As of July 15, Microsoft will cease support of its Windows Server 2003. At that point, security patches, bug fixes and other mission-critical updates will no longer be available.
The result is that those businesses that run Windows 2003 servers will become susceptible to future exploits; security threats; increased capital expenses connected to intrusion-detection systems, more-advanced firewalls and network segmentation; software- and hardware-compatibility issues; and compliance issues stemming from legal requirements to have pricey audits performed at regular intervals if you run outdated software. These audits are often more expensive than the cost of new licenses.
The impact to business reliant on Windows 2003 is significant. Windows 2003 servers account for 39% of all the Windows servers globally. That measures roughly to 25 million Windows 2003 servers in total, 10 million of which operate in the United States. Many of these servers are also running on outdated and unsupported hardware and haven’t been touched in years owing to a lack of hardware maintenance or even spare-parts availability. Shutting down or rebooting these servers as part of a virtualization and Windows server OS upgrade process is a huge risk to the business and a not something a CIO would want to attempt.
Furthermore, the applications running on the Windows Server 2003 also need to be tested and verified for the ability to function on the modern hardware and upgraded Windows OS. In all likelihood, these Windows 2003 applications will require development to enable them to function in the new environment.
Each server will need to be placed into a migration and upgrade plan group to accommodate its mix of outdated hardware, Windows OS and applications.
Businesses and project teams running Windows Server 2003 face several challenges when facilitating a migration or upgrade. High on the list is the fact that the documentation, OS upgrade examples, scripts and tools provided are not automated but rather are very manual.
Much of the available documentation directs businesses to take servers out of production during the lengthy upgrade process, leaving potentially mission-critical operations and applications out of commission until the migration and Windows OS upgrade is complete. In addition, roughly half (12 million) of Windows 2003 servers are non-virtualized and run directly on physical machines—these servers will need to be virtualized during the migration process.
Applications will also pose challenges for the project team. They may never have been certified to run on a hypervisor. Choices will need to be made. Each server will need to be placed in a move group for which a migration and upgrade plan will be developed.
There is no way around the upgrade issue; Windows 2003 servers will need to be moved to modern infrastructure. Also, the OS and applications will need to be upgraded to a supported Windows platform, which will require on-hand resources and skills that can be difficult to find or allocate.
As businesses look to deal with the Windows 2003 end-of-life issue, they can choose to adopt various scenarios for one, some or all of their servers. A recent ESG survey asked senior IT decision makers about their organization’s existing Windows Server 2003 environment and their end-of-life strategy. A majority of the respondents (73%) plan to upgrade to Windows Server 2012 and reinstall applications on that platform; 35% reported that at least some of their Windows Server 2003–based applications would move to the cloud in the form of deploying on third-party, offsite infrastructure; and 25% plan to continue running Windows Server 2003 without support and maintenance, leaving them susceptible to hardware failure and leaving corporate networks vulnerable.
This data suggests there are two ideal options for fulfilling businesses’ Windows Server 2003 end-of-life strategies. (1) Move the Windows 2003 servers to the target IaaS environment, upgrade them to a more current Windows server OS and load new application code onto updated servers. (2) For businesses that plan to continue running Windows Server 2003, lifting and shifting the servers onto a modern IaaS environment gets them off the outdated hardware and a step closer to upgrading their Windows server OS and application, should they desire.
Regardless of which strategy a business undertakes, a cloud migration platform combined with professional services and cloud solutions gives businesses and their migration/upgrade teams a seamless and fast path to Windows 2003 server OS upgrade and replatforming onto IaaS environments.
During the migration process, physical Windows 2003 servers can be auto-virtualized into the cloud, minimizing the need for skilled resources to handle the migration and OS upgrade step of the project. There is no need to shut down or reboot the servers until the cloud-based clone has been tested and the user is ready to cut over. At that time, data synchronization will ensure that the clone is fully up to date with any changes that have occurred on the source server during the nonintrusive migration period.
There are five steps to accomplish the task:
- Discover: Identify the servers and hypervisor editions in the data center that need to be moved and upgraded, along with their interdependencies.
- Plan and Prep: Determine server requirements before migration. Some may require prep and some may be ready to move.
- Migrate/Upgrade: Automate migration of servers into the target cloud environment and, with a migration extension feature, automatically upgrade the Windows OS to Windows Server 2008 or 2012 and the applications to updated versions.
- Test: Although the source server may remain in production, target environment servers are tested to ensure they are performing as planned.
- Sync: Take down the source servers and run synchronization to the target environment servers to carry over just the changes that occurred between the migrate and test stages.
An automated approach to replatforming and upgrading Windows Server 2003 gives businesses an efficient and economical option to protect and secure their networks. As a result, there are numerous migration-as-a-service benefits:
- Minimal workload downtime with live server migrations and hypervisor upgrades
- Time and money saved through migration automation and scalability
- High-speed LAN connections used for ultrafast workload moves to new infrastructure
- Reduced man-hours required for setting up, configuring and executing migrations
- Multiple sources can be migrated (batched) concurrently; 10s, 100s or 1,000s can be migrated in batches
- Point-to-point direct connection between source and target destination, enabling source data to stay 100% behind the firewall
- Needs met for high-compliance and high-security workload migrations
- A web portal that provides a point-and-click-based GUI
- Setup, source-data collection and cloud deployment all automated
- Target VMs created as part of the automated migration process on the basis of the source unique attributes
- Autovirtualized physical servers and OS upgrade during the migration process
There are also several benefits for cloud service providers:
- Increase your available market by being able to automate complex Windows 2003 replatforming and upgrading requirements
- Be more competitive on RFPs with a lower migration cost structure
- Meet high security and compliance requirements
- Increase margins via lower man-hours required per migration and upgrade
- Provide a seamless customer startup and upgrade experience
Enterprise and SMB customers also stand to benefit:
- Quickly modernize and upgrade your Windows 2003 servers onto Cloud infrastructure
- Minimize business downtime with live migrations and OS upgrades
- Avoid the risk of being susceptible to hackers, virus attacks and other security breaches
- Lift and shift Windows Server 2003 as is
Overall, there is still quite a bit to consider as to how your business can accelerate the process of replatforming and upgrading Windows Server 2003 onto cloud infrastructure.
Leading article image courtesy of Ben Franske
About the Author
Mark Shirman is president and CEO at RiverMeadow Software, to which he brings nearly 30 years of entrepreneurial experience in the IT arena. Before RiverMeadow, Mark was the founder and CEO of GlassHouse Technologies, where for 11 years he was responsible for building the company’s leadership in the data center solutions space, managing the investment community and setting the vision for the company’s solution development.