It’s an old story. You spend countless hours and many irreplaceable budget dollars upgrading your Windows PC infrastructure only to discover that Microsoft’s latest and greatest is also the company’s slowest and fattest. In fact, the new software is so bloated that it’s burying your once state of the art PCs. End users are furious. The CIO wants answers. Suddenly, the daunting task of maintaining your enterprise client software becomes an impossible race against time in which depreciating hardware assets are overtaken by that most insidious of phenomena: OS and Application “Inflation.”

Compounding the problem are the confusing and often times contradictory statements mad by the vendors themselves. On the one hand, they like to tout all of the exciting “bells and whistles” that their new version includes. Yet at the same time they claim that it will “run just fine” on your current hardware. Savvy veterans of the upgrade treadmill, they are loath to admit that their spiffy new features demand more computing power – to do so might jeopardize sales. Case in point: Those ridiculously unrealistic “System Requirements” that accompany virtually every major Windows or Office upgrade.

In the end, customers are forced to fend for themselves, often without the prerequisite tools. Here the mainstream benchmark developer community has really dropped the ball. While tools from BAPCo and ZDBOP are able to provide us with performance figures from various hardware configurations, they aren't able to do the same for various software configurations. You can't run SYSMark 2001 and compare Office 2000 to Office XP, although it works just fine for comparing a 1.4GHz Athlon to a 1.0GHz Athlon.

Clearly, something must be done to bring the cross-generational performance issue to light. Hence our motivation in developing this article: The need for reliable, objective metrics data that illustrate the performance impact of a major OS and application upgrade. Our goals for the project were straightforward: Measure the performance of a common test script as executed against three major OS and two major application suite revisions; and translate the results into a practical, tangible hardware platform performance recommendation for new PC purchases.

Setup & Methodology
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