Unlike Windows XP, you still have until July 15, 2015 before Microsoft stops updating its server counterpart, Windows Server 2003. Like Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 is still surprisingly popular. In July 2014 Microsoft said that Server 2003 was still running on 24 million servers (12 million of them physical servers), and while that number has probably dropped some over the last six months, that’s still a lot of servers running an OS that was adopted before such now-common technologies as virtualization and cloud-based computing became popular.
The reasons Server 2003 has hung on for so long are similar to those for Windows XP. David Mayer, practice director of Microsoft Solutions for Insight Enterprises cites application dependencies and its cheapness as being two of the primary ones. If Server 2003 works well for your needs or you have applications that lack an upgrade path, it’s hard to justify the expense and complexity of an upgrade.
At the same time, Mayer points out that, unlike the stereotypical unsophisticated Windows XP user, more high-end (usually large) enterprises are using Windows Server 2003 than small businesses. “It’s an inverse correlation. The people who are actually in a better position to remediate the problem are the ones who [use Windows Server 2003],” he says.
Many of you facing Windows Server 2003 EOL (End of Life) probably aren’t keen to upgrade for the reasons Mayer mentions. You may even have the technical savvy to postpone your migration until after extended support ends. So consider my tips a starting point, a means to prime yourself for the inevitable—whenever that may be.
1. Conduct a thorough inventory of your Windows Server 2003 instances.
Catalog all instances of Windows Server 2003, both physical and virtual, currently in your IT environment. What applications are running on these servers? What storage and other technologies are connected to these servers?
Leon Erlanger of EdTech offers this useful checklist. While it’s geared toward education, his suggestions apply to most organizations:
- Conduct a thorough inventory of Windows Server 2003 physical and virtual servers and applications.
- Divide applications into categories based on whether they’re deemed critical, less critical, replaceable or “retireable.”
- Migrate as many server applications to virtual machines as possible.
- Consider moving to a Software-as-a-Service solution — either from your current vendor or another provider.
- Decide whether being current is more important than moving to a more familiar Windows Server 2008 R2 implementation. Similarly, decide whether it better serves [your] needs to begin with non-customer-facing applications (to minimize disruptions) or critical applications (to ensure readiness and a secure server environment before the deadline passes).
- Talk to storage vendors to ensure that existing storage area networks and network-attached storage arrays will work with whichever versions of Windows Server and Active Directory you deploy.
- Determine utilization levels on existing server hardware. If they’re low, consider moving your new virtual machines to those systems. Analyze hardware requirements and determine whether you need to purchase and configure new systems to support the migration.
Erlanger also cautions you shouldn’t expect to complete the migration in a short period of time. “These transitions are complicated and shouldn’t be rushed,” he writes.
2. Determine your migration path.
Because virtualization and cloud computing are now mainstream, you most likely will be migrating your sources to fewer targets. Ed Tittel of TechTarget writes that the ratio of service devices to server installations “has swung from one-to-one in 2003 to one-to-many for Windows Server 2008 and 2012 versions.”
Given the increase in processing power, capacity, storage and networking capabilities over the past decade, you may consolidate servers and focus on service delivery in your post Windows Server 2003 migration world. The devil is in the details; determine how many and what types of servers you will use after the migration…Plan your post-migration target architecture carefully, and consider consolidation while deciding how many virtual server images you’ll need to maintain after the move is done.
Also you need to take a unified approach to migration. You can’t depend on your various silos, most of which have different ways of cataloging and tracking their Windows Server 2003 apps. You need to get everyone on the same page, so you can establish which applications are most critical to your organization and your customers. This may be a great opportunity to incorporate some DevOps methodologies, although that’s a subject for another post!
Have additional thoughts about migrating from Windows Server 2003? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!
Photo credit: Kaspur Duhn via Flickr