Path to Windows 7 – Part III. Application Compatibility
One of the main reasons why companies are delaying their migration from Windows XP to Windows 7 is the lack of compatibility with business critical applications, and sometime it can be a show stopper. There are a few tools and application delivery mechanism that can solve those issues.
Now that we have a complete inventory and rationalized our applications with MAP and Centrix WorkSpace iQ, we are left with a list of application that will be delivered to the Windows 7 users. The next step is to assess the compatibility of those applications on Windows 7 and on the platform that will deliver the application. There are a few different options here. The first decision to make is “32 or 64 bit” version of Windows 7, this decision will imply changes on the application compatibility results. The recommended platform is 64 bit, and it is recommended to companies without a complex application stack and even more important, no legacy applications.
The second decision is on how to deliver the applications. Will it be installed directly to the physical machine through a MSI? Will it be virtualized with App-V and delivered via streaming? Will it be installed on a Remote Desktop pool and the application will be delivered through presentation virtualization? This is also important, as standards for compatibility for App-V and Servers are different from the OS.
Some of the new security features introduced in Windows Vista and Windows 7 may cause the lack of compatibility. Common issues are Session Zero Isolation, 16 bit components, legacy drivers, hardcoded paths, and application that require to run as administrator. There are different ways to test for application compatibility. Microsoft has a very nice tool called ACT – Application Compatibility Toolkit that will help you run applications on a Standard User Mode (non-admin). It will flag all the issues that are preventing the application to run correctly to help you fix the issues. It will also provide a list of potential fixes and will work with Shims.
But the process with ACT can be very lengthy and painful as the amount of information provided is low the tasks are very manual. An alternative is to use AppTitude by App-DNA (now part of Citrix). App-Titude allows you to import applications and it will run code and behaviour analysis based on the application’s MSI. It will run compatibility analysis and give you results for Windows 7, 64 bit, App-V, XenApp, Server 2008, Server 2008 R2. It will also help you choosing the best option to deploy that application, physical, virtual or hosted on a server. All the results are displayed on a RAG status and in case it is amber or red it will give you remediation guidelines, suggest shims and even propose auto fixes with MSTs. App-Titude will also automate packaging for App-V to help you accelerate the deployment. The greatest advantage of this tool is that you can send all the application that come out as Green straight to UAT and focus your packaging team on the applications that require remediation. It will also tell you how complex it is to fix a specific app so you can easily manage your internal resources or take the decision to use an external packager for that.
Internet Explorer compatibility is also something worth looking at. Some websites where coded a long time ago and might have components that will not run on Internet Explorer 8 or 9. AppTitude can handle analysis of web applications. Another way to solve web application issues is Browsium, a nice piece of software that integrates legacy browser tabs on your current Internet Explorer version, so you can run web application in IE6 mode inside IE9.
There are other methods to solve compatibility issues. For very small companies or departments, you can use Med-V, but you will still need to manage the Windows XP running under Windows 7 and it will also be out of support soon.
Dealing with applications is the lengthiest process on the path to Windows 7 and that is the main reason why you should at it sooner rather than later on the migration journey. The next step is to consider how to deliver Windows 7 to the end user.
ACT – Application Compatibility Toolkit