Time is finally running out for Windows XP, with fewer than 1 000 days of Microsoft support left.

Across the world, companie are accelerating their migration to modern desktops powered by Windows 7 – and they are also looking more closely at desktop virtualisation.

These are some of the key findings of a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Dimension Data on the desktop virtualisation market. Of the 546 organisations that were surveyed, close to half (46%) said that they had begun “aggressive efforts” to migrate to Windows 7, with a further 17% planning to deploy within the next year.

While 13% of companies said they had completed their enterprise-wide migrations, 51% of IT managers surveyed said they have linked their Windows 7 migrations to their organisation’s PC refresh cycle. Around 21% of enterprises are prioritising desktop and application virtualisation over their Windows 7 upgrade, and 29% are deliberately overlapping their investments in Windows 7 and desktop virtualisation.

Bradley Bunch, GM: Microsoft Solutions at Dimension Data Middle East & Africa, says organisations that haven’t initiated plans to migrate to Windows 7 are under increasing pressure to beat the Windows XP end-of-support deadline.

“Of somewhat greater concern is the fact that independent software vendors (ISVs) will soon discontinue developing applications for Windows XP, while hardware vendors support drivers other than those designed for XP,” he says.

Of those organisations surveyed, 22% said they do not have a Windows 7 deployment plan in place, and another 13% are uncertain how long their deployments will take. Most of the respondents confirmed that they still support a large population of Windows XP and Vista users (47.3% and 9.1% respectively) compared to 31% of users already on Windows 7.

With the use of desktop virtualisation predicted to grow significantly in the next two years, Bunch believes Windows 7 is an ideal opportunity for organisations to implement a next-generation desktop that is more secure and streamlined to deliver end-users with the functionality, interface and access they desire.

“With the proliferation of devices comes the increasing cost of running and supporting multiple devices, which drives the move to application virtualisation. Before defining their future desktop roadmaps, organisations must also understand their business drivers, workforce demands, and the state of their application ecosystem,” Bunch says.

While the research indicates that the major drivers behind desktop virtualisation are cost reduction and security, 47% of participants said they recognised that applications virtualisation will help them migrate to Windows 7.

“To reduce complexity, organisations would be advised to tie virtualisation investments into their Windows 7 migration plan,” he says.