back to article Oh noes! Half the NHS runs on Windows 7! Thankfully, here's Citrix with a virty vaccine

Hundreds of thousands of devices managed by the UK's NHS are still running Windows 7. With the end of support looming, is the service about to have another Windows XP moment? Er, probably not. Figures obtained by virtualization vendor Citrix, under Blighty's Freedom of Information (FoI) regulations, would seem to paint a …

  1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
    Pirate

    "that don't fancy any of those choices also have the option of postponing the death of Windows 7 on the desktop by simply paying for extended support."

    Or, you know, running it without support. It's not going to suddenly stop working and other defences will take the brunt of any attacks. Not ideal by any means, but a lot of companies will be going that route.

    The same applies for home users except the 'other defences' bit.

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Sounds like a conversation I was having with a friend just last weekend. He was bemoaning the fact that the latest Windows update had fudged the drivers for his soundcard. Given that he's a musician who does home recording, this is definitely a Bad Thing.

      As I also do some home recording he was asking about my setup and I mentioned that I never, ever update Windows....I'm still on the version that was on my PC when I bought it back in 2015, and it's never received any updates.

      He pointed out that this version is no longer supported by MS so I should update...then I reminded him that he'd only just been talking to me about a problem he'd had dropped on him by Windows which was a perfect argument for NOT updating.

      If it ain't broke, why bother updating and giving MS the opportunity to break it for you.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        When I migrated to Windows 10 I built a machine specifically for home recording. Its offline (air gapped) for that very reason. 3rd Gen i7, 16Gb, Sata/USB 3 mobo - about £200 all in (excluding pro tools of course).

        However a lot of other musicians I know bought gaming laptops (£1000+) since they reckoned this was a better soloution. Many times have I tried to explain that having a superfast GPU doesn't make a difference to working with sound files and that the CPU does most of the heavy lifting in this case.

        Tried to tell them as well about having a decent backup regime. Again deaf ears. Taken many a call to say their machine is borked and can I take a look.

        Theres just no way I would trust an internet facing Windows 10 machine with my tunes.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Same old reason

    As with the XP to Win 7 upgrade a lot of the issues stems from systems and software that is not supported or tested. To run on Windows 10 requires cash to pay for new versions of software, which trusts are reluctant to do, due to the cash being spent on upgrading hardware (The need to have UEFI and use TMP chips as mandated by NHS Digital).

    Throw in the total pigs ear that Project Managers manage to make of the upgrade, the clinicians that have a little IT knowledge wanting everything to make their life easier, and to hang with what is good for the build and holding things ups due to the colour of the lock screen.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Same old reason

      Not to mention that running on Windows 1 0 requires you to accept that some update at some point in the future is going to completely bork you entire system base, and you'll have to wait for Microsoft to get its finger out and fix it - if that is possible.

      It really is high time Linux comes to the desktop.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. veti Silver badge

        Re: Same old reason

        It really is high time Linux comes to the desktop.

        Because that never has problems with versioning or drivers or support or updates.

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Same old reason

      To run on Windows 10 requires cash to pay for new versions of software...assuming that it is possible to even buy an updated version of the software, and that the original vendors haven't long gone out of business.

      FTFY

      Mind you, it's amazing what you can do with the app compatibility shims.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Same old reason

        >To run on Windows 10 requires cash to pay for new versions of software...

        And continuous testing...

        Remember Windows 10 isn't a magically stable release of Windows, LTSB only guarantees 2~3 years.

        So with this pace of change we can expect organisations such as the NHS, who have long refresh cycle to be running "Windows 10" but actually using an out-of-support build.

        Looks like MS wants their slice of that £350m a week...

        1. Sandtitz Silver badge

          Re: Same old reason @Roland6

          "Remember Windows 10 isn't a magically stable release of Windows, LTSB only guarantees 2~3 years."

          You're wrong. Whre do you get your numbers?

          Each LTSC release (formerly LTSB) is supported for over 10 years.

  3. katrinab Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Shall we analyse why this is the case?

    I don't think there's a huge amount of software that works on Windows 7, but not on Windows 10.

    Hardware is another matter, and replacing the world's largest fleet of computers so that it can run a more recent operating system; I'm sure NHS bosses can think of better things to spend their limited funds on.

    If the problem is ancient hardware, I'm not sure how a virtulisation solution is going to help.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Shall we analyse why this is the case?

      "If the problem is ancient hardware...""

      In the WinXP->Win7 rollout in 2014 that I did close to 90% of upgrades were hardware replacements. In the current Win7->Win10 replacement well over 90% of the upgrades are just a re-image of the existing machine, then clicking through various configuration settings.

    2. sal II

      Re: Shall we analyse why this is the case?

