Well, hopefully you’ve begun the process of evaluating, testing, and deploying Windows Vista in your organization. With a year of a maturing ecosystem and continuous updates through Windows Update, many IT Pros have concluded the time is right to get going on their Windows Vista adoption.
So the question with SP1 is, should it change the way you approach Windows Vista adoption?
While it has become accepted wisdom to wait until the first service pack release to broadly adopt any software into your infrastructure, we have been guiding IT Pros to begin the process of testing and adopting Windows Vista as soon as practical. Many organizations are already experiencing the advantages in security and manageability, and for those holding off, SP1 now represents a great opportunity to move forward. So while the quick answer to the question above is “no,” we believe it is critical that you understand how SP1 changes the adoption equation for Windows Vista, and take another look at the advantages of updating your desktop infrastructure.
With the Springboard Series of articles and guidance, we strive to make the complex process of adopting Windows Vista a little easier—and if you ever catch us saying that deploying a major operating system is easy, then shame on us!
How far has Windows Vista come since its launch?
In addition, the past fourteen months have allowed the Windows ecosystem to mature, with over 2,500 applications and over 15,000 devices to earn either the ‘Works with Windows Vista’ or ‘Certified for Windows Vista’ logo—and also with 98 or the 100 top selling applications and 46 of the top 50 downloaded applications on Download.com now compatible with Windows Vista.
Windows Update has also been a great resource for understanding which device drivers were needed, and targeting the efforts of developers at Microsoft and Partners. When a new device is connected to a Windows Vista PC, the OS automatically polls Windows Update for the available driver. If the driver isn’t currently available, it alerts us, so we can identify the most requested drivers and work with our hardware partners to provide them. Since the original Windows Vista launch, the number of additional drivers on Windows Update grew from 13,000 to more than 54,000.
The result is that today, adopting Windows Vista into your infrastructure is smoother and less painful—though we will admit, any major OS deployment will carry some pain along with it. Our goal is to minimize the pain and provide guidance that will help ensure a successful deployment for you and your clients.
So What’s New in SP1?
As with any Service Pack release, Windows Vista SP1 incorporates all previously released updates to help protect your PCs and reduce disruption. We actually scored pretty well here; Windows Vista had less than half the security vulnerabilities after its first year in market than Windows XP, and fewer than any other operating system available today. That said, we still had work to do, and automated delivery tools available (such as Windows Update, WSUS, SMS or third-party tools) helped ensure that PCs running Windows Vista were able to stay current prior to availability of SP1.
As you look at Windows Vista SP1, there are five areas where IT Pros should focus on—for both reasons to move forward, and issues to understand.
These areas of consideration are:
Let’s discuss these one at a time, and cover how SP1 should factor in your deployment plans. Information that is more detailed is available in the TechNet article, “ Notable Changes in Windows Vista Service Pack 1 Release Candidate.”
Consideration #1: Quality Improvements in SP1
The input we garner from the automated tools embedded in Windows Vista—the Customer Experience Improvement Program and Windows Error Reporting—helps us to pinpoint which applications crash and why. While sometimes the issue is with Microsoft code, other times the problem is from a third-party application. Regardless, this information helps ensure quick identification and remediation by Microsoft or our partners. SP1 addresses the most common causes of crashes and hangs in Windows Vista, providing a more robust environment.
In addition to this basic reliability improvement, Windows Vista SP1 goes further by providing fixes that address:
Windows Vista SP1 incorporates improvements to PC performance that will help the client experience:
Consideration #2: Administration Changes
For the IT Pro, Windows Vista SP1 changes the way some administrative tasks are managed, and extends the capability of BitLocker drive encryption:
Consideration #3: Support for Emerging Hardware Technologies and Standards
Windows Vista SP1 adds support for several emerging hardware technologies and industry standards, extending capability for new devices and ensuring Windows Vista is future ready:
Consideration #4: Application and Hardware Compatibility
With few exceptions, the applications you have been testing with Windows Vista RTM will maintain compatibility with Windows Vista SP1. Where possible, SP1 adds shims to make applications that were not compatible with Windows Vista RTM now compatible with Windows Vista SP1. And as pointed out before, the ecosystem of applications has matured greatly since the original Windows Vista release, helping ensure the challenges of compatibility will be reduced and more manageable. However, there will continue to be some applications that remain incompatible with Windows Vista SP1 due to architectural changes, such as User Account Control (UAC) and the new driver model; or because they were written using unsupported techniques, such as using undocumented APIs.
Hardware requirements are also unchanged, though with a year of driver development and updates to the code, you should find fewer hardware compatibility issues when you survey your infrastructure. A new tool available from Microsoft makes this assessment even easier—the Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) accelerator allows you to scan the PCs in your organization to determine Windows Vista compatibility and performance expectations of your current hardware, and capture granular information on what upgrades might be necessary.
Windows Vista SP1 does have larger image sizes, especially for versions with Multilanguage packs. SP1 is available in three formats:
Installation of the integrated format can require significant disc space for installation. Most of this space can be reclaimed after the installation:
Offline servicing is a new capability of Windows Vista that allows hotfixes and updates to be applied offline to a captured .wim file. Since the servicing stack—the portion of code responsible for updating the OS—needs to be updated as part of this upgrade, Windows Vista SP1 can’t be applied to offline Windows Vista images. However, updates prior to and after SP1 will support offline servicing. Please see the Windows Vista SP1 Deployment Guide for a complete description of options and requirements.
Consideration #5: Deployment process Guidance
So what guidance are we recommending for adoption Windows Vista with SP1? If you have begun the process of testing, piloting and deploying Windows Vista, we recommend you continue as planned. When the SP1 update becomes available, you can stream that into the process without disruption.
While there are several improvements and enhancements to the Windows Vista operating system, those who have begun testing, piloting and deploying Windows Vista should carry on and roll the SP1 code in based on the guidance above. For those who have been waiting for SP1 to begin the process, well, now there are no more excuses!
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