microsoft Visual Studio. It also includes user-developed programs such as those created with Microsoft Access or even just macros and templates created in Microsoft Office.

Many sources use the terms software and application interchangeably, but in an effort to avoid confusion as much as possible, this guide will use the term applications to refer to both applications and software. If a specific reference is required to either commercial software or in-house applications, they will be addressed as such.

Chapter 7: Kernel Image Management

Each time you perform a PC operating system (OS) deployment, you need to figure out how the installation will proceed. For this, you must discover exactly how the OS installation process works and then, you determine how you can automate the process. With Vista, Microsoft has introduced a completely new installation process called Image-based Setup (IBS). Basically, each version of Windows Vista includes a system image file—called a .WIM file—that contains the installation logic for different editions of Vista. During the IBS installation process, this system image file is copied to the system disk and then expanded and customized based on the hardware that is discovered during the process.

WIM images contain several different editions of Vista. Common files are not duplicated within the WIM as it relies on a single instance store (SIS) to include only one copy of each common file as well as individual copies of the additional files that build different editions. The edition you install is determined by the product key you insert during installation. This lets Microsoft ship every edition of Vista on a single DVD. Of course, two system images are required: one for 32-bit and one for 64-bit systems as the architecture for the x86 or the x64 version is incompatible with the other and cannot be contained within the same image. Despite this, having to manage two DVD versions of Vista is a vast improvement over previous versions of Windows where each edition was contained in a different CD or DVD. Of course, you’ll have to use a preparation process to create these images.

Chapter 8: Working with Personality Captures

Personality protection is probably the most important aspect of any operating system (OS) deployment project; not, of course, from the technician’s point of view, but rather, from the end user’s point of view. After all, while we, as technical IT professionals, view a computer as a system we need to build and maintain, end users view it as a necessary evil they need to work with to perform their job functions. And personalities—the collection of data, favorites, desktop settings, application customizations and more—are the most important aspect of any OS migration for them.

That’s because users perceive their computer’s personality as part of their workspace and many of them will spend considerable time optimizing it for the work they do. If computer personalities are not preserved in the course of a migration project, users lose productivity as they take time to either relearn or recreate the aspects of their old computer personality that they depended on to get their work done. For many users, losing printer settings, email configurations, Microsoft Word templates or even the placement of shortcuts on their desktop can compromise their comfort level and effectiveness with a new machine and/or operating system. This disorientation decreases productivity and increases the helpdesk workload because it leads to unnecessary end-user support calls and training.

Therefore, preserving the personal computing environment of each user is a critical step in mitigating the productivity impact of an OS migration and controlling its costs. As with the other engineering processes that are required to complete an OS migration project, this process includes several steps (see Figure 8.1).

  • Begin with defining the administrative policy you will use to provide this protection. For this, you’ll need to fully understand the differences between profile structures in Windows XP and their counterparts in Windows Vista since these profiles are not compatible with one another; profiles are the OS components that store personalities. Then, you’ll need to determine which mitigation strategies you intend to use as well as how you will protect profiles once they are captured.
  • Next, you need to perform an analysis of your network. You’ve already performed inventories to determine your hardware and software readiness status. Now, you need another inventory to determine how many profiles you need to protect and how much central storage space you need if you choose to copy the profiles you decide to protect to a network share.
  • Then, once this is established, you can begin to prepare your protection mechanisms. Of course, this will be closely related to your tool selection as the tool you selected for this purpose will provide many of the features you’ll require for this protection.

Chapter 9: Putting it all Together

So far, each technically-focused team has been working on their own as they prepare their portion of the technical solution. By now, you should be in the middle of the Organize phase of the QUOTE System with each team progressing towards completion of their engineering activities. It is now time to first, review the status of each solution component, mapping them out to the original logical solution design, correct any defects or deviances if they appear and then, begin integrating each solution component into one cohesive whole that will provide one single flow of operations during the rollout. The objective of this activity is to make sure that each and every engineering aspect of your solution works as expected in every situation and have it accepted by your peers, especially those that will be responsible for these aspects of IT operation once the solution is in place.

Of course, other personnel have also been working through the activities in the project plan as outlined in Chapter 2—activities that are more administrative in nature such as training and communications preparation—and these activities are soon to be tested and integrated into the migration process, something that will be covered in the next chapter as we run through the Pilot project. But, before you can focus on the overall migration picture, you need to make sure all engineering aspects are up to snuff. To date, you’ve had five technically-focused teams working out pieces of the solution. They include:

  • Infrastructure remediation
  • Security design
  • Application preparation
  • System imaging
  • Personality protection

Chapter 10: Running the Pilot Project, Final Deployment and Project Post Mortem

The project is almost complete. Two phases of the QUOTE System are left. The Transfer phase will focus on the manufacturing activities of the project, running through the pilot project, and then migrating all systems to Vista. The Evaluate phase will focus on project closure, running through the hand off to internal support teams, performing the project post-mortem, and preparing for system evolution.

In order to complete these phases, you need to run through a series of activities which include:

  • Oversee administrative activities to ensure that each aspect of the process that will support the deployment is ready for prime time.
  • Run the pilot project which will include more than the proof of concept (POC) that was run at the end of the Organize phase. While the POC focused on the technical activities to ensure every engineering process was ready to roll, the pilot project’s goal will be to bring both administrative and technical processes together for a complete end to end test. Then, it will aim to report on each aspect of the deployment process to make sure all is ready. If changes are required, then, the project team needs to perform required modifications before they can proceed.
  • Once all is deemed ready, the massive deployment begins and the project enters a manufacturing mode where it runs through the repetitive processes required to migrate each system. If the organization has opted to use a forklift migration—migrating each system in one fell swoop—then, this process runs until all systems are deployed. If the project has opted to use attrition—migrating systems through their hardware refresh program—then, the deployment will only affect those systems that are upgraded this year. It will also need to prepare for migration recurrence: re-running the migration processes each year until all systems are running Vista.
  • Once the mass production is complete, a hand-off to internal support teams must be performed before project mechanisms are integrated into every day operations.
  • A project post-mortem must be completed to ensure that project wins are captured and project failures are trapped. This helps ensure that projects of this type keep improving as the organization runs them.

The very final phase of this project is the preparation for system evolution. Each migration project can only take on a certain amount of work, aiming to get the best quality based on available resources. But, once all systems are migrated, the organization can begin to invest more fully into the benefits inherent in the new OS and add functionality to its deployment as operations teams begin to master the elements that make up the overall solution.