By Vincent Smyth, Senior Vice President for EMEA, Flexera Software

The recently announced release of the Windows 10 operating system (OS) in July this year could spell potential havoc for enterprise IT departments. It is highly likely that already over-stretched IT departments will reach breaking point as Windows 10 introduces the idea of Windows as a service – marking a shift away from three- to four-year operating systems software updates to continuous, incremental delivery of new functionality.

Given that software drives business today, typically about 30 per cent of an organisation’s applications require upgrades and migrations every year anyway – even without the Windows as a service style approach to software upgrades.

Enterprise IT departments are already at crisis point as they try to cope with ever shortening OS lifecycle migrations (considered among the most time intensive, costly and manpower heavy projects). Add to that the continuous OS-related upgrades as proposed in Windows 10 – this creates the potential to truly break the backs of IT departments. Every time a new upgrade/patch/functionality is introduced, IT departments will need to test for compatibility with its environment (hardware, software on-premise, cloud and in virtualised settings), fix and repackage and then deliver the modified OS to end users.

With more and more software vendors adopting this agile and continuous software development mentality, IT departments need the bandwidth to manage multiple, simultaneous upgrades across the range of business critical software and other applications deployed by their organisations. But the reality is that due to tight budgets and shrinking teams the challenge and complexity of keeping organisations’ IT environment up-to-date is growing exponentially, making the job almost impossible for departments.

To deliver software to users in a timely manner – akin to the concept of continuous upgrades being adopted by Microsoft and other software vendors, it is imperative that IT departments keep pace and embrace the idea of continual Application Readiness to ensure compatibility and service quality.

Application Readiness best practices automate migration planning, testing, remediation and repackaging software for deployment. Such an approach can make software upgrades and lifecycle management ‘par for the cause’, requiring a fraction of the cost and IT resources compared to manual migration readiness – for Windows 10 related upgrades and other software/applications more widely. Application Readiness best practice processes and automation include:

• Identifying all the applications that are deployed across the organisation to get an accurate picture of the effort that will be involved in the software migration. It helps avoid surprises of application incompatibility issues, post deployment.

• Rationalising all the products and versions deployed in the organisation. Verifying the need to continue to support certain applications and/or consolidating targets to a reduced number of products and versions not only saves time and cost around the migration, but also enables the company to reduce wasted IT spend on unused application licenses.

• Compatibility testing with the new environment. This includes testing applications against the OS, the browser and the hardware. It also involves testing against other applications that will be running with them in the new environment, and testing for compatibility with the operating environment – such as virtualised or mobile.

• Planning to accurately calculate costs and duration timeframes. Enterprises must consider hardware requirements, software requirements, and potential conflicts between the operating system and application.

• Fixing and packaging in preparation to deploy new functionality in the new environment. Often custom changes are required as well as converting applications to the required format. Enterprises also need to deploy applications to multiple environments, such as on-premises, virtual/cloud-based environments and mobile. Ideally, a package-once, deploy-anywhere philosophy presents the best approach.

• Finally, handing off the packaged applications to the deployment system for delivery to end users. Some organisations create enterprise app stores to give users iTunes-like access to their business applications. If the app store is linked to an Application Readiness solution, the process of deploying packaged applications and making them available to users can be simple. If the app store is also tied on the back end to software licence optimisation processes, IT makes sure that users enjoys the benefits of self-service while still maintaining continual software compliance, financial accountability and control.

The launch of Windows 10 is yet another reminder for organisations that they must equip themselves for continual and ever-accelerating change and not get caught out by vendors who are leveraging agile software development as a means of constantly improving their software. Automating and centralising Application Readiness best practice processes are essential for IT organisations to ensure that the software estate is future-proof; and that the right technology is supporting the business and helping it achieve its strategic goals. Not doing so may almost be reckless in today’s evolving technology landscape – the price of inefficiency and unavailability of tools for the business quite conceivably has the potential to directly impact enterprises’ bottom lines.