TECHNOLOGY INSIGHTS

Conquering the Barriers Between Windows 10 and Legacy Software

How Cloudpaging™ technology helps to overcome the obstacles that could otherwise prevent legacy enterprise software from functioning properly within a new operating system.

The urgency of migrating to Windows 10 is increasing among enterprises across the globe, primarily due to the heightened security measures Microsoft® has developed for the new operating system. Of course, such urgency is compounded by Microsoft’s announcement that it “will no longer provide security updates or technical support for devices running Windows 7,” effective January 14, 2020.1

As organizations design strategies to migrate their desktops to a Windows 10 environment, they are faced with many challenges. Some of these challenges are unforeseen and costly, especially when dealing with critical, line-of business software applications designed for earlier versions of Windows operating systems. Application compatibility is one of the most common concerns among IT professionals faced with planning, managing, and implementing an enterprise’s Windows 10 migration. 2

Microsoft® has generally attempted to make every newer operating system compatible with its predecessor, including the transition from Windows 7 to Windows 10. While it is true that many apps will install and continue to run on Windows 10, many will have conflicts and ultimately fail.

Of course, enterprise customers can continue running their existing software on Windows XP and Windows 7 without OS support. Yet, they would risk an unsupported OS shutdown at any time, as well as security breaches and violations associated with their lines of business, be it finance, education, government, healthcare… the list goes on.

This article explains how Cloudpaging technology can conquer the most common barriers to legacy application compatibility on Windows 10.

Evolution of the Windows Operating System

As the Windows operating system evolved and modernized, more barriers to legacy applications emerged. Windows was originally a 16-bit environment running only 16-bit software. With time the Windows operating system went to 32-bit and then 64-bit. The 32-bit version of Windows could run both 16-bit and 32-bit applications. However, with Windows 64-bit OS versions, both 32-bit and 64-bit programs can be run, but not 16-bit applications.

Some applications’ installers do include both 16-bit and 32-bit versions and these applications can work on 64-bit operating systems. But if the application installer is 16-bit or the application is 16-bit, then these applications can no longer work on 64- bit systems. In addition, applications may appear to be 32-bit with a Win32 GUI and all the window dressing of a 32-bit Windows application, but some 32-bit applications call 16-bit components. Finally, many 32-bit legacy applications have hardcoded paths and shortcuts that are now incompatible with newer 64-bit Windows versions.

How Cloudpaging Delivers Legacy App Compat

Cloudpaging technology implements a true file system driver, or FSD, at the Windows kernel level. It is this file system, specifically developed by Numecent, that remains consistent from Windows platform to platform, along with abstraction, templatization, and a writable sandbox, that enable Cloudpaging to migrate many applications that would otherwise not function on newer Windows operating systems. The writable sandbox is especially useful in allowing the legacy applications to write in legacy locations where modifications are normally not allowed under the newer Windows versions. Note that Cloudpaging does not fully emulate the platform, meaning that not all the calls to Window XP, or earlier, may be unavailable or deprecated on a later Windows version (e.g. Windows 7 or 10). owever, for the most difficult applications, Cloudpaging can also page those dependencies through paging the OS or emulator.

Following are a few examples of common scenarios in which Cloudpaging successfully addresses running legacy applications on Windows 10.

Applications That Hardcode File Paths or Registry Hive Locations

For a trivial example, when Microsoft Office is installed on a 32-bit machine, it stores a file under “C:\Program Files” and records this path in Windows Registry. This is a hardcoded path that works well when the application remains on the machine. However, when this application is used on another machine that is 64-bit, the path becomes wrong because the correct path on the new machine should be “C:\Program Files (x86)”.

Cloudpaging overcomes this problem by encoding the path as “?programfilesx86?” in the application package. Cloudpaging then resolves this encoded path to the correct value on any other machine basing on each machine’s specific configuration. Legacy applications do far more than this (of course). Since we implement the FSD, we can completely alter the behavior of the filesystem for many other common legacy “misbehaviors.”

Applications Requiring Isolation or Windows Compatibility Mode

Windows provides a mechanism for older applications to run with newer versions of Windows. This mechanism does not automatically turn on for the applications but instead has to be activated manually. With Cloudpaging, the need for an application to use this mechanism can be encoded into the application packaged and activated on the
target machine. 3

16-Bit Applications

Legacy 16-bit applications need either an emulator (such as DOSBox with the virtualized application), or a virtual machine to run on 64-bit systems. Cloudpaging technology provides desktop managers with granular level controls to customize a unique environment, suitable to 16-bit and other troublesome installers. This results in the perfect blend of isolation and integration, eliminating interference with the operating system and other programs while permitting application functionality.

Applications With 16-bit Installers or Trouble on Newer Windows Versions

There are some instances where a legacy application may have a 16-bit installer. Much like 16-bit applications, 16-bit installers, or apps that simply have trouble with installation on newer versions of the
Windows operating system, will also need an emulator or a virtual machine to run. Cloudpaging’s ability to provision software containers easily and efficiently onto other machines can help to extend the lifespan of those legacy applications.

Conclusion

Cloudpaging enables the ability to migrate legacy applications to new Windows platforms, including Windows 10. With many legacy applications, the toughest challenge on newer Windows platforms occurs during the installation process. With Cloudpaging, the install phase no longer exists. Speaking figuratively, the application is paged directly into the machine without installation. Because this barrier is removed, legacy applications have a much better chance to work on the newer Windows platform.

Contact Numecent to learn how Cloudpaging successfully increases legacy application compatibility with the Windows 10 platform.

1 Support for Windows 7 is ending

2 Windows 10: The State of the Union, A Survey of Desktop Stakeholders in IT

3 Make older programs compatible with this version of Windows

See Cloudpaging in Action!

From challenges with application compatibility to enterprise-scale virtual desktop adoption, we would love to talk about how we can help.