Industry Outlook is a regular Data Center Journal Q&A series that presents expert views on market trends, technologies and other issues relevant to data centers and IT.
This week, Industry Outlook asks Michael Maiello about the end-of-life for Windows Server 2013 and what companies should do about it. Michael is Senior Vice President of Home and Business Networks for APC by Schneider Electric. He is responsible for the largest line of business, with annual revenues of nearly $2 billion. The Home and Business Networks team drives product development and go-to-market strategies for the industry’s premiere single-phase server, networking, and desktop uninterruptible power supply (UPS) lines, plus a comprehensive offering of complementary management solutions including APC’s PowerChute software. Michael has been with APC and Schneider Electric for over 20 years. In that time he has held various positions in engineering, engineering management and general management. Before being named SVP for Home and Business Networks, he was the VP for the Business Power Solutions group. Over the last five years, Michael has led the Business Power Solutions team, which focuses on single-phase power products for the availability of business applications and includes brands known worldwide, such as Smart-UPS and Symmetra. Michael holds both master and bachelor degrees in electrical engineering from Brown University.
Industry Outlook: By July 14th, 2015, Microsoft will have stopped supporting its reported 11 million servers and applications running on Windows Server 2003. What exactly does it mean for businesses?
Michael Maiello: Windows Server 2003 is a system that businesses have trusted and used for over a decade. The July 14 deadline for service support means businesses will no longer receive regular security updates or patches for any version of Microsoft Windows Server 2003.
To avoid the security risks and costs, businesses will need to move their Windows 2003 server to a more recent version such as Windows Server 2008 or 2012. Many businesses will likely opt for Server 2012 because it is the most current version available today.
IO: When should businesses begin to prepare for this change and move their servers and applications?
MM: A lot of companies have already begun, as they understand it can often be a time-consuming process taking anywhere from 9 to 15 months. Some organizations, however, may be waiting until now or even past the deadline to begin the process. In fact, a recent survey found nearly one in three enterprises plan to continue to run Windows Server 2003 after July 14th, leaving an estimated 2.7 million servers potentially vulnerable.
In any case or scenario, organizations need to start thinking about the process now if they want to maintain the availability of their IT infrastructure and avoid potential power performance issues as well as costly disruptions to business productivity.
IO: What are some of the lesser-known implications of the server changeover, and what are the potential ramifications/issues that organizations will face if they fail to update their IT equipment?
MM: Businesses that fail to change over will become vulnerable to more security threats. Without Microsoft’s updates, patches, and service packs and support, a business’s customer records, trade secrets and sensitive data will be at risk. Hackers prey on unprotected servers, so without support, they’re leaving their assets open to a security breach.
Additionally, businesses will face increased maintenance costs if they continue to run this legacy software in their environment. Aside from just the security and maintenance issues, failing to move applications and servers may be a violation of industry compliance standards, too. For businesses that are putting the change off, it will seem like a daunting task that will, of course, come with its challenges.
Although the security ramifications and costs associated with failing to switch are widely discussed, there’s a lack of awareness regarding the various power-management and converged-infrastructure implications of this changeover.
Furthermore, many businesses may fail to consider power management when moving their servers, leading to unnecessary downtime of mission-critical business applications and data loss. What is imperative for businesses to understand is that simply moving the servers to Windows 2008 or 2012 isn’t going to be enough. They will need to review their power-protection strategies to ensure availability and uptime of their business-critical applications once they’ve made the changeover.
IO: How can organizations ensure optimal power protection, as well as uptime and availability, once they’ve refreshed their IT equipment?
MM: When phasing out racks of servers, businesses will need to consider replacing their uninterruptible power supply (UPS). Legacy UPSs are not optimized for the power demands of today’s equipment. As a result, legacy they will not be the ideal backup solution for your new servers because they won’t be as efficient or they may be missing important features and capabilities that would be crucial for supporting and maintaining uptime for business-critical applications. And since the life expectancy of UPSs are about 8–10 years and can vary greatly depending on environmental conditions, refreshing UPSs in tandem with a broader IT-gear refresh can help ensure optimal network availability.
It’s also important to check batteries as well as warranties. UPS life expectancy fluctuates greatly depending on five main factors: placement, ambient temperature, cycling, maintenance and battery chemistry, and storage. As batteries play an integral role in maximizing the life of a UPS, it’s important to understand the manufacturer’s warranty (two years is common among leading providers), determine whether extended warranty coverage is appropriate and change the batteries according to the recommended maintenance schedule to prolong the life of the UPS. When upgrading servers and data center equipment, data center and IT managers should check batteries to ensure they can support new technology.
Some businesses are already thinking about compatibility as they navigate their Windows Server transition, and they understand that compatibility is critical when running a fleet of UPSs and a complex IT infrastructure. With newer firmware and other product improvements over the past several years, it is important to implement technology that can match advanced software capabilities throughout a data center.
IO: How can organizations that are planning to outsource applications maintain availability of new and critical networking equipment during this changeover and beyond?
MM: For many organizations, moving their older servers to new ones may not be the best approach for their business needs. So, rather than upgrading on-premises equipment, many businesses may choose to move their data off premises in the form of a private, public or hybrid cloud, or they may consider deployment in a colocated data center. As a result, many IT departments will need to rethink how they maintain availability of the new and critical networking equipment to ensure a constantly reliable connection to remote server data. Organizations also must keep in mind that the data they chose to keep on premises tends to be both mission critical and/or highly sensitive, so it’s imperative that it’s both protected and secured.
IO: How can organizations take advantage of vendors’ expertise to better streamline and simplify the Windows Server transition?
MM: Organizations should know that they don’t have to go about the process alone. Working with vendors like APC by Schneider Electric can ease the burden and give organizations the support they need to make the process as seamless as possible. When any changes are made to physical IT infrastructure, such as altering the power requirements by adding or removing servers, the associated power and cooling demands inherently change as well. An expert in physical IT infrastructure can help a company adapt to new requirements.