The Case For Supporting Always Up-To-Date Operating Systems

Executive Summary Delivering applications to enterprise customers is a perennial challenge, but software vendors face greater demands than ever as customers expect new capabilities to be delivered on a regular basis. As enterprise customers embrace the mobile channel and migrate to public cloud platforms, they still expect up-to-date support for existing applications. Rapid updates of cloudbased software services and mobile apps are leading enterprise decision makers to expect more frequent security updates, seamless integration with an expanding technology stack, and consistent, fast application support for operating systems (OS) updates across devices. In response, we see software vendors...
Executive Summary Delivering applications to enterprise customers is a perennial challenge, but software vendors face greater demands than ever as customers expect new capabilities to be delivered on a regular basis. As enterprise customers embrace the mobile channel and migrate to public cloud platforms, they still expect up-to-date support for existing applications. Rapid updates of cloudbased software services and mobile apps are leading enterprise decision makers to expect more frequent security updates, seamless integration with an expanding technology stack, and consistent, fast application support for operating systems (OS) updates across devices. In response, we see software vendors working to accelerate their release cadence while overcoming previous challenges with compatibility and testing, which slow the application update process. One emerging approach to speed up and simplify the delivery of application updates borrows from software-as-a-service (SaaS) design principles. Software vendors and enterprise IT professionals alike are moving increasingly to SaaS delivery, first with web-based tools and, more recently, with operating systems. These cloud-connected operating systems deliver benefits such as a reduced training and deployment burden when delivering incremental changes, fewer breaking changes, lower dependencies, upto-date security capabilities, and new subscription-based billing models. Cloud-enabled client operating systems — which receive a regular cadence of security and feature updates — keep systems current and reduce the support window for older versions of operating systems. In May 2017, Microsoft commissioned Forrester Consulting to evaluate adoption and usage trends of cloud-enabled operating systems among software vendors. Forrester conducted an online survey of 308 IT decision makers at medium to large software vendors in North America and EMEA to explore this topic. KEY FINDINGS ›› Software vendors now favor frequent updates over periodic overhauls. In order to keep up with their competitors and provide regular value to customers, a majority of software vendors are moving from major releases toward smaller and less disruptive updates delivered using accelerated release cycles. ›› Providing support for legacy operating systems is a significant challenge. The biggest barrier software vendors face to faster releases is the amount of testing and support required for many versions of supported operating systems. When only half of enterprise customers are on the latest operating systems, software vendors find it difficult to reduce the matrix of operating systems and devices that they test against. ›› “Always up-to-date” client operating systems reduce support complexity and provide measurable business benefits. Software vendors see how operating systems-as-a-service offerings produce value by reducing application upgrade complexity and improving quality through frequent service updates, reduced dependencies, and streamlined testing processes, among other benefits. 1 | The Case For Supporting Always Up-To-Date Operating Systems Software Vendors Are Shifting From Major Releases To Frequent Updates Software vendors feel perennial pressure to innovate to keep pace with their customers and competitors as each adopts new technologies — 62% rank “increasing innovation” and 61% rank “adopting new technologies as fast as our customers” among their top five company initiatives for the next year. If customers accelerate adoption of new software and operating systems, software vendors must respond. Our study found that: ›› Software vendors are accelerating their release cycles. The modern release cycle for the typical independent software vendor (ISV) includes annual major version releases, minor update releases every two to three months, and quality fixes/patches even more frequently, as needed. These smaller, frequent updates are not only necessary to keep up with advancements in technology but are also critical for customers to perceive value from their annual support contracts, which represent a significant portion of revenue for many software vendors. Almost half of our respondents (47%) indicated that accelerating release cycles is one of their top five priorities in the next year (see Figure 1). Figure 1 “To what extent will your company prioritize the following initiatives in the next year?” (Percentages represent respondents who ranked each initiative in their top five.) 62% Increasing innovation 61% Adopting new technologies as fast as our customers 57% Improving our technical competencies 54% Growing our customer base 50% Staying compatible with the latest builds 47% Accelerating our release cycles 47% Staying in compliance with security requirements 45% Growing our channel partner network 44% Building an open dialogue with our channel Base: 308 IT decision makers at medium to large ISVs in North America and EMEA Source: A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Microsoft, May 2017 2 | The Case For Supporting Always Up-To-Date Operating Systems Increasing innovation and keeping up with customers are top priorities for the next year.
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