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Windows 7 Migration: Formulating a Smart Application Compatibility Testing and Remediation Strategy
How to Leverage Tools from Flexera Software and Microsoft to Speed Application Readiness

Windows 7 Migrat ion: Formulat ing a Smart Applicat ion Compat ibility Test ing and Remediat ion Strategy

Windows 7 Migration: Formulating a Smart Application Compatibility Testing and Remediation Strategy
Application Compatibility Testing: The Right Plan Needs the Right Tools
Since the release of Microsoft® Windows 7® in October 2009, enterprise migration to the new operating system (OS) has achieved solid “mainstream” status. Worldwide, this migration is a technology event of unprecedented proportions. According to IDC, there were 435 million genuine (non-pirated) copies of Windows XP in use at the end of 2009. As support for XP comes to an end, migrating to the Windows 7 operating system is the strategy of many organizations. According to a recent survey conducted by IDC, 89% of those companies surveyed said that they have definitive plans to begin a migration in a 24-month period.1 However, compared to other large-scale technology migrations of the past, the move to Windows 7 at most organizations is not a single, enterprise-wide “forklift” transition. For example, a recent Windows 7 Application Migration survey by Flexera Software2 shows that the majority of organizations (54%) are completing their migration either by business unit or geography, or as part of a hardware refresh. Only 18% of the survey’s enterprise respondents are approaching the task as a single migration project. Application compatibility is the biggest concern of most enterprises This phased approach removes the constraints of managing enterprise Windows 7 migrations as a monolithic project. But regardless of how quickly or slowly Windows 7 may be rolled out across an enterprise, best practices demonstrate that application compatibility testing should be completed before each individual migration starts. The Flexera Software survey further indicates that some 70% of respondents have begun, or plan to begin, application compatibility testing up to six months before the Windows 7 OS is rolled out to users.3 Clearly, application compatibility testing plans made today will impact the downstream ease, and cost, of executing this major project. Application compatibility is, in fact, a big part of the total scope of a Windows 7 migration project – which causes a high level of concern in enterprise IT organizations. For example, industry research released in 2010 showed that, among survey respondents, 86% were concerned about software compatibility (both packaged and internally developed applications), consistent with similar levels of concern (88%) expressed in 2009.4

1. The survey gathered responses from 390 IT professionals in North America. Excerpted from, “Migrating to Windows 7? Technology Points to Consider,” IDC Technology Spotlight, September 2010. 2. Windows 7 Application Migration Survey performed by Flexera Software in September 2010. The respondents comprised 776 IT professionals at organizations in Europe and North America. 3. Ibid. 4. “Windows 7 Adoption: A Survey of Technology Professionals,” Dimensional Research, January 2010.


Windows 7 Migrat ion: Formulat ing a Smart Applicat ion Compat ibility Test ing and Remediat ion Strategy

The application compatibility challenge affects not only desktop applications but also Web applications since Windows Internet Explorer 8 & 9 are the only Microsoft browsers available in the Windows 7 operating system. Internet Explorer 8 & 9 uses new rendering and scripting engines, which are the core elements that Windows Internet Explorer uses to display HTML and CSS content and run scripts. These changes can introduce application compatibility issues when migrating applications to Internet Explorer 8 & 9 from a previous browser version. Compounding the pressure IT organizations feel is the extensive amount of time required to test applications manually. Even assuming only one day of testing time per application, many experienced IT teams are challenged to scope the size of their Windows 7 application compatibility project. With this one-day testing benchmark, enterprises with 2,000-3,000 applications could face up to nine person-years of testing time requirements – a commitment that’s simply not feasible in today’s resource-constrained environment. A streamlined approach to Application Readiness To speed the migration to Windows 7 and implement a best practices approach, many enterprises are adopting a six-step plan to quickly achieve Application Readiness. As indicated in Figure 1 below, the six steps comprise: Identify, Rationalize, Assess Compatibility, Plan, Fix & Package, and Deploy. This paper focuses on two critical steps that, leveraging automation, can dramatically speed overall migration: Assess Compatibility, and Fix & Package. Complementary solutions: Flexera Software AdminStudio Application Compatibility* and Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) Clearly, assessing compatibility helps organizations scope and budget the migration project – a “must” to