      You of course are talking about commercially available software.

      Large organisations like NHS thrusts are riddled with custom in-house software that someone wrote/bought donkeys years ago and the original developer is either gone or otherwise incapable of updating the application for Windows 10.

      Then there are a host of medical devices that for whatever reason use windows as OS and the hardware is simply incapable of running Windows 10

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Shall we analyse why this is the case?

        In the CCG I work for we got rid of almost all of that in the Win7 rollout five years ago. Now, everything is commercial software. EMIS, SystmOne, Spirometry, iGPS, WatchBP, IRIS, ScriptSwitch, Enterprise, AccuRx, CardioView, Apollo, JayEx, INRStar. Haven't come across anything hand-built.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    a good deal of Windows XP installations continue to linger on life support

    I wonder what it's used for. I'd like to think it's for some legacy life support equipment...life support on an OS on life support.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Think lab equipment, analysers, microscopes and other such things that the equipment providing company either no longer supports without buying their latest shiny shiny or refuses to update unless they have full network and internet access and no AV software.

      1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

        Or the company which would support it doesn't exist any more. I'm not in the NHS but have some equipment interfaced using a 25-way printer cable controlled by 16-bit software which runs under XP. The company who made the hardware and wrote the software are long gone.

        So what do I do; commission someone to create new hardware and write new software or just stick with my decades old box and XP?

        There are no prizes for guessing what I'll do until it one day stops working.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Like the article says, contact Brad's team I'm sure they'll be able to help you.

          Actually, I wonder what they'd do if everyone in that particular boat contacted them.

        2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          I remember one outfit tearing a strip of some supplier who couldn't be arsed to put a 15p connector on their PCs and instead expected them to chuck away their £25,000 printing equipment.

  5. fnusnu

    The NHS budget has increased year on year. If the Citrix sales wallah wants to help he should offer their software for free

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    no virtualization ???

    "The figures contained more iffy news for Citrix when trusts were asked if they were considering a migration to something a little more, you know, virtual. The answer was a resounding "NO" as 44 trusts said using virtualization technology to deal with Windows 7 migration did not feature in their plans."

    This gets me puzzled ... Why would you not virtualize rather than stay on an old OS just because of one single app, like is always the case ????

    Makes no sense at all !

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: no virtualization ???

      Why would you not virtualize rather than stay on an old OS just because of one single app

      In cases like this I expect it's like AC above mentions - specialist application to support a specialist piece of legacy equipment, likely cabled into the PC. Not something that's especially easy to replace with a VM running on a server in a data centre somewhere. Yes, you could buy a shiny new workstation to run W10 and Citrix/VM, but then you have the problem of mapping physical ports to the VM...very possibly the connection is RS-232 or somesuch, so now you're looking at physical adapters as well...lots of potential for glitches or incompatibilities.

      When you include the words "safety of life" into the description of any application, peoples' appetite for risk tends to diminish somewhat,

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Windows 7 Embeddded lives on till at least 2021

        You've just described one of the (alleged) use cases for Windows 7 Embedded.or its derivatives:

        https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/lifecycle/search?alpha=Windows%20Embedded%207

        These are basically repackaged versions (with different licences) of the Windows 7 you already know and love.

        Support for at least two repackagings continues until 2021.

  7. tiggity Silver badge

    Election non response excuse

    Given that NHS coping mechanisms (or lack of) for Windows EOL is something that whatever motley gang of charlatans form a government will have to be aware of,I'm sure a response is possible that cannot be seen as an endorsement of any party, but just says what teh plans CURRENTLY are with caveat they may change.

    Too much lack of response from gov funded orgs with election excuse.

  8. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    yeah yeah yeah, I know! I'm halfway through the Win7->Win10 migration project, stop going on about it, you don't have to keep reminding me.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      >I'm halfway through the Win7->Win10 migration project...

      Given the rate of change in Win10, I doubt you'll actually finish that migration project, but if you do it will be more like painting the Forth Bridge, time to start the migration project to the latest Windows 10 Build...

      1. 1752

        https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1578986/Non-stop-job-of-painting-Forth-Bridge-to-end.html

        They finished painting the Forth Bridge in 2011

        1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

          They finished painting the Forth Bridge in 2011

          Indeed, yet so few folk know this.

          Having to constantly correct people about painting the Forth Bridge not being a thing anymore is like painting the...oh, dammit!

  9. Hans 1 Silver badge
    Joke

    We asked Citrix what will become of their own users running virtualized Windows 7 instances. The company replied: "We can't share information about our customers. [We have lost all but one]."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Apart from that 5TB of data that did get shared....

      But hey, they didn't know what was in that either.

