TECHNOLOGIES: Windows 7 is Not Vista

A good operating system opens the door to the full scope of available computing technology without drawing too much attention to itself.

Aw 1856 1005 Tech
The recent attempts at new personal computer (PC) operating systems have left many users wanting. Windows Vista shortcomings are legendary and well documented, and Windows XP is now too far behind the hardware curve. With the arrival of Windows 7, Microsoft's customers and partners seem to agree that the software giant from Redmond, Wash., finally has it right.

"The jury is coming in with a positive verdict," says Keith Jones, marketing program manager, Wonderware HMI/SCADA products, at automation supplier Invensys Operations Management (www.invensys.com), Plano, Texas.

Manufacturing enterprise platform

The nonnegotiable requirements for any operating system are stability, security and performance. Windows 7 and Vista are based on the same kernel; their stability is well established. Security in Windows 7 is far more sophisticated than in XP and less obtrusive than it was in Vista. In terms of performance, Windows 7 is considerably faster than Vista, largely due to improved memory management. Windows 7 and XP, on the other hand, exhibit very similar desktop performance, which accounts for a certain amount of the nostalgia for XP.

"Convincing an XP desktop user to move to Windows 7 based on performance alone would be challenging," says Anil Parambath, vice president of global testing practice at CSS Corp. (www.csscorp.com), an information technology services provider based in San Jose, Calif. "But there is much more to Windows 7 than running traditional desktop applications, especially in manufacturing."

Industrial computing takes place on the desktop, whether on the shop floor, outdoors or in embedded systems. Accepting these locations as separate computing environments and then stitching them together into an enterprise system has always been an expensive and fragile compromise. One platform would simplify matters. "It's now possible and appealing to treat Windows Embedded, Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008 R2 as a single, extended platform," says Dave Lassiter, industry solutions director, Microsoft Corp. (www.microsoft.com). "Data exchange just becomes a lot easier."

Still, these are not easy times for any operating system.

Hardware is changing: 64‑bit is here; multiple-core processors are the norm. "The large number of processor cores, combined with virtualization, will push the use of remote desktop protocols ahead rapidly," says Rob Kambach, product manager for supervisory platforms and HMI portfolio at Invensys. "Windows 7 is ready for that. Server 2008 R2 comes with built‑in virtualization, and both the client and the server side can handle the hardware."

Software is changing. The importance of Web applications is undisputed, but they are morphing in ways that are difficult to predict. Rich content will be part of it, certainly. Service‑Oriented‑Architecture (SOA) will be important. Mobile devices will proliferate. Cloud computing will be everywhere in some form.

All of these developments add a fourth, nonnegotiable requirement for any viable operating system: flexibility, particularly when it comes to application development. "In terms of costs, deployment, and user experience, application development is at the center," says Russ Agrusa, president and chief executive officer of Iconics (www.iconics.com), a Foxborough, Mass.-based automation software supplier. "Application development has to deliver for all the scenarios that people are talking about now and that will develop tomorrow. If you build your code right, you can do that on Windows 7 with the .Net framework. That's our experience at Iconics."

The current situation is, therefore, complex and fluid. "At Invensys, we see the difficulties, the economy not least among them," says Jones. "But, frankly, Windows 7 elicits a sigh of relief. Our customers in industry are asking about our Windows 7 road map: our plans for taking advantage of this operating system's capabilities. It's refreshing to talk about the future."

Marty Weil, martyweil@charter.net, is an Automation World Contributing Writer.

Invensys Operations Management
www.invensys.com

CSS Corp.
www.csscorp.com

Microsoft Corp.
www.microsoft.com

Iconics
www.iconics.com

Subscribe to Automation World's RSS Feeds for Columns & Departments

More in Control