Windows XP: Tested, tried, and true. It’s so trusted that when Windows Vista became available in 2007, Microsoft extended XP’s planned lifecycle by almost double the normal length to continue supporting the large number of companies who remained on Windows XP.

But everything changed on April 8th, 2014. After twelve years, Microsoft officially discontinued support for the operating system. This leaves an estimated 200 millioncomputers vulnerable to security issues. These security issues could be exploited by unscrupulous people to generate and propagate malware, viruses and spam campaigns.  That could affect us all, and lead to the dawn of the XP Apocalypse.

For SOLIDWORKS users, the discontinuation of Windows XP support isn’t new news – they’ve known since the 2012 release. When Microsoft switched from providing full operating system support to providing security fixes only, SOLIDWORKS discontinued support for SOLIDWORKS on Windows XP. Most users either bought new PCs or upgraded their operating system so they could continue to run the latest and greatest version of SOLIDWORKS. But there were some customers who decided to stick it out with SOLIDWORKS 2012. Now, they’re stuck. Not only can they not run the latest version of SOLIDWORKS, their system is a potential time-bomb of unwanted problems.

XP Apocalypse - Windows XP Support has ended

For individual users in the latter category, the best way to avert a personal XP Apocalypse is to buy a new PC. It’s unlikely that the XP hardware they have can support Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 8. But for small, medium, and large businesses, upgrading lots of hardware – not to mention the process to deploy the hardware – could be a huge expense.

One possible solution is NVIDIA GRID VCA. In essence, the GRID is an appliance-like a router or network-attached storage. It sits in your server room and allows you to serve SOLIDWORKS sessions over a network connection. And it’s not just serving you a license like a SOLIDWORKS network license manager. It’s delivering  the actual SOLIDWORKS application with the full graphical fidelity and performance that you’re used to  on your local desktop. This opens up a whole list of opportunities. You can essentially use the GRID from anywhere with a network connection, and on basically any device. It has a Windows client that supports all the way back to Windows XP, an Apple Macintosh client, and even a Linux client.

XP Apocalypse - NVIDIA GRID workspace and client devices

Avoid the XP Apocalypse

Here’s how I see things being implemented in a Windows XP environment:

  1. Windows XP system lock down.

a.     Install appropriate anti-virus and anti-spyware tools on the Windows XP machines and setup internal tools to monitor that they are up-to-date and to deploy updates as often as possible.
b.     Eliminate the internet connection to the Windows XP machines. E-mail and web browsing can be done through GRID VCA sessions as needed.
c.     Implement NVIDIA GRID VCA. Hawk Ridge Systems can assist you with this process through our half-day implementation process where we help you plan your implementation, setup/install the hardware, get your template set up, and train you how to administer GRID VCA.
d.     Setup an internal network between the Windows XP machines and your GRID VCA and install GRID VCA client on Windows XP machines.
e.     Use the latest version of SOLIDWORKS through GRID VCA.

With this method, not only have we given some additional life Windows XP machines and bought some time to plan a migration away from Windows XP,  we have also:

  1. Given users that were stuck on an older version of SOLIDWORKS the ability to run the latest version of SOLIDWORKS
  2. Added an additional layer of internal security because files can be put on the GRID but can’t be taken off the GRID
  3. Added an additional layer of external security because if a session is exposed to something malicious it will be eliminated on reboot due to the stateless nature of a GRID VCA session
  4. Added in support for other devices like Linux and Macintosh
  5. Streamlined administration of SOLIDWORKS by reducing the number of systems that SOLIDWORKS needs to be installed on to one
  6. Improved the potential to maximize usage of SOLIDWORKS assets by making them available from any internet connection to any user
  7. Provided an additional option for SOLIDWORKS hardware deployment: it is no longer necessary to buy high-end PCs for all users; average systems can be purchased for most users, who can use the performance of GRID VCA on demand when they need to use SOLIDWORKS

So all-in-all, while the XP Apocalypse is real and is here to stay, it isn’t something to lose sleep over. There is a solution.

Do you want to learn more about NVIDIA GRID VCA?