FROM: Jason Snyder, Chief Technology Officer, Commonwealth of Massachusetts

DATE: 5-24-2011 RE: Advisory Memorandum - Update regarding Microsoft Windows 7 and Internet Explorer v. 8.0

The Commonwealth Chief Technology Officer is updating the Advisory Memorandum published November 10, 2010 in response to updated information received by the Technology Office after publishing the referenced advisory.

The original advisory was provided in response to questions raised about the use of Microsoft's "Windows 7" (Win7) desktop operating system with Microsoft's "Internet Explorer 8" (IE8) for secretariat/agency desktop configurations. ITD recently conducted a survey of Enterprise System leaders and Secretariat CIOs to determine compatibility of applications with Win7 and IE8, as well as any security or accessibility concerns. Early feedback from this survey, as well as initial test results proved predominately favorable.

Based on preliminary testing, current industry practices, Commonwealth secretariat/agency feedback, and business owner feedback, it is advised that secretariats/agencies take into consideration the following key points when evaluating whether or not to upgrade to the Win7 desktop operating system.

Enterprise Systems:

  • MMARS is supported for Win7 and IE8
  • HR/CMS is supported for Win7 and IE7, IE8 and FireFox 3.6(PLEASE NOTE: As of July 9th 2011, HR/CMS will implement an upgrade of the PeopleSoft application which will cease to function with Microsoft's Legacy operating system "Windows 2000" as well as Microsoft's Legacy Browser "Internet Explorer 6". HR/CMS customers that are using incompatible Operating System and Browser software will be contacted prior to the implementation to upgrade their workstations to supported versions.)
  • DocDirect/ViewDirect is supported for Win7 and IE8
  • Outlook Web Access is supported for Win7 and IE8
  • Clarity/Service Desk(E2E) is supported for Win7 and IE8
  • MASS.gov is Supported for Win7 and IE8
  • Teamsite/CMA is near EOL and will work in Win7 using XP mode
  • Netezza/CIW will work in Win7

Administrative Tools:

Some commonly used administrative tools may not yet have Win7-compliant versions. Testing is on-going and results will be made available as information and recommendations become available.

  • Driver Incompatibility: With any upgrade of desktop operating system, drivers for older "legacy" hardware such as printers can be an issue. While Win7 seems to address these issues better than any version of MS Windows in recent memory, this still needs a consideration when upgrading to Win7. ITD at this time recommends the "32 bit" version of Win7 as the "64-bit" version has far more incompatibilities with older "legacy" printers which many agencies still have deployed.
  • Accessibility: Win7 has more built in support for accessibility than any previous version of Windows. Third-Party accessibility software testing for Win7 is ongoing.
  • Security: ITD Security is currently testing Win7 for compatibility with all applications. Based on current industry standards, Win7 can be considered a more "secure" desktop operating system than previous versions of MS Windows.
  • "IE8" and "Compatibility View": Some web-based applications are not yet compatible with IE8 but will work with older browsers. ITD recommends the use of "Compatibility View" within IE8 to help address a great deal of these incompatibility issues while applications are retooled for IE8 compatibility.
  • "Windows Virtual PC XP Mode": In extreme cases where applications are not compatible with IE8 even when using "Compatibility View", Win7 has a feature called "Windows XP Mode" which is a virtual version of Windows XP that comes default with IE6, but can be configured with IE7 as well. ITD recommends that agencies purchase desktop and laptop hardware with processors that employ "hardware-assisted virtualization (HAV)" in order to leverage "Windows XP Mode" to support legacy applications in these extreme cases.
  • "32-bit" vs. "64-bit": Vendors of desktop and laptop computers ship desktop and laptop PCs configured with Win7 unless requested to do otherwise. ITD recommends requesting PCs be loaded with the "32-bit" version of Win7 but that the hardware be capable of running the "64-bit" version without need for any upgrade.
  • Microsoft "App-V": This is a product ITD is using to deliver MS Office 2003 to Win7 desktops "virtually" which allows the Win7 desktops to have MS Office 2010 installed locally. This configuration offers users the flexibility to use either version of MS Office given individual compatibility needs and comfort levels.

As with any major platform upgrade, we recommend secretariats/agencies conduct thorough testing of their own internal critical systems with Win7 and IE8 before implementing Win7 as a desktop solution. This should also include consideration for which version of MS Office a secretariat/agency might employ. MS Office 2003 with the latest service pack (3) is certified compatible with Windows 7 and should be considered a minimum standard requirement for Commonwealth Windows 7 deployments. Regardless of which version of MS Office is used, close attention should be paid to how secretariat/agency centric applications utilizing MS Office behave with Windows 7 as the desktop operating system.

Consistent with Enterprise Technical Reference Model (ETRM) standards, ITD continues to recommend that secretariat/agency applications operate correctly with the most frequently used browsers (currently, IE 8 and Firefox 3.6) in support of standards-based applications and the personal preferences of employees, partners, and citizens.

In summary, ITD recommends agencies utilizing Microsoft Operating Systems to migrate onto Microsoft Windows 7 using:

  • "32-bit" version on PCs capable of running the "64-bit" version
  • Processors that employ hardware-assisted virtualization (HAV)
  • IE8 in "Compatibility View" mode for addressing most web-based application compatibility issues, and "Windows XP Mode" configured with IE7 for more extreme compatibility issues.
  • MS Office 2003 SP3 or higher (MS Office 2007 or MS Office 2010) with full testing of secretariat/agency centric applications that utilize the MS Office Production Suite.

Concerns regarding this advisory can be sent to: standards@state.ma.us