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Windows 7 end of life culminates on Jan. 14, 2020, so IT admins should plan to adapt to these changes.
Microsoft ended mainstream support for Windows 7 five years ago and was clear about the impending Windows 7 end of life deadline in January 2020. Organizations have had plenty of advanced warning to transition from Windows 7, but if they did not complete this IT project, they should explore their options.
Options for IT pros
IT pros currently have two last-resort options for continuing to run Windows 7 until January 2023:
- Purchase Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU), a per-device-based Microsoft service that will continue to provide security updates to Windows 7 desktops
- Run Windows 7 VMs as part of the Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) service with ESU hosted in Azure
Citrix Managed Desktops and VMware Horizon Cloud on Azure are extensions of WVD, so Windows 7 VMs are also supported under these services.
The upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10 is relatively painless. The Windows 7 end of life deadline, however, will force IT departments to make some decisions. In the short term, paying for Windows 7 ESUs isn't excessively painful at $50 per machine for Professional and Ultimate versions and $25 per machine for the Enterprise version. These costs, however, double during the second year and then double again in the third year. In addition to CIOs motioning to upgrade Windows 7, there will be a financial push as well.
Windows 7 VDI pros and cons
Organizations that were on the fence about VDI may take the plunge with Windows 7 end of life and adopt either WVD or Citrix Managed Desktops with Windows 7 VMs. IT can transition the Windows 7 user desktop to an Azure VM and provide the user with a thin client device or adopt a BYOD program. Then, the IT department is no longer laden with the support aspects of physical desktops and their operating systems.
This may sound easy and appealing, but IT must address a few moving parts to make this happen. Organizations must first adopt WVD or the Citrix-VMware-related services and then learn about this new functionality during the conversion process. IT will not likely complete the other steps within a week or two, especially in large organizations.
Nonetheless, Microsoft has planted the concept that virtual desktops provide additional benefits. Yes, VDI addresses many use cases, but IT staff is still required to implement and maintain these systems. Organizations must consider everything from the initial deployment to provisioning, application installation, updates and security.
As VDI continues to become more streamlined, adoption will increase. When VDI was in its infancy, there were many subsystems; a failure in just one of those subsystems would cause extensive issues that were often difficult to troubleshoot.
Today, WVD and the related services from Citrix and VMware significantly simplify VDI. Some of the subsystems are integrated or no longer necessary. Analytics and monitoring enable IT administrators to resolve issues much faster as well. These services have only been available for a few months, but they will likely advance the use of virtual desktops in the cloud and may cause VDI to become mainstream.