  10. TRT Silver badge

    Loaded question, isn't it? Asking of the Windows 7 base

    "Do you have plans to migrate to Windows 10 in the next 6 months?"

    I wonder if there would be a different answer if one asked "Do you have plans to migrate off Window 7 in the next 6 months?"

    1. Mattjimf

      Re: Loaded question, isn't it? Asking of the Windows 7 base

      In the NHS the answer will still be the same due to the fact that almost all software required for various systems is not compatible/supported on non-Windows devices or the OS is not compatible with the existing infrastructure.

  11. Richard Gray 1
    WTF?

    Just think of the drivers

    I have (unfortunately) had to deal with Lab equipment / Microscopes / gas thingys, and they ALL have the biggest pile of shit software / drivers ever written.

    The are often still using serial interfaces. They BAN you from running an AV or windows updates.Those that do allow multi user access don't link in with AD or LDAP, requiring local user accounts.

    They are never bought with any reference to IT to ask the complicated questions like what do you mean it needs to be on that specific subnet? we are using that for something else.

    And these are devices that cost tens if not hundreds of thousands of pounds....

    Updated software that will be another few thousand, what do you mean you've spent your grant money on other things like staff and consumables?

    All these manufacturers should be ashamed of themselves!

    Rant over...

    1. MisterHappy
      Flame

      Re: Just think of the drivers

      That's just the hardware, what about the 7 different applications that each have had coded check for a different Java version because someone thought that testing for Java 1.5.1 was the right thing to do!

      Not to forget that you will need both 32 & 64 Bit because some things are still coded to only work in IE and that it always 32 bit.

      Oh yes... Silverlight too!!!!!111one

      1. IGotOut

        Re: Just think of the drivers

        Hasn't 111 been moved across to a new supplier (in house I think) running on new software?

    2. fnusnu

      Re: Just think of the drivers

      Your're one of the UK's biggest consumers of IT. Time to start flexing your muscles

  12. MisterHappy
    Happy

    A little more information... If anyone cares

    NHS Trusts were told not to invest in Windows 10 licenses as there was a deal being done between NHS Digital and Microsoft, as a result of this the migration plans for many Trusts are not as far advanced as they could be.

    The Windows 10 licenses were doled out in March but NHS Digital did not buy enough licenses initially so roughly 40% of Trusts did not get a license allocation until October this year, again pushing back the roll out of Windows 10.

    As part of the agreement between NHS Digital & Microsoft, all Trusts that have signed up to the license allocation also have an additional year of support and have been issued with a MAK to be applied to any Windows 7 machines that are not expected to be upgraded/replaced by the end of Jan 2020. It's also worth bearing in mind that one of the pre-requisites for getting licenses from NHS Digital was rolling out ATP at each Trust, for Win 7 and Win 10 devices.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: A little more information... If anyone cares

      But the NHS isn't for sale to the US...

      1. IGotOut

        Re: A little more information... If anyone cares

        It's not. We give patient data away.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: A little more information... If anyone cares

          Oh! That's ok then.

  13. keith_w

    I just finished a W7 - W10 upgrade at a hospital group in the Toronto area. There were very few issues with compatibility, although there still a few XP machines in the system due to that problem. There are 5500 computers in the 3 hospitals we upgraded of which 4100 were moved to W10, and approx 1200 were to be replaced due to end of lease. The biggest issue we had was not being able to access operating rooms due to them being pretty much constantly in use and having to wear disposable coveralls, hairnets and shoe covers when we could access them.

    1. tip pc Bronze badge
      Headmaster

      Stop bragging

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Yeah, last week's "one week" deployment has turned into at least two weeks because we have to sit around waiting for a doctor's room to not be occupied.

  14. Blackjack

    I recently used Virtual XP....

    Because I had an old game that would just not run on 64 bit windows.

    Thankfully Virtual XP is free for windows 7 pro. And of course I made sure to negate the Virtual Windows XP any chances to go online.

    It works okay, if you just use one program at a time, more than that and it tends to slow down a lot.

    I still plan to keep running Windows 7, just do it offline. I just use it for games and I don't do online gaming so no problems there.

    I tried making a Virtual Windows 3.1 machine but I can't get the sound to work.

    1. Sandtitz Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: I recently used Virtual XP....

      "I tried making a Virtual Windows 3.1 machine but I can't get the sound to work."

      Use DOSBox and SB emulation. I've done it and it wasn't hard at all, probably finding the SB Win3.1 drivers was the trickiest part...

      There's also been a few forked edition of the vanilla DOSBox with better support for network, parallel port (dongles) etc.

      1. Blackjack

        Re: I recently used Virtual XP....

        Definitely not using Dosbox online, the thing is made for gaming, not to be safe.