allow enterprises to accurately allocate time and resources for the “Assess Compatibility” stage. AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack and Microsoft ACT are two complementary tools that can help an IT organization determine exactly what budget and staff resources are required. Again, automation is the key concept, since it drives significant savings of time, cost and IT resources. AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack and Microsoft ACT analyze application compatibility as follows: • AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack, part of the Flexera Software AdminStudio Suite, uses static analysis to automatically test application compatibility. Static analysis analyzes the application package configuration and binary file data. Static analysis does not require the configuration, installation or utilization (running) of an application. Rather, it uses codified algorithms to profile applications, and then provides rapid assessment of potential application compatibility issues. • Microsoft ACT uses dynamic analysis as the process for application compatibility testing. Dynamic analysis requires that ACT run in the background on a user’s computer and applications are monitored to get feedback on their compatibility with Windows 7. In addition to application compatibility assessment, in the Fix & Package stage, these tools respectively address the two most common components of Windows 7 compatibility issues: • Issues with the installation package: For example, AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack can quickly identify and automatically remediate an application package with an installation process

Process Management and Repport ing

Identify deployed and used applicat ions Eliminate duplicate applications Determine suitability for migration/upgrade Plan migration in line wit h business objectives Convert applications to required format Deploy packaged applications

Rationalize Assess Compatibility Plan Fix & Package Deploy

Figure 1: A structured, six-step approach to Application Readiness speeds the move to Windows 7 while reducing costs.

Windows 7 Migrat ion: Formulat ing a Smart Applicat ion Compat ibility Test ing and Remediat ion Strategy

issue, or components that are incompatible with Windows 7. For example, in applications where certain areas of the disk and registry are protected, causing them to be incompatible with Windows 7, the AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack can remediate the problem automatically by generating a standard MSI transform in seconds. • Issues with application code: Both AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack and Microsoft ACT identify application code that will fundamentally not run on Windows 7 without developer intervention. These issues are sometimes remediated with shims5 or by returning the code to the application developer. By applying the right tools during the right phase of the Application Readiness process, enterprises can migrate to Windows 7 quickly and cost-effectively. The Flexera Software AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack, in particular, can help IT organizations automatically ensure that over 95% of their applications are ready for Windows 7.6 Proper tools and procedures help ensure that thirdparty packaged applications and internally developed applications are all ready to go live on Windows 7. As Chris Jackson (“The App Compat Guy”), a Principal Consultant and the Technical Lead of the Microsoft Windows Application Experience SWAT Team, prescribes, “In the end, a balance between … [automated] tools … and manual effort is what most people end up doing to build the plan that really works for them. Bringing it all together, you can build the optimal mix of low cost and reduced risk during an app compat project.” 7

• For application code issues, both AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack and Microsoft ACT contain tools and documentation to evaluate runtime compatibility issues. Microsoft ACT provides an approach to mitigating these before deploying applications on Windows 7 through using shims. AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack: An overview AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack significantly reduces the time and effort involved in a migration to Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, and Internet Explorer 8 & 9 by automatically assessing and fixing application compatibility issues. With over 10,000 automated checks for Windows 7 compatibility and autoresolution of 98% of installation package related issues, AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack simplifies scoping and delivery of a Windows 7 migration. Beyond Windows 7 migration projects, AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack handles new application requests and tests Web-based applications for their compatibility with Internet Explorer 8 & 9 to reduce the cost of day-to-day IT operations. AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack is part of the AdminStudio Suite, which powers an enterprise’s Application Readiness process for migrations to Windows 7, application virtualization and day-to-day application packaging operations. How AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack works: “Vast and fast” In simplest terms, AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack allows enterprises to test and remediate applications without having to load or install them. Instead, it tests the installation package and application code for issues that would manifest, if the application were installed and run on Windows 7. First, fully automated, AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack analyzes the application installation package to check for compatibility issues with Windows 7, without a requirement to perform the actual installation. It also scans application binaries for potential compatibility issues which could occur at the application’s runtime. Next, it then generates a status list of the scanned applications, labeling them as either: • Red = Likely to be incompatible due to an application code issue, with no automated remediation available • Amber = Likely to be incompatible, but with an installation package issue, likely to have an automated remediation option available • Green = No known compatibility issues; will likely run without remediation.

