Worry About End of XP Support?

With Microsoft to Stop the Support of Windows XP, What About OS Updates?

By Control Design Staff

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Looking ahead, the test, measurement and controls industries are moving toward platform-based solutions, much like the mobile devices market did, as platforms provide value to both camps. Large organizations benefit from a more managed upgrade path, which minimizes risk, and smaller organizations can get to market faster by leveraging the ecosystem of tools available to bootstrap their efforts.

Sanjay Challa,
embedded software product manager,
National Instruments

Update Hardware If You Can
Waiting until you have a failure to review operating system (OS) upgrade options will only add pressure for a quick fix that might not provide the best solution for your long-term business needs. Depending on how well the application vendor planned for migration, application redeveloping and testing could be a lengthy process.

With Microsoft dropping support of Windows XP, it will become more difficult to find PC hardware that runs Windows XP. A hardware failure could result in equipment being down while applications are ported to new Microsoft operating systems.

In addition, Microsoft no longer will provide patches and updates for the operating system, meaning new security holes in XP will not be fixed. This could leave systems open to attack from outside parties with no fixes from Microsoft or third-party vendors to fix any vulnerabilities.

There are some important things to consider when updating an OS. Will the hardware support an upgrade to a new OS? Will my current applications support the new OS? If these applications will run on Windows 7 or Windows 8, then a hardware upgrade might be the easiest way to go because the application will not need to change.

However, lots of the Windows XP systems were in service long before Windows 7 came out and are using applications that don't support Window 7 OS. These applications would need hardware, OSs and application software updates, requiring conversion and adaptation of the application.

While not everyone must update today, it's something that you need to consider to reduce the chance for future problems.

Alan Cone,
product marketing manager,
Siemens Industry Sector

Don't Neglect Future Needs
There are two things to remember about Microsoft ending support of XP. First, the good news is XP won't magically stop working on April 9. Second, the bad news is that without support, MS will no longer issue any updates, patches or service packs, and XP has a bunch of "perpetual 0-days" on the way (see bit.ly/1ePU17j.)

To those who find XP's end of life (EOL) a moot point due to an "if it's not broken, don't fix it" mentality, realize that by not taking action, you could be preventing future action. If your company abides by a Kaizen strategy, where there is momentum towards continual improvement, realize that changing the computer image would be an extremely sensitive matter, as you would need to ensure that you don't submit yourself to new vulnerabilities and threats. Presumably, most users that would continue to use XP after the EOL would not be on an open network subject to outside threats, but if that were to ever change, there would be an imminent threat of attacks. A new theme within the control segment is this exact concept, known as future-proofing, by which a company makes decisions today that could potentially impact decisions a few years from now.

While this theme could more easily be exhibited with a computer feature such as multi-touch, it is still just as applicable with operating systems. However, we understand that continual improvement isn't necessarily a KPI, and there are costs, support and uncertainty paired with such an upgrade. The question at that point becomes whether or not the current stability outweighs the future potential of added functionality, efficiencies and long-term cost savings.

Dan Schaffer,
business development manager,
Eric Reichert,
product marketing specialist,
Phoenix Contact USA

Could Be Trouble If You Wait
If you choose to wait until your systems need to be replaced to migrate your OSs, you could be forced to support a mixed environment.

In the event that your hardware fails, you might have to perform a full system replacement, since many new components will not support XP. Both of these outcomes can be quite challenging and costly. Also, some sources have reported that malware and virus writers are hoarding their newest XP exploits until after April 8 — potentially causing serious security issues that could put your systems at risk.

Since Microsoft announced that April 8, 2014, will mark the end of extended support for Windows XP, all companies still using this outdated OS need to prepare for this change. After this date, no additional patches, bug fixes or service packs will be released, and users no longer will have access to free or paid technical support.

Systems running XP won't suddenly stop working on April 8, but they will become increasingly vulnerable and the source of additional problems — centered around security, cost, performance and sustainability. To raise awareness of this issue and educate the public on how to avoid the potential issues this could cause, CCS created a guide to help. 

Learn how to begin your preparations for the End of XP by accessing "The Industrial Guide to the End of XP." 

John Herndon,
engineering manager,
CCS

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