The Ascent of Windows 7

Blog Post created by chuck on May 6, 2013
Sub-title: Time to upgrade our PI System's operating systems

February 2012 saw Windows 7 surpass Windows XP as the most widely used computer operating system in the world. At that time Windows 7 accounted for 42% of global desktop and laptop operating system usage. A year ago, Windows XP had slipped to less than 39%.

Gartner was estimating by end of July 2012, 60% of all computers in the world would be running Windows 7. In February 2012, Vista had already slipped to 10% or less of installed operating system base for desktops and laptops. (In the process industries it appears many companies skipped Vista - going directly from Windows XP to Windows 7.)

Microsoft mainstream support for Windows XP ended on April 2009. We all face end of Microsoft's extended support in April 2014. Is this a hardship, for some of our PI systems, yes, but perhaps it shouldn't be. Windows XP was initially released in October 2001. Windows XP SP3 is now required by many software vendors - Windows XP SP3 has been available to developers since before April 2008. Windows 7 has been shipping since 2009.

As I write this it has been a couple years since we could buy a new computer with Windows XP pre-installed from the factory. New computers we buy may have some problems running Windows XP due to lack of hardware drivers and so forth.

Fortunately most instrument system vendors already have available support for newer hardware and operating systems. We don't have to wait for end of Microsoft support before moving forward to upgrade our underlying hardware or the software systems we depend on for our plant operations, safety, quality, and information systems.

There is an opportunity cost for not maintaining and updating of our process and plant information systems. The longer we defer maintenance, the more expensive such maintenance and related improvement projects become.

When we talk about the PI System - the PI infrastructure becomes more performant and embraces more features and functionality with each major release. As you upgrade PI and the underlying interfaces and client applications, you are also moving forward.

When upgrading operating systems of the PI System - don't forget the interface nodes. These critical nodes collect and buffer data, protecting the data against loss. Yes, in some cases the interface nodes are also nodes with software from our instrument system vendors - don't forget to upgrade these software (and hardware) also. Involve and plan these upgrades with the instrument vendor.

Our IT organizations in most cases are already moving our desktop and laptop operating systems forward. Use these upgrades as an opportunity to upgrade to newer PI client software releases supported by those operating systems your IT department are deploying.

In our connected world, security should be a concern - newer operating systems and products like OSIsoft's PI 2012 are much more hardened and more secure than products from just a few years ago.

Sustaining availability of your data and system should be a concern. Skillsets to maintain and use legacy systems become fewer and harder to maintain over time. Simple failures or errors which were easy to fix a few years ago have fewer accessible resources to bring to bear today.

Garner Research:

ARRL QST, "Ecclectic Technology", May 2012, page 59