        And I found a way to make a few Windows 3.1 programs to work on Virtual XP so not trying Windows 3.1 on Dosbox any time soon.

        I found a Virtual Windows 95, works well for small stuff but try anything hardware intensive and it's slow as molasses.

        PlayOnLinux works for anything that would have run on Windows 95 anyway. Yes I love Linux Mint, I mostly use Windows for games.

        Here is how to run Space Cadet Pinball on Linux:

        https://www.playonlinux.com/en/app-1284-Microsoft_3D_Pinball__Space_Cadet.html

        If you do want Earth Worm Jim Special edition and want it to be the Windows 95 version then you do need a virtual Windows 95 or resign yourself to play the Sega CD version on an emulator since that one is almost the same.

  15. s. pam
    IT Angle

    I was released from hospital Sunday night by Win 7

    I’ve been quite unwell and staying in Wrexham Park hospital in Berkshire. The county operator is Frimley Trust of the NHS.

    All the nurses stations and roll around computers I personally saw being used are still on it.

    Not a single sight of Citrix from my entering A&E to Observation unit and then onto a Ward had it.

    Sadly the HW they have is pretty up to date even if the screens aren’t.

    Almost worrying times ahead.

  16. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
    Coat

    After the election

    The Liberal Government plans to sell NHS to the Americans.

    So this issue will go away soon.

    1. IGotOut

      Re: After the election

      Correct if I'm wrong but it's the Conservatives,not the liberals that have been holding trade talks

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: After the election

        Lib dems would gladly jump back into another con/dem coalition if they get a whiff of power, so the end result could be the same, sadly. Of course, no one calls it a coalition anymore when they're actually in it.

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: After the election

      The Liberals are only standing 19 candidates, they're unlikely to form a government.

  17. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "If you think you have an application that has a compatibility with Windows 10, you can call Brad's team, we'll look at it. If it's a Windows issue, we're gonna go fix Windows to unblock you. If it's an issue with your app, we'll help you fix your app so you can get unblocked."

    Which of those alternative covers being connected to an expensive piece of kit which can't simply be written off and which is only certified for use with 7 or maybe even XP?

    1. TRT Silver badge

      I had an expensive piece of kit. PC Connects via USB, and the software was updated to give Win 10 compatibility. The drivers were updated too. Yay! But when we bought a new micro-form factor PC to connect it to, that was the point we discovered that it had an issue with USB 3. Very different chips in there to give that function, and even if the chips offers a USB 2 emulation mode, it doesn't work for some kit. The only solution was to stick a USB 2 hub on the USB 3 port.

  18. This post has been deleted by its author

  19. Mike 137 Bronze badge

    "Contribute to our revenue stream"

    I'm constantly amazed by the almost universal assumption that as soon as the next version of Windoze emerges the previous one becomes lethal. If so, the latest one is almost certainly just as bad, and the cost of the transition (not just licensing, but migration and upgrades) can be huge. We use several "old" OS here to support expensive hardware that's no longer in production, but we also segregate our network and apply other controls to limit their visibility and accessibility. The NHS (indeed most of government) is notorious for its wide open flat networks, which is where the real hazard lies.

    The real reason for the constant need of "support" is the crap quality of the software (regardless of the version, as it actually gets worse over time), and the real reason for new versions is just to keep the money rolling in. Who really cares about the user?

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: "Contribute to our revenue stream"

      OK, so you've told me what stains new & improved Bold 3 will clean that Bold 2 doesn't.

      What I really need to know right now, though, is what stains new & improved Bold 4 will sort out that Bold 3 won't.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My wife works admin for the NHS, says one of the migration challenges is the legacy system for patient records (eg. 'BOIS'), which still runs in a DOS/command window (whatever the Windows universe term for a DOS terminal is now).

    Another issue they're having is the turnover of IT staff, folks with a few years experience can move to the glittering lights of the private sector and a large salary increase.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Legacy legacy legacy

    Thats mainly the big problem and my NHS outlet mall still uses a patient system which needed 16bit print drivers to work. Plus money that needed to be spent on IT was spent elsewhere.....

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Missdirection 2.0

    "prolonged austerity is putting [the NHS] under even more pressure to do more with less"

    How's about you close them there borders there sparks?

    How many times do we have to show you that it's your newbies that are draining you raw?!

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yet another abuse of the Freedom of Information Act

    NHS & other public sector organisations lose 1000s of hours each year due to the administration burden created by these “sales opportunity” freedom of information requests alone.

    It’s a blatant abuse of the intended (well meaning) purpose of FoI, and a loophole which central government need to review and address.

    Any other organisation has the right to tell these nosy sales folk to f*ck off. NHS Trusts are legally bound to engage and respond.

    Vile.

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