Formulating an Application Compatibility Game Plan: Solution Overview

AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack and Microsoft ACT present two different, highly complementary functions in application compatibility testing. Each product offers unique strengths: • With a focus on installation package issues, AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack reduces the manual effort, and thus the overall cost, of the migration project. It scans both installation package and application code issues to automatically determine if an application will be incompatible with Windows 7, and can then automatically remediate many of these issues with MSI transforms. A transform is a collection of changes applied to an MSI installation without modifying the original source file. For most applications, this fast, low-effort approach is ideal.


5. Shims are pieces of program code that simulate the behavior of older versions of Windows for legacy applications that rely on incorrect or deprecated functionality, or correct the way in which improperly written applications call unchanged APIs. 6. See detailed analysis in Section II. 7. “What are the ACT Compatibility Evaluators Really Good For?”, Chris Jackson,, February 24, 2010.

Windows 7 Migrat ion: Formulat ing a Smart Applicat ion Compat ibility Test ing and Remediat ion Strategy

In this way, the AdminStudio solution can automatically test thousands of applications (“vast”) for potential Windows 7 compatibility issues in just minutes (“fast”), helping enterprise teams to quickly scope and address their application compatibility challenge. By comparison, testing applications manually, in the average enterprise environment, would require multiple person-years of time and resources. Fixing installation package issues with AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack tests for a broad range of potential installation package compatibility issues, automatically performing over 10,000 tests on each application. It allows common application compatibility problems to be quickly identified and remediated far faster than by manual evaluation methods, which can take several days. As detailed below, AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack offers the ability to automatically address 98% of installation package issues identified.8 Report Results Green Amber Red Initial Analysis 34% 61% 5% After Fixing 94% 1% 5%

remediating the top five application compatibility issues with Windows 7.9 Windows 7 Compatibility Issue Legacy Help Files Windows Resource File and Registry Issues UAC File Header Issues Custom Action Security Issues Legacy Control Panel Applet Security Issues % Applications Affected 36% 35% 24% 19% 13% % Fixable 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%

Figure 3: In extensive real-world testing, AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack completely and automatically remediating the top five application compatibility issues with Windows 7.

Testing with Flexera Software AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack helps ensure that 95% of applications will run on Windows 7. Additional AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack Solution Highlights • Multiple applications can be dragged-and-dropped into AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack, to speed the testing process • No limit to the number of applications that can be tested or fixed • Does not require applications to be installed as it looks through the actual files • Can be used to drive the budgeting process for the migration project • Provides detailed information on issues, to direct a packager or programmer • Ensures a consistent approach to testing for Windows 7 and Internet Explorer 8 & 9 compatibility issues

Figure 2: After analysis and fixing with AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack, an average of 94% of applications receive the “Green” designation and are ready for deployment. Another 1% are “Amber,” and thus have their compatibility issues identified. The remaining 5% of applications cannot be remediated by automated methods, and require further investigation.

AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack remediates the installation by generating a standard MSI transform in seconds. By applying a transform to a base installation package, the installer can add or replace data in the installation database. The installer can only apply transforms during an installation; during this process, the installer registers a list of transforms required by the product during the installation. The installer must apply these transforms to the product’s installation package when configuring or installing the product. AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack can autogenerate transform files to address installation issues, saving significant amounts of time over manual repair methods. The large decrease in Amber applications is of particular note. Here, AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack directly enables very significant cost and time savings, since otherwise these applications would have to be manually repaired. This auto-fixing removes the need for specialized, in-depth Windows 7 packaging skills to remediate issues. Furthermore, the table below illustrates AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack’s success in automatically
8, 9. Based on data from 200 Flexera Software Partner engagements over a 12-month period.

Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT): An overview

Microsoft ACT is a free toolkit that allows IT organizations to collect an inventory of applications and monitor actual users’ activity for potential application compatibility issues with Windows 7. It also has diagnostic tools for the most common set of potential problems, and the ability to mitigate certain application code issues using shims. Specifically, Microsoft ACT’s lightweight compatibility agents are deployed to a client’s production Windows XP computer to monitor and locate potential compatibility


Windows 7 Migrat ion: Formulat ing a Smart Applicat ion Compat ibility Test ing and Remediat ion Strategy

issues that would occur if an application were running on Windows 7. After deployment to the client computer, agents can run in the background for a specified interval, the default being three days. In doing so, testers identify some specific issues; the toolkit’s two main compatibility evaluators identify Session 0, Graphical Identification and Authentication (GINA) and deprecation errors as follows: 1. Windows Compatibility Evaluator (WCE): This diagnostic tool identifies potential compatibility issues due to deprecated components in the new operating system, GINA DLLs, and the isolation enforced for service applications. 2. User Account Control Compatibility Evaluator (UACCE): Identifies potential compatibility issues due to an application running under a Protected Administrator (PA) or Standard User (SU) account on the Windows Vista® or Windows 7 operating system. When running, UACCE monitors your running applications to verify interactions with the operating system and identify potentially incompatible activities. This component also applies shims. It should be noted that while providing some issue detection, the fact that Microsoft ACT runs on production PCs means it has to be very lightweight to avoid any performance impact to the user, and this limits the number of compatibility issues it can detect. The fidelity of issue detection can be greatly enhanced using automated testing solutions such as Flexera Software’s AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack. Finally, Microsoft ACT provides additional analysis tools that can help the remediation team to zero in on specific root cause analysis and create shims. Mitigating application code issues with Microsoft ACT Microsoft ACT can be used to apply shims to mitigate compatibility issues. This technique inserts remediation code between the application’s code and Windows 7 code, to enable redirection of file and registry writes, or to make changes to return codes from the operating system to the application – in effect “lying” to the application and overriding responses that would otherwise cause compatibility issues. For some runtime issues, shimming provides a convenient remedy, with the alternative being redeveloping the application itself. Shimming additionally addresses one of the most common application compatibility problems, caused by a requirement in Windows 7 that most users work in standard user mode instead of administrator mode. Because users in standard mode have fewer system rights, they are less likely to inadvertently install malware. But that also can cause compatibility problems with programs written for Microsoft XP that typically assumed users were running as administrators.

Shimming transparently communicates to the application that the user had administrator rights, or it simply bypasses the test. Since the user is still in standard user mode, no security is compromised, and no new application code needs to be rewritten. To Test or Not Test? Chris Jackson, of Microsoft Corporation, offers a simple formula: “Only the applications for which the cost of failure times the probability of failure is greater than the cost of testing should be further tested manually.”

