Marine Corps finding its Windows 10 migration more difficult than expected, hardware mostly at fault

Mark Coppock

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The U.S. Department of Defense is one of the more visible and largest organizations with plans to migrate to Windows 10. Specifically, the DoD announced a few months ago that it would transition all of its roughly four million machines to Microsoft’s newest operating system. Touting enhanced security and working the Surface line of products into its plans, the DoD project bodes well for Windows 10’s adoption in the largest enterprises.

One branch of the U.S. military, however, is finding the transition a little more difficult than anticipated. Specifically, the Marines have discovered that their hardware is not as ready for the migration as they had hoped. As reported on Federal News Radio:

Upgrading the operating systems on three million desktops within the mandated timeframe rests largely on performing those updates remotely, without a technician having to visit each desktop and laptop. In the Marines’ case, early plans suggested they’d be able to do so with roughly 60 to 70 percent of the computers within the Marine Corps Enterprise Network (MCEN).

But Brig. Gen. Dennis Crall, the Marine Corps CIO, says it now appears the actual figure is more like 10 percent.

“Our challenges are with hardware, and hardware that is older than a couple years is having more difficulty accepting Windows 10 than hardware that is new,” he told an AFCEA DC forum in Arlington, Va. Wednesday. “And when you look at what ‘new’ means within DoD, we purchase yesterday’s technology tomorrow. A lot of our brand-new systems are having difficulty with the upgrade as soon as they come out of the box, and we didn’t anticipate that.”

The Marines are working closely with Microsoft engineers to work around the issues, and with other agencies, such as the U.S. Air Force, voicing similar concerns, plans might just have to be changed. A couple of solutions being considered are to simply reduce the number of machines in place, as well as looking at alternatives to the traditional desktop. Virtual machines are another possibility under consideration.

The migration is important to the DoD because of security baselines that have been established and the inability for operating systems currently in place, to meet them. Generally, DoD leadership is confident that 80% of the organization’s machines will be upgraded in time for the January 2017 deadline. Another 20% will be problematic given their presence on platforms that are not stationary, such as ships at sea.

We’ll be keeping our eye on these developments. Clearly, large enterprises such as the DoD making successful transitions to Windows 10 will contribute significantly to Microsoft meeting their objective of a billion Windows 10 users. With 300 million currently active, this goal needs some help, and hopefully the Marines and other branches of the U.S. military will be able to overcome their challenges and get the job done.