Who really controls an upgrade to Windows 10?

I think we all know that on July 29, Microsoft will be releasing its latest upgrade–Windows 10–as a free download. That’s FREE to all consumer copies of Windows 7 and 8.1, licensed or not! And there was much rejoicing.

Watch the making of Windows 10 Hero wallpaper. 

And that’s just the start of it. In case you missed it, the cadence of future upgrades to Windows 10 will happen much more frequently.

As I talk to enterprise customers I hear the same comment over and over. “That free upgrade is for the consumer devices, it doesn’t impact my corporate devices.”

Ah, yes, but it does.

You see, over the past several years, we have been promoting the idea of a BYO society. And it’s worked! Employees are accessing corporate owned assets from personal devices all the time, in any location.

According to ComputerWorld, more than 350 million devices will be upgraded to Windows 10 by July 29, 2016. So, whether corporate IT is ready for Windows 10 or not, we will have employees using it as early as July 29, 2015. Below are three easy steps to help you create a support and migration strategy.

Step 1 – Business Continuity

In order to maintain a business as usual environment you could deliver corporate supported Windows 7 virtual desktops and apps. Provide your employees with a link to download the Citrix Receiver and publish these corporate supported desktops and apps through XenApp. The employee gets the benefits of Windows 10 on their own device on their timeline, yet you have no interruption in supportability. This is especially helpful if you have yet to do your Windows app compatibility testing.

Step 2 – App Compatibility for Windows 10

Speaking of App Compatibility testing for Windows 10, if you haven’t done so already now is the time to break the mold of your old testing process. We used to place a group of very expensive engineers in a room and have them install and test each and every business application for weeks and months on end. It was a grueling process complete with batch scripts and command lines to automate as much of the testing process as possible. And believe me, this was not a room you wanted to go into on hot summer day.

Today, we can use AppDNA. Simply point AppDNA to your application libraries and it will read the DNA of each application and generate a report of what apps are compatible with Windows straight away and what apps are not. It will even give you an option to shim certain apps to get them over any hurdles to Windows compatibility. Now your app compat projects can takes minutes instead of months.

Step 3 – Flip the Switch

Who remembers the AB Switch box?

If you are like me then you may recall doing a Windows deployment and setting up the new OS in advance of the rollout so that employees could get adjusted to the new system. The look, the feel and the function would all need to be vetted and accepted by the users. It used to be quit disruptive. Today, I’m not so sure we need to do this with the modern employee. I think the majority of our users will take to a new version of Windows quite naturally.

Having said that, I still support the notion of giving employees a “Taste of 10.” Stand up your Windows 10 golden images on XenDesktop, publish them out to your test group and let them become acclimated to the new Windows while staying productive on their existing Windows desktop. Look at it like dating before you get married, without the awkward end of date kiss. It’s a period of getting familiar.

But, I also support the notion of standing up your golden images and your applications on Windows 10 and then “flipping the switch”. You can do a rolling deployment to departments by publishing the apps and desktops in a progressive manner, publishing to more and more employees as you desire. Or, you create your desktops and install your apps and have one massive publishing party. Go whole hog on New Year’s Day, for example. Complete with party hats and streamers and inappropriate use of the copy machine.

Whichever your method, XenApp and XenDesktop make this migration to Windows 10, and every version thereafter, an easy and manageable project.

The days when migrations were in the hands of Corporate IT are long gone, as are the days when migrations were an insurmountable project whose timeline was measured in years.

Homework / light reading:

Windows 10 Receiver Blog by Vipin Borkar

Windows 10 VDA Tech Preview by Gabe Carrejo