A Calgary energy company is on the last leg of an operating system upgrade, but complications coordinating multiple field offices and legacy applications meant the project took 18 months.

Oil and gas producer Talisman Energy Inc. committed to its upgrade cycle from Windows 95 to Windows 2000 in middle of last year. “We wanted more stability on the desktop,” said Alexandra Federucci, the company’s manager of information systems. “Longer term, we will experience a major reduction in support costs, as the desktop is much more stable.”

To coordinate the upgrade, Talisman enlisted the services of Microsoft partner Xwave, which has worked with Talisman on Microsoft-related projects for the past eight years. “While the focus is the operating system, one of the critical pieces of this, beyond the pure infrastructure, is how the applications interplay with this operating system,” said Andrew Boswell, vice-president of services for Xwave. “So a large part of the effort is making sure the applications can make that transition as well.”

Talisman employs some legacy applications, which were the source of a number of headaches in the upgrade process. Each had to be tested to ensure they would work in a Windows 2000 environment. On top of that, Talisman is a “buy versus build” shop when it comes to applications, said Federucci, further complicating the integration process. “We needed to be very dependent on suppliers insuring that their products were Windows 2000-compliant,” she said.

Federucci committed to Windows 2000 well before the release of Microsoft’s XP operating system last month. Even if it had been an option, Federucci doubts she would have chosen XP. “As we all know, Microsoft products when they first come out are not products that you want to implement enterprise-wide. I believe it’ll be a while before XP is ready for primetime. Our availability has to be at pretty much 100 per cent.”

Windows 2000 has been rolled out to 1,500 workstations in 12 field offices and the company’s Calgary head office. Next on the agenda for Talisman is an upgrade of its Microsoft Outlook e-mail system, to be completed next year.

Xwave said it has a number of Windows upgrades in the works for next year, since many companies are now in the midst of a technology upgrade cycle. “Some of the technology refresh cycles that were initiated the Y2K timeframe are back to being reviewed again,” explained Bill Davis, vice-president of fulfillment solutions. “Obviously, when you look at a technology refresh it’s an opportune time to look at upgrading the OS.”

For Federucci, the upgrade will mean greater reliability in the long-term, but also less hassle for employees manning their desktops, who won’t be disrupted as often due to IT hiccups.

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