Application Brief: Implications of Windows Sunset for DCsRecent malware attacks highlighted the dangers of running PCs with outdated and unsupported operating systems. The WannaCry and Petya attacks were especially harmful for individuals and organizations running Windows XP, which has been out of support since 2014. Despite this fresh reminder of the risks of using outdated systems, very few IT and operations leaders we talk to are even aware that Microsoft is “sunsetting” the legacy Windows mobile operating systems running on the majority of RF, voice and vehicle mount terminals used in their DCs. Some DCs are running unsupported devices today, and many more devices will reach their end of support starting in April 2018. (To see a sample of devices that are affected, download our Windows Sunset Application Brief.)

The Facts About Windows Sunset

In 2015, Microsoft announced that it would be ending support for its legacy Windows mobile operating systems as part of a transition to a next-generation OS, Windows 10. Windows Sunset is a big deal for every manufacturer, logistics provider, and DC using Windows-based RF, voice and vehicle mount devices. According to VDC Research, as many as 15 million devices are affected. After they reach their end of support date the legacy Windows devices will not be eligible for security updates.

I’m not saying that unsupported devices or the applications running on them will suddenly stop working or that they will immediately become infected by viruses and ransomware. The Windows XP devices infected by WannaCry were presumably working fine three years past their end of support date. But those unsupported PCs were susceptible to known weaknesses that hackers exploited. And hackers are increasingly adept at finding vulnerable devices and exploiting weaknesses, even in devices that are not directly linked to the Internet. If your DC devices are connected to the same internal network as an infected PC or server, it’s a good bet that those DC devices will be attacked – and you may not even know the bug is present on your network.

A Mass Migration

Windows has been the de facto standard for mobile computers used in supply chain since the very earliest rugged computers and barcode scanners were introduced in the 1990s. For 20 years Microsoft has provided a high degree of technology certainty, which was a great service to IT organizations. But all that is coming to an end with Windows Sunset. Devices running legacy Windows mobile operating systems cannot be upgraded to the new mobile version of Windows 10 (Windows 10 IoT Mobiile Enterprise). And in most cases, the software applications that run on those legacy devices will also need to be replaced or rewritten from scratch to run on a new “platform,” whether that is Windows 10, Android, Apple iOS, or something else.

In short, supply chain organizations are facing a hardware and software migration decision over the next 3-4 years. For many organizations, this will mean replacing their mobile applications with software that can run on Android (which is emerging as the new standard OS for industrial and other mobile devices) or Windows 10 IoT ME (which has not yet taken hold in the DC). To learn more about the Windows Sunset issue and which devices are affected, download our new Windows Sunset Application Brief. The document outlines your options, lists some of the affected hardware devices, and suggests a few steps you can take today to plan your migration. Download the Application Brief Here

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