While more than a few organizations have passed on deploying Windows 8 for various reasons, there are many others who are planning to deploy Windows 8 in some form.
For the IT organizations in these companies, one of the key decisions to be taken is the form of implementation that their Windows 8 deployment should take.
Windows 8 deployment is different form prior versions of Windows in one significant way, namely; much greater consideration must be taken of other form factors than typical desktops and notebooks. We now routinely consider deployment on tablets and on smartphones (using Windows Phone 8) in addition to traditional platforms.
In addition, we have to be aware of opportunities afforded by Hyper-V, the virtualization technology that puts business processing on the server for a variety of enterprise tasks as well as Windows To Go. Also, do we go with cloud-based services and if so, public or private cloud?
Many decisions of course, but the focus here is on implementation approaches, of which there are four (4) basic ones, namely;
- Direct Cutover
- Pilot implementation
- Phased Implementation
- Parallel implementation.
Direct cutover of systems involves unplugging the old system as you go live with the new. Unless you enjoy living dangerously, this is not the best way for most organizations to deploy Windows 8 across the organization. There is simply too much risk and given that user devices are not the most mission-critical, that risk is unnecessary.
A pilot implementation involves deploying your Windows 8 systems in a small part or subset of the organization initially. After a period of use, then Windows 8 can rolled out to the entire organization. It’s important to note that this pilot deployment is not testing of the system or verifying its functionality, comprehensive testing should already have been extensively done.
In a pilot implementation, everything must be checked out, including making sure the deployment image is working correctly as is desktop activation. You must also ensure that maintenance of the system works smoothly – including IT staff responsibilities like the helpdesk- as well as patch management and patch integration.
In a pilot deployment, you will also be able to better determine, the server performance required by your limited set of new desktop/notebook/tablet/smartphone clients and use that baseline to extrapolate for the entire system. Unforeseen operational costs and other issues can also be documented and better understood in a pilot deployment.
With Windows 8, you will have to ensure that your apps work properly in addition to your x86 applications and that integration with all other operational systems works smoothly
Another item to be carefully monitored during a pilot implementation is security mechanisms, especially in BYOD environments. VPNs, authentication and Windows-to-Go must all be verified in daily operations as meeting your security requirements.
A phased implementation shares some of the features of a pilot implementation. Whereas a pilot deployment implements the whole system for a subset of the organization, a phased implementation deploys a part of the system across the whole organization at one time.
In a sense, OS replacement or upgrade is one part of a system that includes applications, apps, hardware, procedures and data. However, if only the OS is being upgraded, then it resembles more of a direct cutover, which is again, a risky endeavor.
In a parallel implementation, you run old and new systems together side by side for a specified period, comparing the performance and outputs of both before finally switching over to the new system.
With Windows 8 backward compatibility with other OSs and the sheer impracticability of doing OS parallel implementations for desktop systems, a parallel implementation is again, not recommended for transitioning to Windows 8
The conclusion of this article is that while a direct cutover approach to system deployment is possible for small organizations, most medium and large organizations will benefit from using a pilot deployment approach to implementation. It allows you to deploy your Windows 8 platform in a safe and effective manner that reduces risk and enables you to manage problems effectively before rolling out to the entire organization.
If you have transitioned between OSs at your organization, please share your experiences in the discussion below or email me your experience to share in a post at editor[at]windows8enterprise.com.