Real World Testing Strategies: A Complementary Approach

Flexera Software AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack and Microsoft ACT each provide a unique value to application compatibility testing and remediation. The following action plan is applicable to most enterprises with 200 to 5,000 applications. Within the context of an overall six-step Application Readiness strategy, it illustrates how both methods can be used in a complementary fashion to address this model’s two key steps identified in Section I as being critical to speedy migration: Assess Compatibility, and Fix & Package. Phase 1: Gather information If there is not already a process in-place, Microsoft ACT can help provide an application inventory to assist IT organizations understand and rationalize their application assets, and decide which applications need to be migrated. Microsoft ACT’s compatibility evaluators can provide some limited issue detection at this point. Specifically, these runtime compatibility evaluators could be activated to run on the XP machine to identify common system calls that would cause issues on Windows 7. Phase 2: Analyze application installation package compatibility All applications that will be in production in the Windows 7 environment should be tested to make they will install and run, using the automated testing capabilities of AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack. The results of the automated testing provide reporting on which applications have compatibility issues with installation. AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack categorizes the applications as “Red” (likely to have compatibility issues installing or running on Windows 7 / 64-bit / etc.), “Amber” (likely to have compatibility issues, but a straightforward or automated solution is likely available) or “Green” (likely to have no issues), and gives detailed information on any potential issues detected.


Windows 7 Migrat ion: Formulat ing a Smart Applicat ion Compat ibility Test ing and Remediat ion Strategy

AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack provides a quick, comprehensive report of installation compatibility issues, giving IT organizations immediate visibility into the application migration challenge. This information is essential to be able to scope the migration project, request budget, and identify the resources required. Phase 3: Remediate installation issues AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack will automatically generate transform files to address the majority of the “Amber” installation issues identified in Phase 2, saving significant time over manual remediation methods. It also provides information that can be used to address runtime issues – an invaluable addition to Phase 4. Phase 4: Identify business-critical applications that require additional insight Only top mission-critical applications should be further tested manually, with testing and remediation supported by tools from Microsoft ACT. What is critical is ensuring that users are able to use the software to perform the actions and tasks critical to the business. This additional manual testing has a higher cost in terms of its associated infrastructure and required resources, but is justified in situations where the cost of application failure outweighs the cost of this testing. After these phases are completed, IT professionals will have a complete view of Windows 7 application compatibility issues. In sum, both AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack and Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit play critical roles in the Application Readiness process. Using the right tool at the right time saves significant manual effort. There still will be a certain level of manual effort, because user testing must be done, but it can be dramatically reduced if the proper application compatibility testing tools are used beforehand. The future: More compatibility testing While Windows 7 application compatibility testing is at the top of most enterprises’ compatibility testing agenda, Internet Explorer 8 & 9 and application virtualization compatibility are important ancillary testing issues that can also be addressed with Flexera Software AdminStudio Suite.


Even as Windows 7 migration enters the mainstream, application compatibility remains the top associated concern for enterprises around the world. With many companies relying on thousands of Windows-based applications for daily operations, an automated application compatibility testing strategy is essential for overall success in Application Readiness. An approach that addresses the two key Application Readiness steps of Assess Compatibility and Fix & Package can significantly accelerate application compatibility testing and: • Help to ensure an extremely high success rate with applications in the new environment • Save months of testing time, as well as potentially millions of dollars • Provide a repeatable, standardized process for ensuring continuous Application Readiness. As the leader in Application Readiness solutions for application migrations, Flexera Software’s AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack automates the process of assessing installation compatibility across hundreds or thousands of applications. AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack identifies and remediates installation package compatibility issues during the migration process, to dramatically reduce IT organizations’ migration project workload and costs. Flexera Software’s AdminStudio Application Compatibility Pack is complemented by Microsoft ACT, which can assess and remediate some applications’ Windows 7 runtime issues. Working together, both of these solutions address enterprises’ biggest concern with Windows 7 migration as quickly as possible, allowing IT organizations to have a high degree of confidence that applications will function, and function well, in the new Windows 7 user environment.

About Flexera Software

Flexera Software is the leading provider of strategic solutions for Application Usage Management; solutions delivering continuous compliance, optimized usage and maximized value to application producers and their customers. Flexera Software is trusted by more than 80,000 customers that depend on our comprehensive solutionsfrom installation and licensing, entitlement and compliance management to application readiness and enterprise license optimization - to strategically manage application usage and achieve breakthrough results realized only through the systems-level approach we provide. For more information, please go to:


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