Agencies uncertain about move to Vista
Transportation, Army and possibly others put holds on Vista to await testing results
Microsoft introduced the latest version of its operating system in grand fashion, with parties at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and other tony venues and the ever-present theme, “The ‘wow’ starts now.” But for many agencies the wow will come later rather than now.
At least two federal agencies have put an indefinite hold on moving to the Vista operating system, and others have set a cautious timetable for bringing Vista into their offices.
The early response to Vista suggests that the federal government could be slow to adopt the new operating system, even though it has been six years since Microsoft introduced a new version of Windows for desktop and laptop PCs.
The Interior Department put itself on a growing list of agencies, including the Army and the Transportation Department, that say they must develop implementation policies and complete their testing of Vista before abandoning Windows XP or older versions of Windows that already work in their information technology environments.
A draft memo obtained by Federal Computer Week indicates that Interior officials are considering telling bureau chief information officers and other IT managers that they should restrict their use of the Windows Vista operating system to testing in controlled, off-line environments. However, the memo also states that the department should begin preparing for its eventual deployment.
Interior is likely to require that newly purchased desktop and laptop PCs that are Vista-ready meet minimum operating system requirements and that any PCs with Vista already installed not be connected to the network.
DOT sent a similar memo to its bureaus earlier this month in which it placed a moratorium on using Vista, Office 2007 and Internet Explorer 7. The memo was first reported by Information Week March 2.
The memo cites the lack of a “compelling technical or business case for upgrading to these new Microsoft software products.” It goes on to state that “furthermore, there seem to be specific reasons not to upgrade.”
The Army is complying with a policy issued in a Defense Department memo that asks service members to avoid upgrading to Vista until the Air Force can finish analyzing how the operating systems will work with the Army’s standard PC configuration.
“We are expecting the Army’s Small Computer Program office to implement it as early as August,” said Kevin Carroll, who leads the service’s Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems. “We will get a gold master copy from Microsoft, and we will give it to our manufacturers to test for us as well.”
Carroll added that the Army, like most agencies, has been testing Vista for the past year.
Despite those signals that agencies will go slow in adopting Vista, Microsoft officials said there is momentum in the federal sector to upgrade.
“There are a significant number of agencies committed to deploying Vista in the near future,” said Patrick Svenburg, Microsoft’s Windows client solution specialist. “Most agencies have an enterprise agreement with Microsoft, and under that agreement, they have upgrade rights to software we produce,” he said. Under such agreements, agencies pay no additional licensing fees to upgrade to Vista.
“They must do an assessment of whether they must update their hardware or not, but they get the software as a part of their agreement,” he added.
Svenburg could not offer specific numbers about how many or which agencies are installing Vista. He said it is the company’s policy not to disclose information about its federal government clients.
He added that when it becomes a high enough priority, agencies will move to Vista in much the same way they moved to XP six years ago. For many, that might not be until 2008 or beyond.
At Microsoft’s Public Sector CIO Summit last month in Redmond, Wash., company officials discussed Vista’s features and said the new operating system will increase security and reduce IT operating costs.
Shanen Boettcher, Microsoft’s general manager for the Windows client, said organizations that have deployed Vista are seeing a significant return on investment. For example, it is helping them improve their help-desk operations by giving IT support employees more information so they can address issues more efficiently, he said.
Boettcher highlighted Vista’s security features, in particular a feature called BitLocker, which allows users to encrypt data on their desktop PCs. Federal agencies that are concerned about losing data must purchase other products that do encryption that is now part of the Windows operating system, he said.
Molly O’Neill, CIO at the Environmental Protection Agency, said she hasn’t thought much about Vista, and a General Services Administration official said GSA doesn’t plan to install Vista before 2008.
Scott Charbo, the Homeland Security Department’s CIO, said he doesn’t think DHS will be among the early adopters. Charbo said he hopes to complete the department’s upgrade to Vista by 2009. Christopher J. Dorobek contributed to this report.