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Windows Server 2003 Migration: Where to Put the Workloads

26 May 2015 by Howard M Cohen

With no official estimate on how many machines are still running Windows Server® 2003 from Microsoft®, and guesstimates from various other sources hovering in excess of 20 million, there will be many impacted when extended support for Windows Server 2003 is withdrawn on July 14, 2015.

After that date there will be no more patches, updates or security updates for that old version. If you’re still running Windows Server 2003, it is now critical to start planning to move off of it and onto a more modern platform. With most upgrades in the past, there has usually been only a single upgrade path, only one way to go. This time, for the first time, customers have choices available to them.

Even If you’re NOT Running Windows Server 2003

Whether they use Windows Server 2003, 2008, or any of the other versions released over the past decade, now may be the best time for your customers to make a change, especially if they want to save money, reduce support costs and eliminate headaches.

One choice is the latest version, Windows Server 2012 R2. With over 300 features that didn’t even exist in 2003, this is a great choice for those who wish to keep running and maintaining their own servers on their own premises. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella refers to Windows Server 2012 R2 as the “Cloud OS,” because you can use it to enable and enjoy all the advantages of private cloud computing.

For this migration, for the first time, you have flexible choices regarding how the future state environment will look and function. While many think it’s a matter of choosing either on-premises Windows Server 2012 R2 or Microsoft Azure or similar cloud services, it’s really more a matter of how you take advantage of the hybrid cloud opportunity to combine both.

Transforming Your Data Center

According to Microsoft’s marketing, “Azure is an open and flexible cloud platform that enables you to quickly build, deploy and manage applications across a global network of Microsoft-managed datacenters. You can build applications using any language, tool or framework. And you can integrate your public cloud applications with your existing IT environment.”

It is this last point that is most important to anyone transitioning away from Windows Server 2003. Since Microsoft Active Directory can span both on-premises and cloud-based servers, it becomes easy to maintain one database of security and access rights and approach the combination as a single entity. This, in essence, creates a “Datacenter without boundaries,” in which you can burst beyond the capacity of your local service to the highly-elastic resources of Azure. Azure also provides complete data center redundancy, a level of resilience that would cost far more if you did it yourself. This is just one illustration of the cost-effectiveness of the Azure solution. Speed and high security also make it a highly desirable place to migrate workloads.

But which workloads? Which should go to the Azure cloud and which to local on-premises Windows Server 2012 R2 units?

The Migration Process – Microsoft Best Practices

Microsoft recommends a simple, yet elegant, four-step migration process:

  • Discover – Catalog your software and workloads
  • Assess – Categorize applications and workloads
  • Target – Identify the destination(s) for each of your workloads
  • Migrate – Make the actual move

A potential fifth step, one that will deliver an ongoing recurring revenue stream as well, would be the ongoing management of your customer’s new environment to constantly assure optimum performance.

Workload Targets

Discovery tends to become more extensive, and more tedious, than most anticipate it will be, but it’s crucial to be as comprehensive as possible. Missed applications and workloads can become headaches later on. Once the entire inventory has been documented, it is important to assess the applications, the workflow related to each data entity and potential impacts upon users from various scenarios.

The four likeliest targets for your workloads are:

  • Windows Server 2012 R2 Server running on your premises
  • Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, or another commercial IaaS provider
  • A cloud OS network, likely running on your premises
  • Office 365 or a similar productivity suite

Obviously, productivity- and communication-related activities will likely be migrated to suites like Office 365. This may include email moving to Microsoft Exchange Online, document management moving to SharePoint Online, and instant messaging, voice, video, and shared application communications moving to Lync Online, or their equivalents from other providers.

Choosing between the other three targets will be determined by factors including speed, ease of migration, cost and desired functionality. One good example would be websites, which would be better served by the speed available from the AWS or Azure data centers, as well as the elasticity of the storage, processing power and memory—all of which could all contribute to keeping sites responsive even during times of peak demand.

Resources to Help You Migrate Your Customers

Turn to Insight for insight into the best practices for Windows Server 2003 migration. With very little time left, you’ll need to provide your customer with a rapid contingency plan. Insight experts can help you determine the best strategy for protecting your customers’ workloads beyond July 14, 2015.