What does Microsoft need to do to convince you to deploy Windows Vista? Do you need ROI data to determine the best deployment method for your situation? Microsoft commissioned Wipro to undertake a study and produce a white paper on how to maximize deployment ROI. Do you need updated deployment tools? Microsoft has updates to the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) and a new version of Business Desktop Deployment kit (BDD), which is now called the Microsoft Deployment Solution Accelerator and now extends into server deployment. In addition, you can find new versions of the Vista Application Compatibility Toolkit, the Windows Vista Hardware Assessment (WVHA) tool, and the Business Value Assessment Tool, plus the Springboard Series, which is designed to make relevant deployment documentation easier to find.

Microsoft announced these Vista deployment facilitators this week at its TechEd IT Forum event in Barcelona, Spain. Clearly, Microsoft wants people to deploy Vista and wants you to know about all the ways the company is trying to simplify IT’s work. In addition to reporting on the details of these announcements, I’ll give you some in-the-trenches IT perspective from the CIO of our parent company, Penton Media. CIO Cindi Reding's team is immersed in a Vista deployment to more than 1000 corporate desktops and laptops right now.

ROI Study

According to Vista product manager Jason Leznek, the reason for commissioning Wipro’s white paper, “Maximizing ROI of Windows Vista Deployments” (which you can download at http://download.microsoft.com/download/3/B/D/3BDDC5D5-E8CF-4031-A12A-B072ECA27C42/Maximizing%20the%20ROI%20of%20Windows%20Vista%20Deployments.pdf), was that Microsoft had been “getting questions from customers about the best way to get Windows Vista deployed in their organizations: ‘Should I wait to get it on new PCs? Should I do it now and do an in-place upgrade?’” Based on the Wipro study, Leznek’s answer is: “It depends on where your organization is in terms of automation. Depending on what type of infrastructure you have, \[the study outlines\] different choices. You can look at the numbers and make a more educated choice as to what you should do.”

The core message of the study is that the approach you take to deploying Vista really does matter: "The biggest lever available to IT managers for maximizing the ROI and gaining a range of returns from 30% to 135% for a Windows Vista upgrade is the choice of deployment methodology. Organizations with highly automated and uniform infrastructure will receive the highest return when using an In-Place upgrade methodology, which means updating existing systems en masse to Windows Vista. For other organizations without such highly automated and uniform infrastructure, a Managed Diversity approach, which means installing Windows Vista on new PCs during a pre-planned hardware refresh, provides the best return. The biggest threat to ROI comes from delaying the move to Windows Vista for several years and downgrading new PCs to a previous operating system version."

Of course, options in IT are seldom straightforward. Many organizations don’t have the luxury of "updating existing systems en masse to Windows Vista," for a variety of reasons--not least of which is app compat. But clearly, Microsoft emphatically does not want people buying new hardware and installing Windows XP. The white paper reiterates that point, warning, “In all cases, installing Windows XP on new PCs will deliver the worst ROI.”

After reading the Wipro whitepaper, CIO Cindi Reding noted that her original upgrade plan had been to deploy Vista to the entire company "en masse." But that approach became impossible because of app compat problems. Cindi felt that the white paper downplayed "the fact that there are a lot of applications that are still not Vista compatible. We had to keep our whole accounting department on XP. We had to do something to get us by in the short term until we can get our financial apps Vista compatible."

One of Microsoft’s answers to app compat issues is virtualization on Vista. Cindi replied, "We have SoftGrid. We’ve tried it. It doesn’t always work with everything. We have done some Terminal Services solutions with some of the applications, but it’s not necessarily easy—not to mention that you need some pretty robust Terminal Services farms to be able to handle that. So that’s just additional cost."

Cindi also believed that the Wipro study downplayed the cost of deploying Vista, considering the expense of such factors as evaluating your applications for compatibility, replacing hardware, training, and the actual deployment: "I’m telling you—it’s not inexpensive to put Vista in place. For example, in this location alone \[i.e., Penton’s Cleveland office\], we deployed about 300 systems over the weekend. We did a light-touch deployment, so we had just a few things to do. And we still had 20 people working on it over the weekend." And Cindi and her team were still working on the Vista rollout in Cleveland on Tuesday, when I talked to her.

Overall, though, Cindi is pleased with Vista and says she would do the deployment again. "Once you get Vista in place, you’ll have great stability, control, and self-healing, as the white paper says. I totally agree with that. Plus, it will drive down our Help desk costs considerably.” The Wipro white paper presents interesting data (though most of that data has been previously published) and is worth considering, if you keep in mind that reality is more complex than such studies can show. As Cindi pointed out, things look different in the trenches than in the test lab.

MDOP, BDD, Springboard

Here’s a quick summary of the Vista deployment announcements from Barcelona with links to Microsoft’s sites. MDOP’s new features are interesting, and you can check them out at http://www.windowsvista.com/optimizeddesktop. I got the details in a conversation with Microsoft’s Gavriella Schuster, senior director of MDOP Product Marketing, as well as with Stella Chernyak, and I’ll post the in-depth information on my "Hey Microsoft" blog (http://www.windowsitpro.com/Blog/index.cfm?action=blogindex&DepartmentID=1054). The changes include updates to SoftGrid Application Virtualization, which is now called Microsoft Application Virtualization. New capabilities include Dynamic Virtualization, extended scalability, security enhancements, and customization features for globalization.

A further MDOP revision is to the Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT) 6.0, which is currently in private beta and will be available through MDOP in the first half of 2008. This offline antivirus and antispyware tool now supports 32-bit and 64-bit Vista and Windows Server 2008. In addition, DaRT unlocks BitLocker volume encryption and lets you pull files from USB devices.

Finally, Microsoft Asset Inventory Service (AIS) 1.0 performs an inventory scan of your environment. It was released to the Web this month and is available to MDOP customers at https://licensing.microsoft.com/elicense/l1033/default.asp.

BDD has been renamed as Microsoft Deployment Accelerator (http://www.microsoft.com/deployment). It now supports server deployment, as well as desktop deployment. This set of guidance and tools includes updates to Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) 5.0 (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windowsvista/aa905066.aspx), including support for the Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 and the ability to use .msi packages to deploy components and fixes.

The Deployment Accelerator also includes Windows Vista Hardware Assessment (WVHA) tool (http://www.microsoft.com/technet/wvha). A new version, renamed the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Solution Accelerator (MAP), is currently in beta (find it at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=103385). WHVA now provides IP-range targeting and non-Windows device discovery. MAP adds assessment and planning scenarios for server migration, server consolidation, and virtualization with Server 2008.

Another component of the Deployment Accelerator is the Business Value Assessment Tool. You can find it at https://roianalyst.alinean.com/calculators/microsoft/vista_value/.

The biggest complaint Microsoft receives about its Vista deployment documentation is that finding the exact information you need is nearly impossible--even if you know it exists. To address this problem, the company is introducing the Springboard Series (http://www.microsoft.com/technet/springboard). Springboard is "a new portfolio of recommended materials and tips based on feedback from early-adopters and Microsoft’s IT professional community. In addition, Springboard provides an online forum for answering questions, and will offer monthly articles on known challenges and advice on how to overcome them.