Companies Moving Cautiously on Microsoft’s SP2 Update

A new report from Canadian researcher AssetMetrix indicates that one in 10 corporate PCs will have applications adversely impacted by the new Windows XP Service Pack 2 update. However, the report also indicates that few corporate computer users might be feeling the effects because relatively few appear to be updating right away.

AssetMetrix said it reviewed the installation of software Microsoft identified as potentially impacted by SP2 on more than 44,000 Windows XP computers from more than 340 companies. The analysis indicated that 10 percent of those machines were affected by Service Pack 2 requirements with programs that might no longer work after the update.

Analysts who joined Microsoft in warning of the impacts of the major update aimed at locking computer systems down more securely, said the 10 percent figure is probably low. However, they added that corporations appear to be taking the advice to wait, watch and test the update before unleashing it on their IT environments.

“Everybody’s waiting,” Gartner research vice president Richard Stiennon told TechNewsWorld. “They’re still doing testing. It’s going to be a while before this is really out there.”

One in Ten

Using a list of about 60 applications that require modification of some sort to work properly with the SP2 update installed, AssetMetrix found that the average companies using Windows XP will encounter compatibility issues with SP2 on 10.3 percent of their PCs.

“Whether companies roll out Windows XP immediately or replace their older operating systems with Windows XP when purchasing new PCs, companies now have to ensure XP SP2 compliancy by determining that the identified applications are properly patched, upgraded or replaced,” said AssetMetrix Research Labs managing director Steve O’Halloran in a statement.

“It is important to identify and review these applications before an XP rollout or upgrade is engaged, otherwise corporations will encounter increased costs and deployment delays.”

Watching and Waiting

Stiennon said that although he has tried to take straw polls of customers throughout the country on their SP2 experiences, most corporate clients have heeded analyst advice to hold off for now until testing can be done adequately.

While the AssetMetrix study focused on the applications listed by Microsoft that might suffer from SP2 installations, Stiennon said that the real complications with the major update are likely to come around in-house applications and customization.

“The biggest pain will be the internal applications,” Stiennon said, adding that companies will have to take Microsoft’s advice to ensure continued compatibility.

Impacts Large and Small

AssetMetrix, which described SP2 as “a significant advance for secure computing at the desktop level,” also reported a correlation between the size of a company and the impact of SP2, with larger enterprises reportedly experiencing slightly less significant impact.

The Canadian researcher said that companies with fewer than 100 Windows XP installations had an average impact of around 12 percent of machines. For larger companies with more than 100 XP installs, the figure was closer to 6 percent of their PCs.

Raising Baseline Security

Meta Group vice president Steve Kleynhans told TechNewsWorld he thought the one-in-ten figure was actually pretty low, with more corporate PCs and applications likely impacted by SP2.

However, Kleynhans said the issues and the fixes required to run with SP2 are minimal in nature and fairly straightforward to address. The analyst said that although SP2 “raises the base-level security,” SP2 is far from an elimination of Windows vulnerabilities.

MetaGroup has recommended that large companies take the remainder of this year to test, plan and certify for SP2 and approach actual installation as an issue for the first half of next year, Kleynhans said.

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