For smaller companies, migrating to evergreen IT can be relatively simple, but the process becomes more challenging for enterprises, as their IT structure and operations are inevitably more complex. The latest operating system (OS) from Microsoft Windows* 10 – takes an evergreen approach to IT where major feature updates are rolled out periodically, similar to software patches. Using Windows-as-a-service enables businesses to cut down on upgrade disruption while remaining agile. With support for Windows* 7 scheduled to end on 14 January 2020, upgrading to Windows* 10 is rapidly becoming a necessity – and the earlier the FSI businesses start the process, the better.
“More than 95 percent of the upgrades went smoothly, with our users giving the procedure positive reviews”
In 2016, Intel made the strategic decision to switch to Windows* 10 across the entire enterprise. The company currently supports three Windows operating systems, but the goal is to move everything to Windows* 10 so that it can be managed more efficiently.
Deploying Windows* 10 also gives Intel a strong foundation for the smooth adoption of cloud-friendly IT services and the OS-as-a-service model. What’s more, it allows for faster, more efficient upgrades. Intel is using a self-service upgrade process that saves valuable time for the employees having their machines upgraded, as well as for the IT technicians not having to service them. Intel has already upgraded more than 100,000 devices to the latest versions of Windows* 10 multiple times using this self-service method and plans to have almost its entire fleet running Windows* 10 by the end of 2019.
Currently, Intel has more than 117,000 devices on Windows* 10, the majority of which are based on 6th and 7th Gen Intel® Core™ vPro™ processors. Intel also used the PC refresh process to give refresh-eligible users a new machine alongside the new OS. In the case of PC Refresh, Intel staff were also able to keep their existing PC whilst their new PC was configured and data/personalisation completed.
“Before we introduced our new upgrade process, employees needed to turn their PC over to IT to receive an operating system (OS) upgrade,” explains Malvina Nisman, Windows* 10 Product Manager for Intel's IT End-User Computing and Collaboration organisation, in a blog post. “Not only was this labor intensive and time consuming, it caused our employees anxiety.
This was due to the fact that more than 3,000 enterprise applications are in use at Intel. And our employees knew that application incompatibility issues, caused by the upgrade, could prevent them from getting back to work.”
That is why application readiness practices, including centralised tracking, standardised testing environment, and strong vendor relationships, were essential in Intel’s adoption of the OS-as-a-service model. It’s important that moves towards ecosystem readiness are taken as early as possible - early engagement and early testing are key to success. For much of its application compatibility testing, Intel used virtual machines running in its data centres. This sped up testing for application owners, without the need to provide them with new hardware or multiple systems. In addition, the virtual machines will also support automated application compatibility testing in future.
In order to ensure a streamlined upgrade process, Intel used a phased approach to testing, as described in an IT@Intel white paper “Advancing the User Experience with Intel® architecture-based Laptops and Microsoft Windows* 10”. For in-place self-service upgrades from Windows* 8.1 to Windows* 10, almost a dozen small proofs of concept (PoC) were completed. Testing was then expanded to around 200 users before the accessible and user-friendly upgrade process was rolled out to several thousand devices. Using monitoring tools during these testing phases, Intel found that the failure rate for all self-service upgrades from Windows* 8.1 was less than 5 percent.
A similar test was carried out for the upgrade from an earlier release of Windows* 10 to the latest version, which included several PoCs and a pilot study of around 3,000 users. After successful testing, the process was rolled out to more than 40,000 users in 2017 and expanded to over 100,000 users in 2018. This phased method is enabling Intel to complete a smooth transition to the new OS.
“Developing our self-service, in-place upgrade process for Windows* 10 required multiple phases: Phase 1 (early adopters), Phase 2 (limited deployment), Phase 3 (general availability), and Phase 4 (standard on all devices),” said Nisman. “We are now in Phase 3.”
Speed and flexibility are both major benefits of the new upgrade process which delivers an improved user experience across the board. While a typical IT technician-assisted OS upgrade takes at least half a day, a self-service upgrade can be completed in just 60 to 90 minutes. “Because it is a self-service process, Intel employees can choose when and where they upgrade their PC,” said Nisman. “They can run it at the office while they go to lunch, and come back and resume their work, or they can run it on their laptop when they’re at home.”
What’s more, the expanded Microsoft* servicing cycle for Windows* 10 is a positive development. This used to be set at just 18 months for previous versions of the OS but has been increased to 30 months for Windows* 10, significantly reducing the pain points of the shorter cycle.
Having already experienced the upgrade to Windows* 10, Intel is well placed to share their story with FSI businesses during their own migration to evergreen IT.
“More than 95 percent of the upgrades went smoothly, with our users giving the procedure positive reviews,” said Nisman. “By going through multiple phases, we learned how to improve the process and we have much more to share.”
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